After Hurricane Katrina, it was very hard for me to get attached to objects and situations. I learned to cherish things while they were there, and let them go when they left. The day after Christmas, I told my family members goodbye without a tear in my eye. I understood that nothing could make all of my Christmas memories disappear. My dad loaded the car with our belongings, while I was getting settled in the back seat with hopes of hibernating for eight hours straight. Unfortunately, my state of euphoria was interrupted, and the remaining time spent on the road was far from pleasant.
August 29, 2005, was a day that changed my life forever. Hurricane Katrina swept across the Gulf Coast taking everything that I loved with it. During the aftermath of the storm, the insurance company asked my family to recollect everything that we had lost due to Katrina. While my mom was creating a list full of palpable items, I was mentally creating a list of intangible items. I refused to place Christmas my list. It was impossible to create a traditional Christmas in our unpleasantly snug and malodorous FEMA tin box; however, the parade must roll on. My family packed up Christmas and New Orleans, and headed to my aunt’s apartment in Atlanta.
Atlanta was nothing like home, but my family’s embrace made everything okay. My hopes of all the good things to come on Christmas day, made me forget about the remnants of my real home. Christmas morning was overflowing with love. Everyone had smiles from ear to ear, the sounds of feel good laughter roared throughout the apartment, and the aroma of traditional New Orleans’s cuisine danced under our noses. For the first time since August 29, my family was able to exhale and relax without a care in the world. After exchanging presents, it was time to eat! My mom and aunt prepared all of my favorites: peppers the size of softballs loaded with all forms of seafood, baked macaroni oozing with cheese, and holiday ham suffused with a mouth watering honey glaze. Nevertheless, before we could eat any of the other foods, we all had to sit down and enjoy a bowl of gumbo. For the first time ever, my aunt was allowed to make the gumbo. Surprisingly, the gumbo was appetizing! The gumbo pot was a pot full of love, loaded with Gulf shrimp, gumbo crabs, savory smoked sausage, Patton’s hot sausage links, Louisiana roux browned to perfection, and seasonings you can only find in New Orleans. I indulged in at least four generous servings of gumbo. Christmas was saved!
The day after Christmas, it was time to go home. I said my goodbyes and headed for the car prepared to sleep eight hours straight. About an hour into the ride is when it all started. I unexpectedly awoke out of my sleep to find the Greek god Zeus overthrowing Titan, in my stomach. It was a mighty battle; I could feel lighting bolts and fireballs being thrown back and forth. Oh, the pain was unbearable! I asked my dad to stop the car at the nearest rest stop, which was at least ten minutes away. It felt as if those ten minutes dragged on forever! After leaving the rest stop, the battle inside of my stomach was nowhere near over; the fight had just begun! The four generous bowls of gumbo I had eaten just hours earlier, had turned on me and created a war inside my stomach. I was forced to ride from Atlanta to New Orleans with the worst food poison imaginable.
I will always cherish the good times had on Christmas Day 2005, but I will never forget the excruciating food poison that came with it. Every Christmas I now ask myself this question, “To eat or not to eat the gumbo?” The answer is obvious… eat! Any food poison that comes after eating a bowl of gumbo, is a without a doubt worth it!
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