And I want my kids to (heart) it, too. So when I realized that my Little Guy wasn’t developing the same affinity for it that the rest of us share, I had a mission: to convert this suburban kid into a proper New Orleanian.
I feel blessed that I got to grow up here, and that – after wandering about for a few years – my husband and I decided to return and raise our family here. We settled in the ‘burbs for mundane reasons (insurance, property taxes, sidewalks you can safely ride a tricycle on, and playgrounds) but our hearts were always in The City. Despite our mailing address saying otherwise, we consider ourselves New Orleanians. (By the way, New Orleanians NEVER refer to our hometown as “The Big Easy.” It’s The Crescent City, The City, or NOLA.)
Back in the day (before we had kids) my husband and I were very cool people. We would hop in our car (a shiny, blue Alfa Romeo convertible!) and drive around The City, looking for a place to land. Like most we developed a pattern of regular places, but we were always eager to find a new spot, too.
When our first round of kids came along, except for dragging around more gear, our pace didn’t change much. We continued our regular jaunts to the French Quarter, City Park, and Uptown. We’d go to Mass at the Cathedral, have dinner in the Quarter, and walk along the river. Once we rode the entire streetcar line – from the beginning to the end of the line and all the way back. New Orleans was our extended back yard. As the kids got old enough to start whining about these “adventures,” we caved in and did it less often. But when we had visitors to show around, or a grown-up night out, our car instinctively crossed the 17th Street Canal* into The City.
The City would become an integral part of our big kids’ lives, too. They went to middle school in City Park, and high school in Mid-City, so they returned to the familiar paths we once roamed. They practiced lacrosse at Scout Island, played games at Pan-American Stadium, and ate dessert at Brocato’s. Unlike many suburban kids, going into The City was part of their daily life.
So when the Little Guy started showing signs that he’d rather remain in suburbia, I knew I needed to do something about it. (I learned this on a recent field trip to the Musee Conti wax museum, when he wanted to go home rather than roam the streets of the Quarter with his friends from school.) Seizing a day from Spring Break this week, I planned an outing designed to make him become aware of the very cool things that are in our big back yard, and turn on his lust for all it has to offer (well, almost all of what it has to offer. He’ll have to learn the rest from his brothers in a few years.)
Since no adventure is complete without a running buddy, I called the mom of his friend K, and she was in. A little brainstorming and a plan was hatched. There were some logistics to consider (picking up The Middle Child and K’s brother from school at 3:00), so we decided to leave our cars in Mid-City and take the streetcar down Canal Street to The French Quarter. We wanted to roam aimlessly (sort of), have lunch someplace cool, and roam down a different path back to the streetcar line. (I prefer to do this kind of thing with a VERY LOOSE PLAN, to avoid turning into a drill sergeant, which doesn’t become me at all, and can bring the mood down in a milli-second.) Knowing my Little Guy as I do, I feared it would turn into a whining session fast if his brain wasn’t engaged in the moment, so I made a scavenger hunt-list of things he and K would have to find on our adventure. Operation I (heart) NOLA was born!
We learned some historical things (that the Battle of New Orleans was fought after the War of 1812 had officially ended), some interesting things (that pigeons will eat Red Beans and Rice from your plate if you’re not paying attention), and some practical things (that the mystery fluid along the street is called Party Gravy, and you NEVER touch anything in it).
We learned that NOLA has her own rhythm (played to the beat of street musicians), and that streetcars aren’t very predictable (give yourself extra time when relying on them for transportation).
We marveled at the beautiful paintings on the ceiling of the St. Louis Cathedral (how did they do that) and discovered the secret courtyards tucked between the beautiful buildings in the Quarter.
Operation I (heart) NOLA was a success! Next year, the Little Guy will transition to his new school in The City. As he starts venturing there daily I hope he develops the same love for NOLA that his dad and I share. I hope he learns to love it so much that he’ll never want to leave!
(For a complete list of awesome places to visit in New Orleans, send The Lucky Mom a message!)
Stuff you might not know:
*The 17th Street Canal divides Jefferson Parish and Orleans Parish. (We call our counties “parishes” in Louisiana.) It became infamous when, during Hurricane Katrina, the canal’s levee failed, flooding the adjacent part of town.