By Terry Gassett
Although I was actually born in Natchez, Mississippi, my parents moved us to New Orleans when I was two. I spent over thirty years growing up among her people and in her culture.
Her blood courses through my veins even now. And although I am not technically a native, I consider myself one of her beloved daughters.
Several years ago I had the privilege of meeting Julia Reed at the annual “Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration.” She had come to share her book “The House on First Street: My New Orleans Story.” She graciously penned these words on its Title Page: “To Terry, With warm wishes to someone who has her own New Orleans story.” Julia Reed.
I wondered if she had peered into my heart and seen both the unspoken and unrealized dream of doing just that, or if she just assumed that because I come from a long cultural tradition of story-telling, I too had a story to tell.
Either way, she was right. I do have a story to tell and I owe it to my children and grandchildren to write it down.
Below is an excerpt from my yet unfinished and unpublished memoirs of living in and loving New Orleans. I have chosen to write them in my daughter’s voice because she, as well as my other two children, loves to both hear and tell my stories. However, since she was the first to do so, I have given her the privilege of serving as narrator.
*Names have been changed to protect the guilty.
Mama married Daddy in April of 1986. They began house-hunting in September 1985. Mama thought it strange that Daddy had asked her to go house hunting when they weren’t living together, he hadn’t proposed, nor had he given the slightest inclination that they might have a future together.
My Daddy thought it best to find a home and then propose – he was just that way. So, he enlisted the help of a realtor to find a suitable home in a suitable neighborhood at a suitable price.
Right from the beginning, there were problems. You see, in New Orleans, there are “good neighborhoods” and “bad neighborhoods” and whether a particular neighborhood was considered good or bad depended on who you talked to. For Mama, any neighborhood outside of “The Parish” where she grew up was unsafe to live in and therefore a bad neighborhood. For Daddy, any neighborhood more than 10-15 minutes away from where he worked was a bad neighborhood. For the realtor, any neighborhood was a good neighborhood if he could make a sale!
Further complicating the matter was Mama’s insistence that the realtor was probably a drug runner. (For as long as I have known her, Mama has had this habit of judging people right away based on their appearance – only she doesn’t call it judging, she calls if intuition. Strangely, most times she is right!) In her mind, Fred Upshot, whom she called Fred Upstart (she also had this terribly annoying habit of not calling people by their right names) just had to be running drugs! After all, he was impeccably dressed, drove a brand new Mercedes (even though he said it was a loaner), and always had a slew of pretty girls hanging around him all the time. He also seemed overly anxious to sell Mama and Daddy a home, which in Mama’s mind translated that he needed to pay back a debt, most probably to a loan shark.
Daddy did eventually propose and Fred Upstart sold him and Mama their first home – a Creole Cottage in Bywater, a colorful, historic neighborhood of New Orleans situated between the Industrial Canal and the French Quarter.
Fred Upstart had assured them that the house (which he happened to own and which sat on the property next to his ) was in a quiet little neighborhood that was perfectly safe for families. He assured Mama that the bar across the street from their home was a little neighborhood bar where neighbors went to have a beer or two and watch ball games on a big screen TV. This was not entirely accurate. Shortly after Mama and Daddy moved in, they were awakened early one Saturday morning to the sound of gunfire right outside their bedroom window! It seems as if Fred had neglected to tell them about one of the bartenders who worked offshore for two weeks, then tended bar for two weeks when he came in from the rig. He would get “liquored up” and then chase patrons out into the street to the sound of gunfire. True…..He never actually shot anyone, but Mama got tired of hiding under the bed during the early morning hours to escape any stray bullets which might come her way.
So, after only a few months of living in their first home, Providence intervened and Mama and Daddy moved. But to this day, I am convinced that if Providence hadn’t moved them, Mama would have!
Hi, I’m Terry Gassett, Jesus Follower, Wife, Mother, Nina, Life Coach, and Writer. I was born and raised in the “Deep South” and I still live and work there. I have been married to my heartthrob for over 30 years, and we have three grown children, three granddaughters (two who are twins!) and a Chi Chi/Jack Russell perpetual pup.
I am a Life Design Coach and I work with Creative Christian Women to design lives of purpose, passion, and joy!
When not listening to women’s hearts through the coaching process, I am expressing my own through writing. Currently, I’m writing my first book – “Breathe, Just, Breathe: Breathing in the Extraordinary Gifts of God on Ordinary Days.”
Published posts on Two Drops of Ink:
TWO DROPS OF INK: THE LITERARY HOME FOR COLLABORATIVE WRITING
Previous Hump Day Humor posts
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