A blog by Lori Lyons

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Ida Done Anything but This




This one is long.... it's been quite a month. 

One month ago, Hurricane Ida struck southeast Louisiana, making a direct hit on my little town of Norco. The Category 4 (or maybe 5) storm battered my community in the River Parishes of Louisiana for hours on August 29, destroying homes, businesses, and lives. Many worlds were turned upside down. Some people lost all or part of their roofs, some lost all or parts of their homes and businesses.

I'm extremely grateful to report that our 90-year old brick house, ordered in the early 1930s from a catalogue by Dr. Almerico, the local dentist, and shipped by rail to Norco as a kit, stood strong. Oh it needs a new roof because approximately 4,286 shingles are now spread across Norco and a good 1,000  of them were in the pool. The rest are scattered across the yard, the driveway, the neighbors' yards and up and down Apple Street. Fortunately, we were one of the two blocks of Apple Street that did not flood from either rain or the backup of Clayton's Pond. The water stopped at the railroad tracks about 300 yards away.

While my white picket fence in the front yard survived, the storybook garden arch over the front gate did not. Not even The Coach's makeshift anchor -- an old belt of his -- could save it. The pink and white Mandevilla was still attached, though, until the guys who cleared our yard uprooted it and everything else in the front garden.




The back fence was taken down by a mature holly tree that produced holly exactly one time in the 20 or so years it has been there -- last year. Maybe it had a premonition or something.

Frankly, I kind of expected the pecan tree to go but it stood tall and strong and held up the white oak tree that uprooted and leaned on it for support. Another of our oak trees fell on the garage, leaving a sizeable hole in the roof. The banana trees were whipped into submission, but the Chinese Tallow stayed up, even after dropping its top branches into the pool. 

The one tree that did survive, thankfully, is Lora's tree. It's the Japanese Magnolia we planted on April 15, 2002 -- the day her adoption was finalized. Like many of the trees in Louisiana, it had its leaves ripped off. Now, a month later, it's growing new ones like it does in the springtime and is so confused, it even bloomed a few pink flowers. 




Most of our "damage" occurred in the backyard. The brand new patio pavilion we got from Lowe's in June, was left in a crumpled heap of metal and shattered string lights. Only the bolts meant to keep it from flying away survived. The big plastic storage trunk where we tucked all the pool toys and my few tools, was cracked open under the rubble. Miraculously, all the rafts and tools stayed right where they were. The worst for wear was the pool, turned into a putrid, smelly cocktail by Ms. Ida. By the time we got home nearly a week after the storm, it more resembled the bayou I grew up on than a swimming pool. We had to pull trees out of it. 



Oh. And we did gain a port-o-potty. Ida blew it clear across the street from its original location, a work site where some men have been building Norco's new veterans memorial. 



I'm happy to say I did not witness any of this destruction first-hand. Having lived in south Louisiana all of my life, I am certainly no stranger to hurricanes. I know the drill. When the weathermen start pointing their “Cone of Uncertainty” my way, I dutifully head to the store to buy bleach, batteries and bottled water, a stock of non-perishable food items and whatever Lil Debbies are left on the shelves. The Coach and I start picking up all the pool stuff and patio furniture. He puts what he can into the garage but often forgets to go get it out later. There are years of dead plants in there. We fill up our cars with gas and, once my older sister makes her obligatory “Do you have an axe in the attic? You're going to die!” doom and gloom phone call, we start the debate: Do we stay or do we go? Despite what people in Idaho think, it’s not an easy decision. 

First of all, it’s no fun to ride out a hurricane of any category. The sounds of the wind, the rain and the mysterious stuff flying down the street are terrifying and unforgettable. No one I know who has done it wants to do it ever again. Every single person I know who stayed for Ida is swearing they never will.

But, it’s not any easier to walk away from everything you own. Yeah, it may be just "stuff," but it’s MY stuff. It's OUR stuff. It's my husband’s stuff, my daughter’s stuff, my mother’s stuff, my grandmother’s stuff, my great grandparents’ stuff, and because I am the family historian and genealogist, some of my great great grandparents’ stuff as well.

So, you watch the news and the computer models and you hope that the Cone of Uncertainty shifts just a little to the east or west, not because you wish ill on anyone else, but to make you feel just a little better. But when it doesn’t turn, you have a choice — stay and be terrified or go and be terrified. 

Then the question becomes, where do you go -- because everyone I am related to is also in the Cone of Uncertainty and, by now, there’s not a hotel to be found south of Little Rock that will welcome my two little poodles.

When August 29 dawned and Hurricane Ida was still growing and still headed straight for us, The Coach answered all those questions. You see, I did not marry one of those Cajun boys who sees the storm coming and stands in his yard proclaiming, "This ain't my first rodeo!" or "We've got a generator. We're staying!" We don't and we didn't. We actually left the morning of the storm, packing up our hurricane snacks and the two poodles into his Town and Country van. We also took a bunch of pillows and blankets in case we had to sleep in it because, when we left, we actually had no place to go. We just headed north to where our daughter is in college -- and I think we really scared her because she thought we were coming to stay in her dorm.

Shortly before we left I was freshly showered and standing in my little home office room, staring at all my treasures, trying to decide what to take. The wedding album? Lora’s baby book? My mom's baby book? My scrapbook? The box of photos? My genealogy books? Ultimately I decided, I couldn’t save all of it so I didn’t take any of it. It was like choosing a favorite child. You can't. 

 Your mind does strange things under this kind of stress. I panic packed. I took all of my underwear but only one pair of shorts. I didn’t pack anything to fix my hair but I brought eye shadow. I left all my jewelry except my two rings and my pearls. My husband, who had finished the week’s laundry the night before, had the sense to put the entire laundry basket of folded clothes in the car, giving me extra shirts and, should I need them, clothes to teach in.  

I'm not kidding when I say we chose the perfect time to go. Many people I know spent hours and hours in massive traffic jams on Friday and Saturday. But while there were ominous clouds behind us, there was no traffic on Sunday morning. We zipped through Baton Rouge like it the day after the zombie apocalypse.
 
As we drove, I continually checked hotel sites for openings in or near Natchitoches. Finally, just after noon — the normal check out time, right? — I lucked onto a room at the Motel 6 in Natchitoches at $55 a night! We were much relieved, as was our daughter. Just a few hours later we all were happily tucked in the Motel 6, watching Jim Cantore pretend to be knocked around by Ida’s winds in New Orleans. If he wanted to be knocked around, he should have gone to Norco, or Houma, or LaPlace, or Dulac, or Grand Isle. For real.




We spent four days at the luxurious Motel 6 with its empty turquoise pool and a menagerie of dogs trying to find spots to poop in the overgrown grass. But it wasn't bad. We had electricity, air conditioning, cable, and a nice firm mattress that cured my backache. Of course, our stay included several trips to the local Walmart because I needed more shorts and the Motel 6 does not provide those little niceties like shampoo, conditioner, or soap. It also did not have a blow dryer, but I came to like my "natural," air dried look.

But as soon as my sister got power restored in her Baton Rouge home, we headed her way on Thursday, introducing the two poodles to their dog Brynn -- who was none too happy. My sister is still recovering from hip replacement surgery after a year, so she isn't too mobile, but she was happy to share her home, which was flooded in 2016 by a freak storm, as long as I made her a lasagna before we left. 

On Friday we made our first trip to our school in Reserve, then to our home. The pictures our friends sent us really did not prepare us for the massive extent of damage our area suffered. There were so many light poles down, cables and wires hanging everywhere across roads. I was stunned by the loss of trees, huge beautiful oaks that had stood for centuries. And I was amazed by the randomness, how one house could be perfectly fine with the grass neatly cut and cars in the driveway while, right next door, a house could be completely destroyed. 

We spent a week going back and forth from Baton Rouge to school and home, fighting traffic without traffic lights, dodging electric trucks from across the country, and searching for gas stations that actually had some. We found some guys to put a tarp on our roof so we wouldn't suffer any more leaks, and another group to clear out some of the trees in the backyard. They did a great job, but even now, a month later, we could host a rousing game of pickup sticks. The winner gets a shingle.

Our school, Riverside Academy, took a beating as well. Roofs were peeled off, sending rainwater into some classrooms and offices, and much of the electrical wiring between the buildings was knocked down. The athletic facilities took the biggest hit. The Coach's brand new metal outfield fence was torn apart, his brand new 9-inning scoreboard was knocked down, his home dugout lost its roof and some of the bleachers ended up in the nets. Over on the football field, the press box that I spent so many Friday nights in covering football games was knocked off the top of the stands and left in a heap of rubble. I had just spent a whole Saturday morning cleaning it, too, removing years of nacho trays, the ends of hotdog buns, and spit cups. 


On Sept. 9, 11 days after the storm, our house still had no power but The Coach's daughter, Courtney, did. So we loaded up the poodles and everything we had bought at the Natchitoches Walmart and headed to Kenner. Courtney wasn't there because she now works for the Tulane football team and the entire athletic staff was evacuated to Birmingham, Alabama. But she had a spare bedroom, a working stove, a big back yard and Hulu live! I finally got to watch Cinderella on Amazon (loved it!). 

We made more trips to school and to home, growing more depressed as the piles of debris and home furnishings grew larger and larger. Mold and mildew grow fast in Louisiana after floods and in houses with no air conditioning. Mildew often can be cleaned up with a little elbow grease. Mold is a different story. Oftentimes, you have no choice but to throw everything away, no matter how cherished the item is. One friend of mine lost her baby's brand new nursery just days before her daughter was born. You drive down the street and see baby toys, cribs, mattresses, sofas, whole dining sets, clothes, and huge piles of trees. And there's so much, they can't pick it up fast enough. Our pile is still out front a month later. So is the port-o-potty.

On Thursday, September 16, The Coach and I decided to splurge a little and go to the Saltgrass Steakhouse. I had been wanting to try it (since our Roadhouse closed), and after a day at school, we kind of needed a treat. So I had two lemon martinis. I admit, I was a little tipsy by the time we left the restaurant. I told a group of electric linemen sitting near us that I would buy them all dinner if I was rich. "Don't worry," one of them replied. "You're paying for our dinner one way or another." Word.

In the car on the way back to Courtney's house, I continued my daily (OK,hourly) ritual of checking the Entergy map which showed who had The Power and who didn't. It was depressing too because it seemed to never change. New Orleans had turned mostly green. Some of LaPlace was green. But Norco was red and stayed red. Until then.

"Marty! Norco is green!" I shouted. I had been on enough Facebook pages to know that sometimes that didn't mean your power was on but that it would be shortly. So we called our friend Donnie, who lives a few blocks from us to see if he was turned on. He said he was not.

Then I posted on the Norco News Facebook page, where a different resident a day asked the question, "Does anyone know when the power will be back on?"
"Norco is green y'all!"
It was full of skeptics.
"The power isn't coming on until next week. Stop dreaming."
"Go to bed."
"Not happening."

But then...
"It's on!"
"It's on Oak!"
"It's on Pine!"
"I see streetlights!"

Still not sure, we called my daughter's boyfriend, who didn't answer, so we called her boyfriend's friend and asked if he would pleeeaassssseeeee drive by our house to check. A few minutes later he called.
"Your lights are on." Then Donnie called to tell us his lights were on.



I made The Coach drive me home to see for myself (and to check to make sure there were no sparks or surges). We took a good look around then went back to Courtney's to start packing. One more night and we would be home.

There is no way to explain what a joyous moment this was. We went 20 days without electricity in our home, so we went 20 days without our home. We aren't generator people. We did try for a day, but our house it so old it's really not designed for modern machinery and, frankly, it was a little scary to try. We were fortunate that we had places to stay and people who took us in. Not everyone was so fortunate. Some people are still waiting. Some will be waiting a long time because their homes are gutted or unlivable. But for those of us who had a home we just couldn't go back to until the power was restored, it was huge. It's a step towards normalcy. It was like the turning point in the story, the game-tying run in the big game, the momentum swinging touchdown. Because, as Dorothy said, “There’s no place like home.” I missed my mushy mattress. And my shower. 

Oh we still have a long, long, long way to go. We got the pool back to blue but the yard is still a mess. We spent two days this week without power again because a transformer blew somewhere. Traffic is still horrendous. Our grocery stores are half-stocked. We have to wait in line to get IN Walmart. Some of our favorite stores and restaurants have closed forever. A Popeye's box of chicken costs $40! And it will be another week or so until internet and cable are restored. And no one knows when the storm debris will be gone. If it's not gone by Christmas I'm throwing tinsel on it.

But we're home. All our stuff is fine. I didn't lose any treasures, nothing that can't be replaced. We were safe and got to spend a few days with our daughter. Also, I got to buy a few new pairs of shorts because I only packed one. Hey. Silver linings.

People ask us why we live here when there are hurricanes every summer. The same reason people live in California where there are earthquakes, or Hawaii where there are volcanos and hurricanes and tsunamis, or Nebraska where there are tornadoes. This is our home. We were born in Louisiana. And the price we pay for good food, good music, cool festivals, boiled seafood, Mardi Gras, drive-thru daiquiris, and go cups is the occasional hurricane. And alligators.


If you would like to help our school, Riverside Academy, rebuild after Hurricane Ida, please click one of the links below. We are hoping to reopen the week of October 4. 



Donations also may be dropped off or mailed to:
Riverside Academy
332 Railroad Avenue
Reserve, LA 70084
















Friday, July 2, 2021

The Summer of Solitude




 I have a friend, a fellow former sports writer pal, who takes his summers very seriously.

Every June (or July), he puts together a bucket list of people and places he wants to see and things he wants to do around the country. "Summer of John," he calls it and shares photos of his epic adventures with his friends (and occasional celebrities) at fabulous golf courses, restaurants and ball parks. It's pretty cool.

I take my summers pretty seriously too, especially since my longtime career as a sports writer ended and I became a full time school teacher. Yes, I am now one of those people y'all all envy, who gets summers "off." Although, I feel it is my teacher duty (hate that word!) to remind you that teachers do not get the summers "off," we just get laid off and have elected to spread our nine-month paycheck out over the months of June and July. 

We also do work in the summer -- some more than others. I deliberately forced myself not to do school work during the month of June, telling myself "wait until July...wait until July...". But, I confess that, when I got my new assignments for the fall I did tinker just a little.

In the meantime, I put together my own bucket list. Mine was not nearly as exciting as my friend John's, however. Mine had things like paint the porch, power wash the deck and hire a painter on it. But then, the kid I hired to come power wash the porch before I could paint it stood me up, and so did the painter we asked to come give us an estimate, so there went that. There are some things I can't do by myself anymore. 

And that's what I am. By myself. A lot.

Not all school people get summers off. My husband is still The Coach and has spent his summer so far coaching not one, but TWO baseball teams. If he's not playing, he's practicing. And if he's not doing either one of those, he's probably off watching somebody else do one of those. Then he got to be the interim principal for a month so, while I got to sleep in until 7:30 a.m. every day (damn teacher body clock), he had to go to work. That shoe was definitely on the other foot for us!

Of course, our beloved daughter is home for the summer from college, but, well, she has a boyfriend who just got his own place up the street so she is never home either. I follow her on Life 360, though, just to try to keep up. The dogs and I get butterflies whenever the little blip says she is home.  We hear the signal then patiently wait at the door for her arrival. But most of the time, she just keeps going and breaks all our little hearts. It's sad really.

I do have a fairly large basket of books I want to read, some for school and some for fun. Instead, I binge-watched Firefly Lane -- aloneAnd now I am reading that book. 

I did get to go on one trip, to Natchitoches, Louisiana, for the annual Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Despite my better sports writing days being behind me, I am still on the selection committee until they tell me otherwise. So, last weekend I took the four-hour drive -- alone. I stayed two nights in a hotel -- alone. I went to all the events -- alone (well, I was third wheel for one of my favorite couples). I got in a fender bender -- alone. Then I drove home -- alone. At least I could listen to Yacht Rock and sing as loudly as I wanted.

Now I'm spending this weekend alone again as The Coach plays ball on the road in Tennessee and The Daughter plays with my emotions.

I'm calling this my Summer of Solitude. 


And I'm not really complaining. I know some moms (and wives) that would kill for a little Alone Time, Me Time, Get Out of My Face Time. Sure it would be nice to have company on occasion, but at least I don't have to argue over what's for dinner or what show to watch on Netflix. I have never minded keeping my own company. I have hobbies and interests of my own. I have this blog, which obviously needs attention, a family tree I've been working on for 30 years, two more books that need to be written, a body to get in shape, a home office space I love (except it gets 100 degrees up here). And, now that it's July, classes to prepare for.

Oh yes. And a big, beautiful blue pool all to myself. 

There's a lot to be said for solitude. 







Saturday, February 27, 2021

Hey Mr. Banjo!

 

His parents named him Martin Behrman French, in honor of the one-time mayor of New Orleans who counted his father, former Louisiana State Representative Henry David French, as one of his dear friends. Oddly, his family would forgo the simpler, more usual name of Martin, calling him Behrman (pronounced Ber - man) instead. 

His wife called him Behrman too, but with a distinct west bank of New Orleans roil that turned it into "Boy-man." Only a handful of people ever called him Martin and he was never, ever a Marty. 

I just called him Grandpa.



Born in 1904, Behrman French was the fifth of six children born to Henry and Matilda Louise Sutherland French of Algiers, he of Irish descent, she of Dutch.  Three sisters came before him and a brother who was "sickly" and died at the age of 11. Two years younger, Behrman used to wheel his brother, Henry Jr. or "Bud" around in a little cart. His death in 1913 profoundly moved Behrman, who idolized his big brother. Likewise, the tragic death of little sister Lillian Irene, age 2, who, according to family legend, choked on a chicken bone at the dining room table, haunted him all of his days.

Behrman grew up in Algiers on the west bank of New Orleans, in a traditional camelback shotgun double at 813 Pacific Avenue. His mom was a big fan of ginger beer (a precursor to ginger ale) back in the day, and used the ceramic tan bottles to line the garden. There were hundreds.

When he was about 6 years old, he was playing with friends in his neighborhood when one of them, carrying a BB gun, tripped. The weapon fired and hit Behrman in his left eye, permanently blinding him on one side.

But that didn't stop Behrman from playing football or baseball. He matriculated at Warren Easton High School in New Orleans, every day riding the ferry across the Mississippi River, then taking a streetcar down Canal Street. Behrman was a member of the Eagles baseball team and later played on a few of the semipro teams in and around New Orleans. He loved to boast that he played with the great Mel Ott.


                                             Martin Behrman French, back row, third player.

In 1926 Behrman married a girl who lived in the neighborhood, Evelyn Himel Cross, who had broken up with the Mothe boy because she didn't want to marry the undertaker's son. (The Mothes later opened one of the largest funeral homes in the city.) 

Around that time, Behrman went to work for Bell Telephone Company. His first job was in an office, but when he got laid off, he offered to go to work as a pole digger. He did that for several years until he was able to work his way back to a desk and a position as office manager. His job took him from New Orleans to Patterson, where his only child, Lettie Lee, was born, to Baton Rouge and, finally, to Houma. He would retire in 1969 after 45 years with the company. The Houma Courier did a story on his retirement.

To this day I can't help but think of Edith and Archie Bunker when I think of my grandparents. He was a cantankerous old coot for much of my lifetime, a "get off my lawn" kind of guy who nearly had a stroke anytime anyone of the male persuasion dared to pull into our driveway to visit me. She was the sweetest soul you'd ever meet, who put up with his ire and anger for more than 60 years. Somehow, they made it work.

Grandpa loved to fish, too. But just a few days after his boss retired, Grandpa took him out on his boat fishing. The man suffered a heart attack and died on the trip and, shortly thereafter, Grandpa put his boat up for sale.

But he also doted on us grandkids, teaching my brother, Rhett, the proper way to throw a baseball and trying to turn my nephew, Lee, into a mini-Archie Manning back in the day. I wasn't into the sports thing, but we did share a love of music. 

Paw Paw may have spent 45 years working for the telephone company, but in his heart, he was an entertainer. I don't know when he first picked up an instrument, or how, but I know he loved music -- playing it, writing it, performing it. He played the guitar, the banjo, the ukulele and the organ.

But the banjo was his jam. And I'm guessing, if he had a say in the matter, he would have preferred to be called "Mr. Banjo." It was the title of one of the many tunes he played.

Most of my early childhood memories of my grandfather are of him with a banjo across his lap. He played it often on the breezeway of his home in Houma and he had frequent jam sessions with his musical pals, Gene Dusenberry and Sonny Thibodeaux. (And one of my greatest regrets is that I never asked Mr. Sonny to teach me how to play the Hawaiian/slide guitar.) 

He also played at the annual Telephone Pioneers picnics, before downtown Mardi Gras parades and at any other public event that called for musical entertainment. But Grandpa and Grannie were most known for their frequent gigs at the local nursing homes in Houma where they -- great-grandparents, mind you -- would perform for the "old folks."


Behrman and Evelyn French, performing at one of the long term care facilities in Houma.

The two of them had compiled a large repertoire of really silly songs from the early 19th Century, including such novelty tunes "Once There was a Little Pig" (in which the baby pig died and the mother pig cried herself to death), "The Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia," (in which a cow was loitering on a railroad track and got run over), and "The Burglar Beau," about a burglar who happened to choose the home of a one-eyed, toothless woman for his victim. And we all learned to spell Mis - sis - sippi by singing it every time we crossed a bridge. 

But Gramps also wrote a few ditties himself. When his adopted home of Houma in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana celebrated its sesquicentennial in 1972, Grampa wrote a lovely song called "This is the Place."

"This is the place where I was born.
This is the place I'll carry on.
This is the place I toot my horn.
Houma in Terrebonne."

He really hoped the town would adopt it as its official song, but, sadly, nothing ever came of it.

He also went to his grave bitterly convinced that his greatest story had been stolen from him. Back in the 1970s, Grandpa wrote a song about a Cajun Santa who delivered toys up and down the bayous of Louisiana in a pirogue with a red nose. He called it "La Christine" and it predated the immensely popular "Cajun Night Before Christmas." But no one ever seemed interested. 




But there were victories. 

In 1925, just a year before he got married, Berhman French recorded two records with the Norman Brownlee Orchestra. Brownlee also was from Algiers and was married to Grandpa's sister, Irma Lee French. 

I grew up knowing that Gramps had played on two records with some famous jazz musician in New Orleans, but that's really all I knew. After a visit to a recently opened museum to local jazz great Kid Ory, I was spurred to find out more about those recordings. Thanks to the modern marvel that is the internet, I was easily able to find the recording -- nearly 100 years after the fact.

This is my grandfather playing banjo. Norman Brownlee Orchestra - "Dirty Rag"/"Peculiar" 
(Note: He is not in the photographs of the orchestra but his name is in the notes.) 

I was moved to tears listening to this old recording and inspired to write this blog post. His dreams of fame may not have come true during his lifetime, but perhaps I can keep his name and a little piece of his music alive.

Rest well, Grandpa, and keep on playin'!













Thursday, December 31, 2020

Goodbye, good riddance, good luck

 

Go Away 2020!


Hey, 2020! Yeah, you. Go away. Get out of here. And don't come back no more no more.

Everyone in the world is counting down the hours to the end of 2020 on this New Year's Eve. We have the champagne ready. Although, most of us will be counting those final minutes in the comfort of our own living rooms. No parties. No fancy dinners. No ball drops. Well, that's not true. The balls will drop, they're just not going to let us go downtown to watch.

Covid.

That's the word for 2020. That's what we will remember -- a virus that started somewhere in China sometime in late 2019 and quickly spread throughout the world, infecting millions, killing millions, shutting down life as we know it -- schools, businesses, sporting events. We tried to stop the spread. Scientists told us to wear masks and wash our hands and stay home as much as we could. But too many didn't listen. Now, too many are dead, dying, mourning, suffering.

We did not escape unscathed. The Coach got it just before Thanksgiving. A few days of sniffles led to a full blown "I don't feel so good." I told him he needed to get tested. He did. He was positive. A few days later he started coughing. He didn't stop for more than a week. 

I never got it.

The Coach's ex wife's husband got it too. Woke up one morning and couldn't smell the coffee. She never got it.

Our boss got it too. He had a slight cough one day in August, but it was not even noticeable when I had a brief conversation with him in the hallway. The next day he was letting us know he had tested positive. Not long after he was in the hospital. He stayed for six weeks and, to hear his story, came pretty close to checking out for good. He was in ICU for 25 days. He didn't return to school until the week before Christmas, toting an oxygen tank. 

Not everyone was so lucky. Several of our teachers lost parents. Our students lost grandparents. Our community lost many. 

We also lost our ways of life. We learned to quarantine. No birthday parties, no backyard barbecues, no Mardi Gras parades, no Christmas bonfires. Baseball was canceled. A lot of college football was canceled. Beach trips were discouraged. Toilet paper disappeared. Restaurants and bars closed. Movie theaters were shuttered. Bourbon Street emptied. Basically, we just stayed home. A lot. 

 Some got to do nothing. The Coach sat downstairs in the living room watching Netflix and TicTok while I spent the spring upstairs in my Lyons Lair trying to teach English grammar and Multimedia via email, grateful for my extra large touchscreen monitor and advanced computer savvy.   

Then there were the SIX HURRICANES .... 

So now everyone is hoping 2021 will be better. It has to be, right? Well, we are readying our black eyed peas and cabbage just to be sure.

But I have to say, 2021 wasn't all bad. We got drive-through graduations, drive-by birthday parties, Popeye's home delivery and Zoom meetings.

And I got a new job! In January, my retired husband was helping out the Riverside baseball team when he learned there was an opening for an English and Multimedia teacher. I went to talk to the principal and got the job! It was rough, coming in at mid-year, but I loved the kids and I really loved the school and the community. Then I got to check an item off my bucket list by announcing a baseball game.... then another... then another.... I was officially The Voice of the Rebels.

We got to leave the house quite a bit during the summer. The Coach's summer American Legion baseball team, Gauthier Amedee, decided to play as long as it could. They used the field at our new school and I became the Voice of the Wombats. It was a good summer, too. The Wombats won the Louisiana State championship -- the second in three years!  -- but there was no regional or World Series to go on to.

In other great news, Stepson Daniel saw a dream come true when he became the head football coach at Hahnville High School. It's really a Hollywood'ish story. Local boy goes to local high school, becomes the starting quarterback, achieves glory, returns as assistant football coach, goes off to become head football coach elsewhere, applies to be head football coach at alma mater, doesn't get the job, then a few weeks later, applies for sudden opening at alma mater's archrival school and gets the job. It would have been a perfect ending had he defeated the alma mater but .... oh well. There's always next year.

In the fall I got to sleep with the boss! When our principal went out with Covid, they asked Coach to step in for a week or so to get the ball rolling. No one dreamed it would be four months. He was the "acting principal" for the whole semester, guiding us through Covid, a wonky air conditioning system, a lightning strike that took out our bells and PA system, unhappy teachers, unhappy parents, technology issues, social distancing, skirt lengths, football and volleyball, bus routes and SIX HURRICANES. Champ that he is, he did a great job (and I'm not biased at all.)

Just last week he was officially named the HEAD baseball coach and the principal returned, so now he can focus on his first love -- baseball.

The year 2020 also brought us new love -- our little Pepper Boy! He is another rescue, about 10 years old. He is blind in one eye and nearly blind in the other and, we are fairly certain, 90 percent deaf. But he is the sweetest boy ever and I am totally in love. 

And while you may not agree with my politics, I'll just say November turned out the way I hoped and prayed it would. 

See? Every cloud has some silver in it. Sometimes you have to look for it, though. If I keep my job and successfully teach my sixth graders how to capitalize proper nouns and my high schoolers how to spellcheck their presentations I will be happy. If my husband has a winning season, I will be happy. If he manages to turn my pool blue again, I will be very happy. 

If we all stay healthy and if these Covid vaccines work, we all will be very happy. May we all get through 2021 unscathed.

Happy --- BETTER -- New Year! 



Monday, March 30, 2020

Leigheaux





 

Leigheaux Lee "Bigfoot" Lyons Luquet, renegade standard poodle, master counter surfer, bread bandit and human walker, crossed the Rainbow Bridge on Sunday, March 29, 2020. He was about 12 years old, but no one knows for sure as his early life was a mystery. We just know he wandered out of a swamp near Denham Springs, Louisiana, one day, grumpy, suspicious of humans and in need of food and a grooming. He was promptly named "Bigfoot." After his photo appeared on the Creole Poodle Rescue site, he was snapped up by the Luquets of Norco and re-christened, Leigheaux the Cajun Poodle.


And if he had been a teenage boy, he would have been perpetually grounded. Leigheaux spent the rest of his days stealing food left within his reach, digging in the garbage, begging for food, following Mom into the kitchen and the upstairs closet, staring out of windows and plotting the murder of the mailman, the UPS man and every utility company person who dared to walk in his yard. He was successful in scaring every one of them away, every day. He didn't particularly care for squirrels, either, and watched them out the window until he felt they were within striking distance. Of course, by the time he bolted out the doggie door and rounded the corner of the house, the squirrel was long gone. He never gave up in this effort, however, not even on his last days.

As a poodle, Leigheaux was supposed to enjoy water; he did not. In fact, Leigheaux wanted nothing to do with the big, beautiful swimming pool in his backyard and only jumped in once -- when a particularly loud firecracker went off nearby on the Fourth of July.

In between, Leigheaux enjoyed pilfering whatever food item he could reach on the counters, tables and buffets and from unsuspecting houseguests. He particularly enjoyed whole loaves of bread, not caring that it had become a very rare commodity in recent days because of the Corona Virus quarantine. In his last months, he became more brazen in his thievery, smashing not one but two jars of Milkbone treats in one week. He also became convinced that Mom was going to give him whatever she was eating and that, every time she got up off the sofa, she was indeed going to get something for him to eat. He knew Dad wasn't.



But more than anything, Leigheaux loved his morning walks with Mom to the park and back. When Mom was working at home and taking care of Grandma, it was a daily occurrence with his late sister, Lollee Sue. Sometimes, he would follow Mom upstairs and into the closet to see if she was, indeed, putting her sneakers on. If she slept too late, he would pounce on the bottom stairs until she woke up. If she did come downstairs in the proper attire, Leigheaux would do his amazing happy dance at the bottom of the stairs.

But age began to catch up to Leigheaux. It got more and more difficult for him to walk on the hardwood floors. Sometimes he couldn't get up after laying down. He no longer could manage the stairs at all. What began as a cyst on his shoulder grew to a very large, very angry tumor that could not be removed and would not get better. And last week, Mom finally had to go to the park without him. He did manage to chase a squirrel on his last happy day, however, but could not catch it.



Leigheaux leaves a family who loved him very much and neighbors who did not; Lola, the little one, who is happy she no longer has to share the treats but is too short to steal off the counters; and lots of puddles around the house that he never managed to get caught leaving.

I hope you and Lollee Sue are together again, my boy, chasing squirrels forever.






Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Quarantine Week 2: The Nest is Full Again

Image result for birds crowded in nest
Whaddaya mean you're coming home three months early??? 



Regular readers of this little blog (both of you) may recall that, last August, I wrote a very tearful (well, I cried) post about our baby girl leaving the nest and going off to college.

Although my heart was having a hard time letting her go, my brain recognized that it was her time to spread her wings and fly. Yes, I did cry. A lot. But then the Coach and I had a cute and funny photo shoot showing off our new empty nest.


Image may contain: Lori Lyons and Marty Luquet, people smiling, people standing and outdoor


Don't worry, everyone said. She will be back. I knew she would, I just didn't expect it to happen so soon. Or that she would come back with so much STUFF!

The spread of the Corona Virus has forced colleges to shut down across the country. Classes now are being held online and students are no longer required (or even allowed) to live on campus. Lora didn't hesitate; she booked it home as soon as she could following the announcement. But she only brought a few things with her. Yesterday, we had to go back to move her our of her dorm room four hours away.

It was quite a difference from Move-In Day.

For one, it wasn't 1,000 degrees outside. It was a nice, cool morning with clouds.

Also, there weren't 1,000 people there doing the same thing as us and trying to find the best parking space.  In August, there were student volunteers directing traffic, welcoming new students and befuddled parents, pointing the way to go, telling us what to do. Yesterday, there were about five cars in the parking lot and no one there directing traffic. Inside, there was one young lady, who obviously had nowhere to go during her spring break, waiting to take the keys when we were done.

In August, I was sad but also thrilled to help my daughter set up her new living space. I tried not to be  one of those overbearing moms, offering my help and advice only when asked and allowing her to do her own thing.  Yesterday, I was only sad at the thought that she was losing such a large chunk of her freshman year of college. And she pretty much let me take charge of the packing and the cleaning.

In August, we spent hours unloading Coach's minivan and hauling everything into her room. Yesterday, it took us about 90 minutes to put it all back in. (And I am still the reigning Tetris champion of the universe!)




Now it's all piled up in the spare bedroom downstairs, awaiting her attention. Meanwhile, I'm wondering where in the heck we're going to put it all.

But, as I did in August, I'm letting her do her own thing. Gotta give 'em their space, right?







Friday, March 20, 2020

Quarantine



Image result for corona virus
Covid-19 -- The Corona Virus


March 20, 2020

It's officially Quarantine Day 7 ..... or 8 .... or 25.... Who the hell knows? Frankly, I'm not even sure what day it is. Friday, my husband says. OK.

All I know is, all hell has broken loose in our world and no one quite knows what to do about it. Life as we know it is forever changed.

No. This is not the plot of some movie or book -- although it has been. Frequently.

This is really happening.

There is a virus spreading throughout the world so the world is shutting down. People are being told to stay home except for absolute necessities. Travel is curtailed around the world. Businesses are shuttered. Restaurants are take-out only. Sports -- all of them -- have been stopped. Schools, including colleges,  have been closed with teachers (like me) trying to find new ways to teach online.

As an amateur genealogist, I've seen the effects of pandemics. Cholera, Small Pox, Yellow Fever. My grandparents lived through an Influenza epidemic in 1918. More than 54,000 people contracted Influenza in 1918; 3,489 died. My great grandmother was a Red Cross nurse at the time, working on the front lines. But I never thought I'd see anything like this in my lifetime. As of today, we have more than 500 cases in Louisiana with 14 deaths. My former physician is in quarantine.

Well, we all are, to be honest.

Over the past few months, we kept hearing about this strange new virus spreading through the population of China. Then it spread through Europe. Then there was a case here in the USA.

The Corona Virus. People laughed and made fun because it's named for a Mexican beer, for God's sake. There were jokes. Lots of jokes.

I really didn't pay that much attention to it. I was more focused on the New Orleans Mardi Gras. Although we don't do parades anymore, I had a week off from school and my baby girl was coming home from college for an extra long weekend and her boyfriend's birthday.

We did have a small group of students and teachers who traveled to Italy over the Mardi Gras break. At first, they were told to stay home on Monday. Then until Wednesday. Then until March 16. I sent work home to my one student, who was planning to do a project on his visit to Italy.

The following weekend was my birthday! The Coach took me up to our daughter's college town for dinner and several drinks in our hotel bar. The virus was still spreading.

In between all of that, the Coach was getting started with his new baseball team at our school. I even got to cross an item off my bucket list by announcing two of the home games. I tried to be a cross between Millie in "Bull Durham" and Renel Books-Moon, who used to announce for the San Francisco Giants. And my playlist was awesome.

It was back to school last Monday, but it was a short week. Our school had its annual Arts Festival on Thursday evening so there would be no school the following day. The Coach had a game scheduled that afternoon, so we planned to go the festival after that.

It was March 12. A normal school day.

Then all hell broke loose.

The baseball team's opponent, a public school just a few miles down the street, called to say their superintendent had ordered them to cancel. All extra curricular activities were canceled. Our team still had practice.

At the Arts Festival that evening, I got to see several of my students. Many of them came up to hug me. Our principal was dressed in a Maui (from Moana) costume. But people talked about little else. It was a game of dominoes as things began to shut down -- schools, colleges, businesses, communities. One plant worker told us he had heard that the local plants would be shutting its workers inside for weeks at a time.

Things were getting scarier.

On Friday, the Coach still had a game scheduled. But the team was on the bus headed our way when their Superintendent ordered them to turn around. Cancel everything, he said.

Our team still managed to sneak in a double header on March 14 at Loranger. It would be the last for quite some time.

Everything shut down after that. All schools. All games. All practices. The NBA. The NHL. MLB. All of it. No gatherings of more than 50 people. That later changed to 10. Lora's college (and all of the others) canceled in-person classes. She came home. Church services. Government meetings. Proms. Graduations. Class trips.

Poof.

Most government officials urged people to stay home. "Social distancing" they call it. Stay at least 6 feet apart and, most importantly, WASH YOUR HANDS.

So what did we do? We ran to Walmart and bought every bottle of water and every roll of toilet paper we could find. (Not us.... in fact, I'm starting to get a little worried about our toilet paper situation.) And some youngsters ran to the beach. (Not us, but only because I don't have a beach house -- YET!)

No, but we did start fixing up the back yard and the pool. We hired a youngster with a machete to come cut down the frost-bitten banana trees and clear it all out. I put up some new lights on the trees. Made lemonade out of our lemons.

No one knows what will happen next. Today some cities, including New Orleans, ordered people to just stay the hell home. NOLA has become a serious hub for the virus with more than its share of infections. Officials are trying to stop the spread and people just aren't listening. Today they got LSU coach Ed Orgeron out to try and stop the madness.

But people aren't listening. They're acting like my 6th graders just before the bell rings.

I'm also trying to figure out how to do this online learning thing. I spent all of today writing assignments for my 6th and 7th grade English students, including trying to figure out how they're going to turn things in. How am I going to grade it all?

Meanwhile, my husband is downstairs with the sniffles and a sore throat -- universally the first sign of the virus.

These are scary times indeed.

But I have urged my students to write about their experiences and so shall I. I told them that someday their kids and grandkids will be doing Social Studies projects on this event. Writing isn't just an outlet for our emotions, this also is an historic event. I wish my Grannie had written about the Influenza of 1918, what it was like, how it came to be, how she felt, how she survived.

And what comes next.