In 2006, my son’s U-16 soccer team, the Lakeview Thunder, returned after Katrina to finish out what would be a brave and gnarly season. Only three of the players had homes that weren’t damaged or destroyed. This essay was ten years in the writing, and I’m deeply grateful that it found a home in Oxford American. With illustrations by Donald Baechler.
My mother comes to stay with us once a week because for the last eight months she’s been having an affair with Eddie Royce, our city councilman. Wednesdays she drives to Mandeville from Lumberton in time to have an early dinner with my husband Howard and me. Howard’s reserved, or tries to be, because he’s fond of my father and not comfortable harboring my mother under these circumstances. She’s all charm with him, flirty and interested in what he’s doing, and when she’s like this she’s hard to resist. She’s lost ten pounds, and tonight at dinner she asks Howard if he notices, and when he says, yes, she explains that’s why she’s picking at her food, not because it isn’t delicious. “There is room for one bite of dessert,” she says, reaching for his plate with her fork, and he pushes his pie over to share. She’s meeting Eddie at 6:30 and I ask Howard if he’ll do the dishes so we can get across the Causeway a little early, and he says, “Sure,” but doesn’t look too happy about it.
My mother and I get into the car and drive across the lake to New Orleans where for the last year and a half we’ve been working toward apprenticeship degrees in Culinary Arts at Delgado Community College. My mother is a wonderful cook and our dream is to open a restaurant; she’s in the kitchen, and I’m out front running the room. We’ve found a tiny cottage on the edge of the warehouse district, and the act of sale is in a couple of weeks. My dad’s an accountant and he’s found the financing, and Howard’s going to help out with some of the renovation. It’s a family project, but I’ve been trying to slow things down because I don’t know where this affair is going. Right now Mom couldn’t crack an egg. Last week I suggested that maybe we should look around a little more, but my dad had already made the down payment. Everything’s sailing through without a hitch. Dad doesn’t know about Eddie and he’s happy “his girls” are doing this restaurant together.