Five years ago, Susan and I began our journey to Central Texas. On January 6, 2006, we moved into a rental house in Harker Heights with literally nothing. We had our “final” insurance adjustment check, and this would provide for our furniture, television, and other necessary items for a normal household. But during the first few weeks in the new home, we were living on air mattresses and stadium chairs. It was an interesting reminder of all we had lost with Katrina.
It has taken me literally five years to recover from that storm....
This holiday season, I have spent quite a bit of time reflecting on these last five years. The two things that remains ever important to me are family and friends. Without both, our recovery would have been impossible. We spent the months after the storm living with Susan's parents in Tennessee. This last December, we again journeyed up to Tennessee to engage in much socializing and fellowship with her family. They probably don't know how deeply I feel indebted to their hospitality after the storm. Over the years, we have all become closer. This last visit up there was our second consecutive Holiday Season visit, and we intend on making this our annual tradition.
The friends we have made here in Central Texas have truly been wonderful. Many would get a glimpse of our interpretation of New Orleans when we threw our first Mardi Gras party in 2006. Dinner parties, movie nights, and spontaneous drinking and celebration have become our trade-mark. I have come to appreciate how our real close friends know that they can come right on in to our house without knocking—something that I really like. Our dog Stella doesn't even bark when they come into the house. Now that's true friendship.
I have struggled over the past five years with meeting people or getting too involved with any activities here in Central Texas. Once we settled in here five years ago, we started our frequent trips back to New Orleans. On average, we return home every three months. It was through the kindness of two special friends in New Orleans that helped make possible these frequent trips. They don't know how important their help was in recentering me on what is important in life. But New Orleans really kept us from totally connecting to this area. Frankly, I know that my family will never be fully invested in this region. But year-by-year, we do and will become more personally grounded here. It is our new home, and we truly realize we are not going back to New Orleans for many, many years.
These last few months, probably since August, Susan and I have begun to get more active in the Central Texas community. No doubt, most of that activity has centered in Austin—the one city that comes closest to replicating our New Orleans experience. The music and culture are completely different, but at least there is music and culture :)
And I keep meeting more people. The one thing that helped with this over the last year was the motorcycle. This has opened all kinds of new doors to Susan and I. The people I've met through this network have been wonderful. Very down to earth. They like to drink and have fun—two things that bring us back to New Orleans :) As I've written previously, this will be a network we will further tap in to this year.
As I reflect on this last bit of Katrina memory, I guess I am thankful that we have landed on our feet here in Central Texas. Who would have thought we would ever land here. I was born in Texas as an Air Force brat. My family moved away from Texas when I was one year old when my father became stationed in Sacramento. It took over 40 years, but I eventually landed only 2-and-a-half hours away from my birthplace.
In the final assessment, this really isn't a bad place. The politics suck, but that is becoming true for the rest of the country as well. The schools are ok, but when they start teaching Devin about alternative biology or cooked up history, we will pull him out and home-school him. The job is challenging and at times exciting. The friends are great. The music is close. And I can get most ingredients for all my cooking needs.
It has taken me five years to kill that bitch Katrina. Though she will continue to haunt me at times, I believe I have laid that bitch to rest.
It's all good :)