Christmas Day, St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana — I’ve learned a lot about growing up in the past year and a half, and probably the most important of these lessons is that you never stop learning. This past semester taught me about loyalty, kindness, and human compassion.
Just in time for Christmas.
We put up our tree. It had been spared the flood in the attic above our garage, and now it stands in our newly furnished living room. The living room is different than what it was before, but it makes the house feel a little more like a home. We added our ornaments and stockings, and garland over the doors.
It was a real house for Christmastime.
More and more houses are being demolished by the parish, trying to meet a December 31 deadline to clear away abandoned structures. It doesn’t look as though they’ll tear them all down, but the parish does look cleaner. Roads are clear. Shops are opening — we have a McDonald’s again. Domino’s Pizza works out of a trailer in a closed bakery’s parking lot. Grocery stores are popular. We have three of them.
It never felt like Christmas until last night. Nothing really has that same magic, the same quality, anymore. Even though we have a tree and lights in our windows, it never felt the same because everything has changed.
I guess time has been moving too fast for me to really appreciate all that we’ve managed to restore since we returned to St. Bernard.
Last night, though, we went to the house some of my extended family rents in Metairie, Louisiana. That brought the feeling of Christmas back — being with my family, laughing loud and eating good food. I miss that. I miss going to school with at least one cousin, miss driving down St. Bernard streets, miss watching the sun set over the canals.
I’m loyal to my parish.
I always want to remember it and keep it part of me wherever I go – its beauty, its community. But the hurricane helped me learn to grow up, grow older.
St. Bernard seems like part of my childhood now, and I cherish it.
My dad has been working a lot lately, but he was off last night. My parents and I went to Midnight Mass in the parish, and I played flute.
We woke up before my dad went to work this morning and opened presents together around the tree. It was a good morning. A Christmas morning.
It feels like Christmas now, and I’m glad.
My grandparents are coming over to eat dinner with us and spend time with us like we used to do. It’s a piece of normalcy I’m grateful for.
Samantha Perez is a Reporter for Youth Journalism International.