Monday, December 12, 2005

Red beans and gifts

We had red beans for supper tonight and talked about Christmas. It was fabulous! Since Katrina, the simplest things bring us the most joy.

Red beans are the quintessential Monday meal in New Orleans. I've heard this is because Monday is the traditional wash day, the day when the women folk used to do the laundry. It was easy to cook a pot of beans on the stove while you were out back hand washing and hang drying the clothes.

And you know people in New Orleans plan their lives around food, and they turn every problem into a party. So they made Mondays and the simple pot of red beans into something to get excited about.

What made these beans especially good was the sausage from Terranova's Grocery. We lived for a while on Esplanade Avenue just a few doors down from this corner grocery. The Terranova family all help run the store on the street level and live in the rooms upstairs. I don't know if the store flooded, but they just reopened last week to the delight of the whole neighborhood. My wife was one of their first customers that day.

During supper, we started talking about Christmas, and presents, and the jolly old elf himself. My daughter, a fourth grader, recently mailed her annual letter to Santa and steadfastly refused to let us see it.

Her plan, she explained, is to provide a different gift list to each gift giver, thus improving the chances that she'll get everything she wants and avoiding the duplication of presents that sometimes occurs.

My first reaction to this was shock. You don't hand out gift lists like a foreman handing out assignments. You're not supposed to assume that people are going to give presents out of involuntary obligation. It struck me as rather rude, and I was thinking about how I would tell her this.

But then she confided and told us what she was asking for. From Santa, a bike. From her Nanny, a soccer ball. And from us, new sheets for her bed.

Let me be clear about this: we are not poor. We could certainly afford to buy my daughter two bikes, a television, an X-box and a gaggle of games to go with it. But since Katrina we're trying to keep it simple. We moved into a two-bedroom apartment and bought the furniture from the prior tenants. We only have two sets of sheets for our two beds.

But our girl does not complain. She does not pine for the gadgets and hip toys that television loudly tells her she needs. She does not want us to give her things that are large, loud and expensive.

She just wants a new set of sheets. Comfortable sheets to rest on and read, sheets of her own.

Since Katrina, the simplest things bring us the most joy.


Anonymous said...

That's the girl! I knew she was a keeper from the day we met! The kids and I are to be in New Orleans 29 Dec-1 Jan. Hope to see you then!

Laurie said...

This terrible event has affected different people in different ways. It magnifies the good as well as the bad. The daughter is a goody.

Tim said...

Jane! Looking forward to seeing all of you again.

Laurie, Thanks again.

drumsnwhistles said...

I printed this and read it to my kids. I've been feeling an uncomfortable sense of guilt this holiday season over the excesses. It's not an unfamiliar feeling -- I generally have an uneasiness every year but this year it has been stronger and more convicting.

Your daughter sounds wonderful, and I really do believe that living through events like this mold and shape us into better people in the long run. Give her a hug from a Southern California stranger and 600 thread count egyptian cotton - she deserves to sleep like a princess.

Keep writing -- all of us who are not there need to be reminded on a daily basis so our attention span doesn't turn to other, more trivial things.

Tim said...

drumwhistles, Thank you for the kind words. Don't feel guilt, just enjoy the holidays with those you love as much as you can. 8-)