What’s Next

“I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.” Andy, The Office

I love this quote as I can relate. My dream of moving back to Denver is finally coming true. I am super excited for this next chapter in our lives.  I have missed the snow, my friends, my family, the city, and being more involved in the Denver Cheley Camp office. I have to confess that I regret not living more in the present during this last chapter.   In our final days of this life as we know it, I find that I am relishing in the moments.   It is a very strange feeling to be wrapping up the life you have known. I realize that it is human nature to appreciate things more when you know they are coming to an end.

Almost seven years ago Kurt’s work called us to New Orleans.   It was somewhat of a crazy time to move to this city a year after Katrina.  We were still pretty new at the parenting gig, with Ellie being only 9 months old.  The only person we knew was the President of Tulane.  Our families, friends and even strangers continuously asked us why we would move to a city that seemingly everyone was leaving. I recall the mover packing up our house in Black Mountain, NC.  He turned to me and said “You really want to leave this beautiful place to live in New Orleans?” New Orleans was still healing and recovering from the blow of Katrina but we were looking forward to the adventure of this new and exciting place.  I am, however, a mountain girl at heart. If a fortune teller would have told me that I would spend the greater part of my 30’s in New Orleans or anywhere outside of Colorado during the winter months, I would have asked for my money back.

When we arrived here the street cars were not running, businesses were still operating with fewer employees or had not reopened. There was a slight feeling of emptiness, sadness, lackluster and the word Katrina floated around conversations daily.  I had never experienced a hurricane and it was hard for me to relate to the life changing experience Katrina had been for the people of New Orleans. We quickly fell into the category of “people who moved here post Katrina,” which at the time was a small crew.  It was just us, a few others and Drew and Brittany Brees, as Kurt always likes to point out.

In the beginning, I was far from comfortable in my new surroundings.  I believe that stepping out of my comfort zone has broadened my world.   I remember getting “lost” in the car in the middle of the day and frantically calling a friend to tell him where I was and for him to tell me how to get out of there. We quickly found my way and now I take the same route and there is nothing frantic about it.  I also remember constantly showing up to functions under-dressed.  It took me years to realize that every event was dressy.  Now with my southern closet I will probably be too dressy for Denver and freezing.

It has been interesting to watch the city rebuild. While living here, I have not picked up a hammer or a paint brush. I have not helped to rebuild a single home or volunteered anywhere outside of my little world.  I suppose I have been in the flurry of motherhood and other than being a wife and a mom, my life’s work is camp. But I have feel like I have contributed to this wonderful city by moving our little family here while those around us nervously cheered us on. We patiently waited for New Orleans little by little to heal and come back to a vibrant city.

Our family grew from three to five.  One of Ellie’s first words was “beads,” and both Kate and Sam were born during Saint Patty’s Day parades.  Kurt and I have expanded ourselves, our awareness and perspective.  We have come to better understand the beauty of racial differences. We have experienced what it feels like to be the “new kid” and what it feels like to not be a legacy in a community deeply rooted in legacy.  We immersed ourselves in a culture that likes to celebrate.  We look past the broken sidewalks and sunken streets.  We have expanded the view of others by opening up our home to out of state visitors.  We have fallen in love with New Orleans, an awesome city often misunderstood to those who have never visited and taken for granted to those who have never left.

I am grateful that my family has allowed me to contribute to camp’s winter work while not being in the Denver office. I will forever be grateful to the people that have so graciously come into our lives while we were here, for the friendship and the support. I thank the CT Lady Steppers for inviting me to march. Teaching me that smart, sassy, and daring can be wrapped up into one and of course how to apply fake eye lashes and a wig.  I am so grateful to Kurt, who at times had to gently push me to not take this amazing journey for granted.  I so appreciate, McGehee School for loving my girls and for being the first building block in their education.

There are many things that I will miss.  The canopy of the oaks that seem to tell a story with their long old limbs and enormous roots, the wonderful characters in the neighborhood that makes up a community, the people who have brightened my days with their friendship. I will dearly miss 1233 2nd Street, the 160 year old home that has embraced our growing family.  The marathons of Jazz Fest and Mardi Gras, I never could really keep up but still love it.

Peace out to the cockroaches, I will NOT miss you with your little play dead thing that you do and with poop large enough to belong to a rodent.  Lizards, I will miss you.

We are so lucky to have gotten to live here.  We close this wonderful chapter in gratitude for the good days, the not so good days, the life with three children crazy days and for the joy and the journey of life.

As a camp professional, I console campers that miss home, they can’t wait to sleep in their own beds and see their families. They are having fun but they have their moments of concentrating on what’s next.

“I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.”

Enjoy the chapter you are in, even if it sometimes seems hard, for when it is over you might think, hey, that was pretty cool.

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