Before I moved to New Orleans, I was just like everyone else. Mardi Gras, French Quarter, fun all the time, alcohol on every corner, people always dressed up and shouting having a great time, jazz music, great food. The list runs on. That is what I was expecting and that is what I was looking forward to when I moved. I also was so excited to just get away from Houston and get a chance to experience my man's hometown with him. It was time for a change for me and my son who was at the time 4 years old. I moved February 2020 and as well all know that was about a month before the pandemic struck the nation. All the fun festivals, being able to go here and there, sit and eat comfortably at a nice place, hanging out at different places, all of those wishes came to a screeching halt. Next thing you knew, the breaking news that a new virus was out and spreading quickly throughout the country and my community, left us in a place of confusion and worry. Everything about New Orleans that I wanted to experience, I was not able to experience because everything was shut down. I remember a day in April 2020 going out to Walmart to grab groceries for the family. By this time, everyone was scared shitless, including me. I had on a mask, two pairs of sterile gloves, and loads of hand sanitizer in the car. Yep, I was one of those people. Fear consumed us all, though. As we had no idea at that time what was really going on. I remember going to Walmart and on my way there the streets were desolate. No one was around. The Walmart parking lot had very few cars and unusually, I was able to find a parking spot very close to the entrance. When I arrived inside of the store, I would find shelves completely ram shacked. Non-perishables were almost non existent as well as the meat section. I mean, it was nuts. Not only nuts, but it was also very depressing. I knew at that moment that my time in New Orleans was not going to be what I thought. However, the pandemic may have been the best thing that happened to me.
See, pre pandemic and the move, I lived in a room upstairs in the backyard of my parents property. I was there from 2017-2020. My ex husband and I were supposed to fix it up, tiny house style, and stay there until we could afford a house. Needless to say, that never happened. So anyway, when I moved in 2017 I was barely turning 21 that year. I had only had my own place three times prior to 2017 since the age of 18 and only one of those places I lived at for an entire year. I lived with family in-between those places so you can say, I was never really an adult. Yes I was mature, I had goals that I strived for, but I was not settled. I was not content. When I moved to New Orleans, I was thrown into the world, for real this time. There was no family around to help me or save me from a crisis. It was just me, my son, and Jeremy. That's it. All we had was each other and we had to do with what we had. That was me coming into being a real and true adult. We had a place of our own, a car of our own, and no family help. For me, that was new. Not having help was a new world for me and I had to figure it all out. Living in New Orleans helped me get away from my comfort zone of family always being around to comfort me and help me when I needed it. Now, I had to make tough decisions and I also had a real MAN who knew how to handle a crisis situation. I actually grew up in this city. When I say grew up I obviously don't mean from my childhood, but I grew up, mentally. I finally became a woman. I didn't need daddy or mommy to help me. I was not calling grandma every other week to help me out with a few dollars until the next pay day. I started to figure out who I really was and the pandemic really helped with that. Having to stay cooped up in the house, I was able to spend more time with my thoughts. I was able to understand myself more than I ever did. We weren't able to go to the places and festivals I wanted, but we found better. We discovered neighborhoods that were hidden away. Cute little houses with little small gated front yards on a street shaded with big beautiful trees. I got to see all the little coffee houses in Midtown and even though they were closed, they were so beautiful. Gorgeous little brick, what looked to be, mom and pop places surrounded the areas. Big beautiful homes with huge yards and everyone who was outside waved at us in a way that showed us they didn't look at us as less than them. I cannot tell you how many times we walked on the levee and got a great view of the Mississippi River. Or all the times we visited Lake Pontchartrain and watched as the waves did dances in the distance. One of my favorite experiences was going onto the ferry with our car. It was quick and not long, but it was super fun. Jeremy took Jurvail out of the car and they stood together on the ferry and just watched as the water moved in all directions as we made our way to the other side of the river. City Park was an experience in itself as well. There was a mini golf course that we utilized once, there was an amusement park there, statues and art, a Café Du Monde, a museum. I mean, it's magical seriously. You'd have to be there to understand what I mean.
The communities had so much character and nostalgia. There was a park about a mile from where we lived and it was one of my favorite places. The trees and houses that surrounded the park looked like something out of a 90s movie. Also, the park itself had old 90s park equipment and I freaking loved it. It was so small, but so cute and my son loved it. I miss it. Even though I did not grow up there, it felt like I'd been there many times before. Like in my past life I lived peacefully somewhere in one of those neighborhoods. I loved how when we would go on drives, we would always discover a new place. Even if it was not much to see, we still discovered it. Whether it be a new-to-us street, a bridge, a pond, a hill that overlooked a few houses, a new park. Whatever it was, we loved it and we got excited just to see something new. Jeremy was the best person to discover new places with because he loves all the little things and pays very close attention to detail. He will make you see something that is right in front of you that you couldn't see. Everything felt so right. I did not need the Mardi Gras or the festivals, I did not need all the crazy rush of New Orleans. I got to see New Orleans in a light that most tourists never see. I got to see the neighborhoods they don't show on the brochures or TV when trying to bring people there. I got to see the raw New Orleans. Fifty pot holes within a mile, litter on the road, kids playing in the median trying to take their minds off of the way their tiny world looked around them, poverty stricken areas for blocks and blocks. Seeing the sides that are not talked about, brought me much sorrow. When you see New Orleans from the outside you only see what they want the tourists to see. What you don't see are the areas that need lots of TLC. You don't see the natives that are literally crying and yearning for their city to care more and put some of that money back into the neighborhoods and infrastructure. My heart mourned the lack of love and care for the natives. So every time we would take a ride through the neighborhoods, I would take mental pictures of all of these places. Because I pray that one day, the city actually starts to care for these people. I was able to attach myself to New Orleans in a way that most people don't. Because they only see the pretty parts. They dare not to explore and see what New Orleans really is. Broken Beauty. In order to really love New Orleans, you have to love the not so pretty parts. You have to find beauty in the areas that aren't as well taken care of as the French Quarter and Canal Street.
This place will forever be in my heart. Because here, I changed as a person. Here, I grew. Here, I experienced a new place and what I saw, I immediately loved. Here, I got to see what real southern hospitality was. Here, I felt safe, even though I knew how bad the crime rate was. It just felt like another home for me. It is very hard to explain, but New Orleans did something to my heart.
And now, just like Houston, it has a piece of me.