After 33 years in New Orleans, I'm still not "from here." I moved here as an adult and arrived with a background built somewhere else.
I've been welcomed into the community and am a New Orleanian and a citizen concerned about the future, but those aren't the same as being an intrinsic part of the city's fabric. Being "from here" is not about individual longevity; it's about roots and history.
My children, on the other hand, are from here. Their first breaths were drawn here, they used Roman Candy as a teething tool and were up close and personal with a white alligator long before they saw a live cow. They were practically born in costume, can answer the requisite "Where'd you go to school?" properly, suck the heads of crawfish, know where you got dem shoes, march in Mardi Gras parades and consider K&B purple an official color name.
When my husband (who moved to New Orleans from St. Louis when he was 15) and I decided to start a family, I was hesitant to raise children in New Orleans — not because of perceived deficiencies like schools or crime, but a fear that with all the music, food, festivals, outdoor activities, warm weather, etc. that New Orleans offers, they would not be able to live happily anywhere else — that all other places would seem boring. I was concerned that could limit their prospects for what they might want to do with their lives. It seemed most of the New Orleanians I knew who left the city spent most of their time trying to find a way back.
- Megan (top) and Amy Graves grew up in New Orleans. Miss Muffett's spider at Storyland in City Park was a favorite attraction.
I no longer worry about my kids being worldly. They are young adults and can function wherever they land — usually with a good joke ready. Instead of being limiting, growing up in New Orleans has been the same wonderland of people and experiences for them that it was to me as a journalist. (I used to joke that being a news reporter in New Orleans was like waking up to Christmas morning and a choice of fun packages every day.) Just living and working here has given them opportunities to meet a diversity of people and listen to a fountain of ideas. That's the draw of New Orleans: our joie de vivre is so intoxicating that people (celebrities, scientists, artists, educators, entrepreneurs, think tankers) want to come. And often they want to stay.
Yes, my children can function wherever they need to, but I'm fairly certain that wherever their careers and lives might take them, they eventually will return to New Orleans. Almost everyone does — no matter how long it takes.