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Coming Home IN New Orleans

December 14, 2010
Audley Cousins

Cousins Sunny, Julie, Carolyn, and Shannon sit in the side yard of my grandmother's house in Iola, Kansas.

I ran across this piece of prose I wrote to a friend in 2006. It’s fitting to post since I now live in a place that smells like fried chicken, with the sounds of a pressure cooker, that is full of characters. Somehow moving to New Orleans has been a bit like coming home, restarting, reinventing, finding again the things that feel the most like cat-napping in the sunshine. At Thanksgiving in Kansas, I slept under a blanket that sat on the back of the couch in my grandmother’s house for 10 years. It still smelled like her. I buried my face in it and smelled it until my lungs hurt and I couldn’t smell it any more.

~~~

August, 2006

I realized the home I’m looking for smells like fried chicken.  Not just smells like friend chicken, there is actually a bowl of hot fried chicken in the middle of the dining room table and seats for at least 10. The windows are open, the white lace curtains from 15 years ago really do blow in the wind. My grandmother’s house: the old green musty smell of the fire that my uncle Larry caused when he was 6 never left the 2 story family stone– blueberry pancakes and green glassware and layers of photos of grandchildren plastered all of the breakfast bar, old stools that made it through the depression and weighed 40 pounds each, from metal and vinyl. So much of my little girl life that was kind happened in that house. I feel oddly (Audley, my mother’s maiden name) enough that my mental and emotional escape is to that place, that house that sold along with my childhood home and childhood angst, at her move into the Alzheimer’s ward, and her subsequent death from age and 12 children and and and. Now, a glimpse of what I feel like I’ve been trying to get back to for so long.  Friday night high school football games and the rosaries hanging in the bathroom and cousins! And laughter and blankets that we’ve all slept under that were crocheted by my aunt Mary when she was young. We’re here to have families?  Right? It is OK to long for simplicity and children and German potato salad on Sunday afternoons. Nothing complex. Nothing dark. Nothing that doesn’t seem like dirt roads and thunderstorms and the quiet that winter brings.

Maybe I have slipped away into real life, perhaps I have put on gollashes.  Perhaps all of us really want to slip. I’m trying it on for size.

I would like to set a picnic table with my grandmother’s old and threadbare gingham cloth of red and orange and yellow on the picnic table that rested behind her house and would give us splinters in the summer time from the excitement of just getting settled in.  I’d like to hear her voice behind me on the swing in the dusk with my cousin Julie on her lap, leaned back, head nestled between her breasts that fed 12 children and would have fed more had uncle Larry not pulled her uterus out with him.  I’d like to stare at the iced tea pitcher and wonder how the sun made it taste so good.  This time I wouldn’t add spoonfuls of sugar from the light green sugar bowl to the ripe mixture (“Get a new spoon, Sunny!”).  I’d like to eat banana bread again and strawberry ice cream (grandpa always, always bought strawberry) on a thin sugar cone.  I’d like to smell the kitchen in the fall when the apples from the two trees in the yard were peeled and ready to become pie.  I’d like the chance to again throw the apples across the street to the church parking lot.  I have returned to the place, really returned there.  I can see it all clearly, the length of yard that ran east and west, where we played Nerf football and the basketball goal that never had a net.  I can still granny shot and swish.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. kristine permalink
    December 15, 2010 9:28 am

    sunny, this is the best piece of reminiscing i have read. i love it. i want to go there too. so nostalgic. so peaceful. so right. i’m so glad you’re home in your new home.
    i love this about our moves…that we’re open to it and not so comfortable, per se, that we aren’t open to the idea that our *home* really can still be out there somewhere else.

  2. kate permalink
    December 15, 2010 2:04 pm

    dearest sunny-
    how you have transported me to summers at my granny’s home in topeka. your memories described, your sentiment and your sincerity are truly, truly….what is the word? i cant even bring a word to how warm i feel inside when reading this post. thank you for sharing with all of us. sounds like you are settling well in to your new home of LA…. all my best and big hugs to you for taking me to a place that I haven’t visited, physically or mentally in years! i wish i had a blanket to smell my granny! thanks sunny!

  3. Loretta permalink
    December 20, 2010 2:41 am

    Thanks for taking me back home!

    Love you – Loretta

  4. catherine permalink
    January 14, 2011 9:53 pm

    I didn’t realize how much I missed those days until I read this.
    Once again, thanks for the memories.
    love you,
    mom

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