Going Home


There’s a song by Louis Armstrong called “Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?” I almost cry every time I listen to it, partly because of Mr. Armstrong’s unforgettable voice, but mostly because there’s a deep connection with the places where we grew up.  Fortunately for me, there are a lot songs written about New Orleans, or rather unfortunately, since I’m prone to get teary.

In a few weeks, our family will be taking the very long way home to New Orleans to visit family. Abby is particularly objecting, not because she doesn’t want to go, but because she wants to fly. We always had to take an airplane when we lived in Philadelphia. But I’m excited for the drive. I’ve never gone this way before. Duane and I will at least appreciate seeing new parts of the country from the road.

There’s a certain thing that happens when I go home that I can’t quite put my finger on. I only know that when I’m there I feel like writing poetry. The sense of comfort and nostalgia that set in are too heavy to keep to myself. There’s a unique beauty in being entirely familiar with a place–knowing city streets like the back of your hand, even after 20 years of being gone. It’s a human experience we all share-the comfort of returning home.

It  only becomes more powerful when we share that experience with others. So that’s what I’ll do. My kids will go to the same Storyland in City Park that I went to 30 years ago. And, they’ll slide down the same steep dragon slide that took every ounce of bravery I had as a seven-year-old to climb its many steps.  They’ll spar on Captain Hook’s pirate ship, ride in Cinderella’s pumpkin-turned-stagecoach, and climb inside the mouth of the whale that swallowed Pinocchio whole.

slide at Storyland, New Orleans City Park


Then, we’ll go out for snowballs, drenched in sweetened condensed milk. Get the typical sno-cone image out of your mind–fast. Snoballs are superior in every way. They’re made of perfectly shaved ice that masterfully absorbs the sugary syrup. They’re not crunchy, like the aforementioned sno-cone, and there’s not a pool of juice left at the bottom when you’re finished–just a mush of sweet, soft ice.  I used to walk 6 blocks almost every day in the blistering summer to Van’s Snoballs for one of these icy treats.

It may also be time to show them the house where I grew up. I think they’re old enough to think that’s cool, but what do I know? I’ll think it’s cool and Duane will be a willing participant, as we drive around the old corner on River Oaks Drive. Hopefully, Van’s will be open. I should make them walk the 6 blocks for a snoball. Nostalgia taken too far? Probably.

Duane and I will go out a couple of nights to listen to music and eat some really, really good food. Maybe we’ll go to some old haunts, like Cafe Brazil or the Maple Leaf for music, or Jacques Imo’s for food, or PJs for coffee, but there’s a crop of really new places since Katrina that clamor for my attention as well.

Lately, I’ve been listening to a new song called “Steamboat” by Look Homeward.  Listen here.

It goes like this:


Steamboat carry me, to my delta home;

Steamboat carry me, I’ve got rivers in my soul.

Part of Verse 2:

When I finally reach New Orleans, I’m gonna dance with all the ghosts;

I’m gonna swim in eerie water and drink to every toast.


I almost cry every time I listen to this one, too.

Yes! Steamboat carry me (or at least my Honda Odyssey)  back to my delta home, if only for a few days- I’ve got rivers in my soul.

P.S. Listen to a live version of Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans by Louis Armstrong here.


What do you love about your hometown? What are your favorite childhood memories there? I’d love to hear about them.

  • http://www.andbabiesdontkeep.com/ Kristi

    I love the idea of taking my kids home…but home for me is so all over the place. I drove by our home in High Point, the one I we lived in from 5th grade through my freshman year and got butterflies the whole way in. I had the girls with me and it was cool for me, even though they’re young.

    You should totally make them walk, by the way=)

  • Julie Davis

    Almost seems like a unique experience to grow up in one place these days. My kids have already lived in 3 different places and nobody’s older than 11 !