It was a wonderful Christmas Season. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, I had hurt my back right in the middle of a project I was working on to surprise Cappy for Christmas. I was trying to turn our tiny living room into the 'den' he's always wanted it to be. Dan, my oldest son, hopped on a plane and came down from Rochester, NY to help. (He did a great job, by the way.)
Dan and I sneaked around, not letting Cappy know that Dan was even here. We had two more days to go before Cappy got off the boat, and were working feverishly trying to get it completed, when Cappy called and said that he was getting off the boat NOW! "Come and pick me up at the office in about an hour and a half". (It takes an hour to get to his office from here.)
I have no idea what happened next. The whole half hour til time to leave was a blur. Sweat was rolling off Dan's nose, I do remember that. We had all the furniture stashed in the middle of the room, and Dan was still putting up moulding. In half an hour we were ready to roll and the room looked great. How???!
Cappy's tugboat was parked on the Intercoastal Waterway right next to the office. It was dark out, and as Cappy was coming down off the gangplank, walking toward our vehicle, Dan hopped out to greet him. (Giggling here.) All Cappy could see was a dark outline of some 'man' getting out of his SUV. He stopped in his tracks and dropped his seabag. Lest Cappy get the wrong idea, Dan quickly said, "Pop, it's me, Dan!" Cappy was totally stunned. Blown away. He grabbed Dan in a big bear-hug, buried his face in his neck and just hung onto him, saying, "Oh, Dan! I'm soooo glad to see you, man!"
To celebrate, and because Cappy hadn't even eaten all day, we went to Outback Steakhouse, instead of going on home, as usual. We three chubby funsters sat there in our booth, laughing, when the waiter came up. I had to ask him if he had a gluten-free menu. (I'm a celiac) The waiter surveyed us up and asked, kinda confused..."Huh? The diet menu? Is that the Glutton-free menu??" After we explained that I can't have anything with flour in it, etc., he said he'd have to check it out in the kitchen. As he was walking away, I laughed, "Do we LOOK like we are glutton-free??"
The next day, Cappy, still delighted with what we had done to make his new den for Christmas, worked with Dan to hang the outside lights I had gotten, too, as a surprise for his homecoming. For the next two weeks, these guys were inseparable. We went to New Olreans for the opening night of Celebration
in the Oaks. It's a New Orleans tradition. Last year I felt like one of the little kids being dragged along by a parent. It was awsome. Cappy and I hadn't been to 'town' since Hurricane Katrina tore it apart. We had been getting conflicting reports in the media; they are begging for people to come back. Familiar business' are open again. There are traffic reports, as usual. On the other hand, people are still being randomly stopped going into New Olreans. But! The Celebration in the Oaks was running, so alrighty then!
This year, we drove along on the way there, singing Christmas carols, feeling so merry, telling Dan what all we were going to see. Laughing all the way, ho ho ho. As Airline Highway turned into Tulane, there was a distinct something in the air, that said, "Nobody's really home here". Strange. We turned north to go to the Celebration, but the streets were eerily dark. No street lights, no traffic, no house lights. Then we saw huge piles of people's things all along the curbs. Furniture, hunks of cement, clothing. On one dark corner was a large animal crate, like SparkyBear and MarkyBear have for travel. On it someone had written in big black letters, "DEAD DOG".
Oh...nobody IS home around here. We drove on and on in the dark in downtown New Orleans. Suddenly I felt guilty and ashamed. "I think going someplace to celebrate and have fun is kind of decadent now." Cappy thought for a minute and said, "No...we need to give them our support. Those people worked so hard to try to bring some kind of normalcy back, and we're going to at least give them our money. If you still want to leave, then, we can." So. We went. There were no long lines waiting to get in. There were no lines. There were no lights or signs to follow. Usually one can see for miles around the huge Live Oaks strung with colorful, dancing lights and animated characters in and around the park. We knew where we were going and where to turn in, but it was as dark and hushed as though it were closed. We were about to turn around, when we could see some Holiday lights, wayyy back in somewhere, so we headed that way.
The displays although beautiful, were not as many as they usually are. We enjoyed what we did see. What we saw, shining more brightly than the thousands of pretty lights, were the exhausting hours that the handful of workers had put into the effort. The hopes, and undying love for a city and her people. There were, in fact some other people who visited that night, as well. There were a few tiny children with shiney eyes, who put their mittened hands to their faces, staring at Cappy as he walked by, and whispered to their parents, "It's Santa Claus". Occasionally, Cappy would bow down to one of them, and say quietly, "Ya never know WHERE Santa might be, do ya?" while the parents beemed. A group of giggly teen or tweens all said in chorus as we walked by, "Hi, Santa!". When we walked into the different display building, adults would address Cappy as Santa Claus. It was a beautiful,crisp clear night. Truly a Celebration in the Oaks. As we were leaving, the park workers looked almost imploringly at us right in the eyes, and to everyone who came, as if to try to make us understand what all they had gone through to put it all together, and said, "Thank you sooooo much for coming tonight." Our hearts were touched.