July 25, 2012
It had been years since I set foot in Baton Rouge.
When I was at the Louisiana School for Math, Science and the Arts (Class of 1998), trips to and through Baton Rouge were frequent. But, when I came down for a job interview at the paper in spring of 2005, years had passed without a peek at the capital city. And even then, the whirlwind tour was just enough to show me that this wasn’t quite the same city I’d known not even 10 years before
After I was offered the job, my husband and I returned to look for a place to live. Time was short then, too. We lined up appointments not realizing that across town, depending on your route, may as well be across the solar system. With just two days to look, we ended the second with a lease and, even though we were approaching exhaustion, a few hours to kill.
We opted to go downtown and watch the Fourth of July fireworks display on the levee. After parking, we emerged from the parking garage to a full-fledged, and quite unexpected, festival. Music floated through the air.
A destroyer’s big guns boomed. People were dancing. People were drinking. People were eating. The sun set just as we found a likely perch for the fireworks. As the sky lit up, we leaned back against the still-warm-from-the-sun concrete steps of the levee. It felt good. It felt like home.
Little did we know then how much life would change in the next two months. My first official day at The Advocate was Aug. 1, 2005, 28 days before Katrina crashed in. John’s job prospects, most of which were in New Orleans, vanished. He threw himself into relief work. At the paper, the days blurred together into streams of steady work and hurried meals, punctuated by the sound of helicopters overhead.
Helicopters. All the time with the helicopters. Still, however battered and bruised south Louisiana was, it felt like home. More than ever.
Since then, we’ve started our family. Bought a house. Adopted a dog. We still go downtown for the fireworks; Ainsley loves dancing on the steps of the Capitol. And as the sun sets and the pyrotechnics start, it still feels good. It no longer just feels like home.
It is home.
Beth Colvin is The Advocate’s assistant Food editor. She can be reached at email@example.com.