Love Notes on a Dish Towel
“My Little List of Great Ideas That will Get Ignored” 2 Chocolate Martini glasses with Blue swirls 2 crystal vases flowered china bowl.
This list was entombed inside the first gray Rubber Maid box that I opened. This was only one of many notes from Laurie Kreller-Abadie, my surrogate sister from my early teaching years. How I treasure these charming end notes that Laurie lovingly placed inside the surprise care packages she and her adult daughter, Jennifer, rescued from the flood soaked belongings that used to grace our joyful dinner party table settings.
“2 Chocolate Martini glasses with Blue swirls..” I recalled the night that the infamous chocolate martinis spilled us over into the Emergency Room at Mercy Hospital on Jeff Davis Parkway at 2 A.M. We had been to the Sanger Theatre to hear the heart rhythms sounds of “Smokey Joe’s Café.” Our celebratory mood and spirits, and our souls still full of toe tapping and voices, led us to a mock Eiffel Tower late night spot on St.Charles Avenue. This Eiffel Tower had been painted ruddy rouge and enhanced with tiny white Christmas lights. That, along with the dapper younger crowd flooding in at eleven P.M., should have set off warning sirens. We entered anyway.
One, no, two martinis later, we heard the voice of reason guiding us out of this young couples spot where dancing and pairings were happening with greater frequency than the martini consumption; not to mention the dude in the light blue suit who keep invitingLaurie to dance with him. So we gracefully headed for the exit. Gracefulness is something we southern women think that we have mastered even after two martinis. This proved to be a false assumption as on the way out, I tried to open the newly cleaned plate-glass door with my nose!
My winter white suit that I wore became a little sponge for the contrasting red that seeped from my nose. We as elegantly as possible pried open the door, and boarded the elevator which led to the parking lot beneath the tower. We urged the parking attendant to speed up the car fetching process. I was eager to get to the ER to determine if I had indeed broken my nose Again. (The other times had nothing to do with drinking; just long distance biking.)
Laurie drove her powder blue BMW to the old Mercy hospital on Jeff Davis (The hospital was long ago sold to a conglomerate; but we still refer to her as the Mercy Hospital, where the Sisters of Mercy once ran the place like a well oiled machine.) A young doctor obviously not from New Orleans, his accent and his ungentlemanly question gave him away. "Have you ladies been drinking?"
"Of course we have. How else do you think I would have missed the door concept all together?” I gasped.
Martinis, adventures, grandchildren, trips to museums, galleries, cups of tea and lots of chocolate: all of these shared memories came tumbling out of the survival boxes of treasures that Laurie nursed back to life. These treasures were individually and creatively ensconced in bubble wrap and new dishtowels. I continued to unravel my history so closely intertwined with Laurie’s. Styrofoam plates creatively cut and taped together made little cocoons for the valuables interned inside. As I unwrapped pounds of bubble wrap, removed the duck tape, and piled up the styrofoam plates into separate piles, the memories of our travels together flooded both hemispheres of my brain with soothing relief.
Laurie, the consummate Dominican High School volunteer, whom the sisters of Dominican trained so well, assisted Bobby and I with the task of packing up what Katrina had melded into smoldered globs of history. I had been so overwhelmed by the recovery task that I was discarding with reckless abandon all of these tarnished and muck-sodden items. Laboring under the weight of their earlier joy, I flung them into the front yard of the house where the giant refuse pile that once was my home lay like a small stripped-mined mountain. Little did I realize, that not only was Laurie packing up the dishes from the safety of their high kitchen perches, she was also rescuing items that I thought were hopeless.
Laurie saw hope in the antique linens that I knew were irreparably damaged. Laurie stashed these away; and for days, weeks, and in some cases months of de-spoiling, she somehow miraculously resuscitated these to a pristine state; much like a curator recovering ancient treasure from royal tombs. This “Laurie Abadie Love Reclaiming Service” utilized known and newly discovered techniques to wash out the stains that “all the perfumes of Arabia” could not make fresh again. Some of the techniques appeared in The Times Picayune “How to Restore” new bible section. People were experimenting and daily creating new methods of cleaning up the Katrina skunked stuff. One particular recommendation included bleach, dish washer liquid, clean water, and lots and lots of fresh air and sunshine. Much like the dispossessed people; we needed the same, just in larger quantities and with even more love.
As I opened the gray plastic Rubber Maid box with the linens I wept. Out of that Pandora’s mess that was my former life was a life line thrown out to me from New Orleans to the floor of our newly purchased Fairfax, Virginia home. The type of life lines that Laurie carried in her tiny antique beaded purses. She keeps the tiniest of notebook/journal to write down places she wants to see and ideas that she gets 24/7. The little notes printed on stationary that read: “My Little List of Great Ideas That Will Get Ignored,” massaged the chambers of my heart labeled “HOME.”
Just one more example of Laurie’s intense capacity to see the beauty in something so badly damaged. She’s like that you know. Selected as the State of Louisiana’s Teacher of the Year in Special Education make it official. Laurie would harbor “those” special children no one quite understood in her softly lined wing and incubator Half Home-Ec Half Special-Ed Room. You would find her at a kitchen table turned desk with one of “those” students. She’d be demonstrating how to attach an imaginary string to their backs and how to envision themselves throwing that string from out in the hall over the light fixture in a particularly troubling class room. They were then taught to pull themselves up and into the scary room where so many unreasonable demands were made. The students and Laurie were always smiling at the futuristic scene. Laurie rescued many of “those” kids. The Abadie Tool Kit for Survival in strange and unfriendly places included magic tricks, memory aids, and loads of humor.
Laurie studied with Renzulie, the guru of the gifted children, and she never left a child behind. Laurie, like Howard Gardner, saw all people as geniuses with multi-gifts and talents! No student left Laurie’s kitchen without a recipe for success! Her compassion wraps you up like freshly baked cookies and a glass of milk on a rainy day. Little wonder that she not only assisted Bobby and me, but 29 other of her immediate and extended family in their recovery efforts!
And all of this without Wonder Woman’s bracelets; well actually she does have a magic dung beetle ring, but that’s another story. This dynamo not only packed, cleaned, and repacked thousands of treasures; she also photographed the growing mold and recovery process. She saw in the mold images that could later be transformed into water colors or photos for her growing art business. Laurie saw all of this irreparable stuff through a special lens that she uses to filter out muck and distress. She even promised to turn a precious antique tea pot that had lost a part of its side into a water color painting. No doubt she will do this so that she may rest and breathe in the healing oxygen that she needs to continue her life -line casting.
Laurie took photos of the cleaned crystal which lay in her yard under a great oak tree feeling renewed, polished, and reflecting Laurie’s loving care. This care included helping us emotionally pack up to move on. Laurie had helped me pack up on another more dangerous life experience. She and her entire family came to my self-imposed hostage place at 103 Amarillo Dr. in Houma, Louisiana to hastily move me to a secret location from a disturbed genius that I had married. Now she and her daughter were adding my sweet new husband and me to their list of Katrina recovery efforts. It seems to me that Laurie has been by my side in the worst and the best of times. Knowing, as only she does, the stages of grief, she used her beaded trick bag to set the scene for a healing ritual for Bobby and me.
The day before we officially left New Orleans, October 29, 2005, she prepared a little altar on our front steps. The altar had liqueur glasses, a vase with pink roses, and a bottle of liquid spirits where two types of liqueur mixed together from different spouts to toast the good times, and to bit our farewells to what was. Of course she photographed and documented the entire process.
Laurie’s love oozed out of those Rubber Maid boxes and unto the floor and wrapped me in her feather lined wings and rescued me from a sort of hazy depression; one of her life lines lifting me up like so many other lost students who needed support to take the next step. Laurie not only cleaned up the mess that had been our former lives, she sent us new dish towels. I felt a velveteen rope tied to my unburdened but weakened shoulders lift me up. I was steadied, and readied to use the new dish towels to prepare more meals to share and enjoy with old and new friends. Of course, there will be chocolate martinis.