I did something powerful this week; I reached a breakthrough in my healing, my getting past the deep emotion attached to losing my mother; I went to City Park in New Orleans and I had Elizabeth with me (and a camera). It has been almost exactly 15 years since I was there. It was the last little adventure I had with my mom before her death in august 1997. She didn’t feel well that summer of 1997, tired and not much enthusiasm towards things but she did want to see Elizabeth ride the century old carousel “before I die” she declared. How often do we carelessly use that catch phrase, “before I die” – I never took it literally; sadly, however, it was prophetic .
Anyway, we did go to the City Park in New Orleans that summer – my mom, myself, and all five of my children – Jon was 16, Will 14, Matt and Drew 9, and Elizabeth 2. It was a fun day, we had spent the night before at the Hotel Monteleon on Royal and went to the park the next morning. The old oaks were still there as well as Storyland – things I remember as a child . The big feature, however and the reason for the visit, was the carousel. It was, at the time, 91 years old.
“Since 1906 little kids and kids at heart have enjoyed the “flying horses” of City Park’s antique carousel, one of only 100 antique wooden carousels in the country and the last one in Louisiana. The carousel, featuring the masterwork of famed carousel carvers Looff and Carmel, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and its renovation garnered national attention and praise from the National Historic Preservation Society.”
My mom was so right in her prediction – Elizabeth loved it, again and again and again. I see my mom sitting on the nearby bench watching Elizabeth go around and around. I wondered why she was so intent on and content to just sit there. Now I understand , she was feeling so badly then; there was a yet unknown cancer inside and these were her last days. I look back, as we all sometimes do, with regret. I had no idea that my barely 65 year old mother was that sick and that this trip would be the last one with my 2 year old daughter.
I often go back to that day and relive all that I can to keep the memory alive, but until yesterday, I have not been able to go back to that physical place. After hurricane Katrina, I was so sad that the park had taken on so much water and damage but thanks to the good people of New Orleans, the park is as it was. I was able to see a bit of stress on some of the ancient oaks but I feel certain they are being cared for and will outlive me. Elizabeth was a good sport for me and let me photograph her around the park – we went to the places I remember her going with my mom.
Curiously , the girl operating the carousel saw us and when the last child was gone, asked if I would like a picture of Elizabeth on one of the horses.
With a bit of a blur through the lens, I saw her again and I knew my mom was there , perhaps on the bench, watching.