I walked barefoot into the humid dusk along the moss-draped bayou. Its languid waters swirled about, responding to a fallen twig from the massive oak tree shadowing its bank. Life certainly had its ebbs and flows this last year, the current bringing Joseph and I from the grand city of New Orleans and its mighty Mississippi River to our little Creole cottage along the Bayou Teche.
Mesmerized by the flowing waters, I remember grandmamere’s words, spoken right here on this bayou bank when I was just a little girl. “Ma chere’, under God’s great heaven, you are rich if you have a loving family, good friends, a bit of land, and music to enjoy it all!” I smiled, wistfully remembering her dazzling eyes and dancing hands as she spoke.
And what of the journey that had brought me to this moment? Just this spring of 1931, Joseph and I were living in a small French Quarter apartment. We had high hopes of prospering in the city and starting our little family . If we had a girl, she’d go to that fine Ursuline Academy. Our boy might attend any of the reputable schools like Jesuit or Holy Cross. Yes, we had our share of dreaming on our little balcony overlooking Decatur St.
“Come here, Claire. The Kingfish is on the radio talking about all his big plans to build bridges and highways and even a hospital here.” In the kitchen, I dried my hands quickly and joined Joseph in the parlor.
“Does Governor Long even think about all the hungry children? Why I bet he’ll even name a bridge after himself!”
The very next week brought solemn news from Joseph. His factory had closed. No work in sight, other than the music gigs on the weekends where Joseph reveled in the blues and jazz notes drifting from clubs along Bourbon St. Not nearly enough to support us.
Joseph’s job search became futile. All around us, news remained grim. President Hoover told us we were not alone in this Great Depression. The whole nation suffered.
And so we packed our bags and our dreams to ride out this storm with family. In a simpler place, where we could live off the land and the love of family. Joseph would pack away his trumpet and forget those times of revelry for now. But in my heart I held on to a spark of hope as we ventured toward a new chapter in our lives.
It began in a little Creole cottage on the banks of the Bayou Teche, right next door to mom and dad. Grandmamere’s abandoned abode overlooked acres and acres of sugarcane fields, our new bread and butter.
Joseph labored every day in the cane fields while also tending to the animals. He was a good, strong worker, one dad needed. But there was a forlorn look on his face most days.
“Joseph, what are you thinking?” We sat silently rocking on the front galerie.
“About those nights at the club, carefree, creating my music. You know how I love my music.”
I bolted into the house and with a click of the radio dial, jazzy melodies permeated the sullen air. “Better?”
“It’s not the same, Claire. And it’s not just about the music. Somehow I feel we’ve lost our dreams…I…I…failed you and myself.”
“Never, Joseph…never! God will help us find our dreams again. It may look differently, but it will be ours to live out…wait and see.” I held his hand as we rocked in unison. I felt strangely uplifted by just speaking that forth. Assurance…that’s what it was.
So the days and weeks of summer marched forward into early fall when harvest activities came into full swing. Our needs were provided. Food on the table to nourish our bodies. And the companionship of close family, friends and each other to nourish our souls.
My thoughts were jarred by the blast of trumpet sounds coming from the cottage. I turned from the bayou bank and there stood Joseph on the steps of the galerie, trumpet set firmly against his lips, releasing a melodious message that spoke to my heart.
I looked up at the stars making their entrance into the night sky and whispered, “Grandmamere, we are rich! Loving family, good friends, a bit of land…and yes, we have our music!”
Joseph and I found our dreams again that day in an unexpected place…our little Creole cottage on the banks of the Bayou Teche.
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