Welcomed Home By Pontchartrain's Frogs
SCOTT SIMON, Host:
Before our friend Gwen Thompkins left NPR, she was our correspondent in East Africa. A couple of weeks ago, she moved back to her childhood home in New Orleans. The house is in a neighborhood called Pontchartrain Park, which Gwen wrote about at length for our show after Hurricane Katrina. After so many years away, Gwen Thompkins tells us that she's now introducing herself to new neighbors.
GWEN THOMPKINS: During the summer months, the days stretched long, like taffy. My sisters and I made huckabucks, which meant we made Kool-Aid and added about six times more sugar than recommended, and then we froze the Kool-Aid into Dixie cups. I had no idea why they were called huckabucks. To ask back then seemed absurd, like asking why the Easter Bunny even bothered to come to our house when we did all the work dyeing the eggs. But huckabucks they were and how we managed to get out of childhood with all of our teeth, I cannot say. To this day, my sisters have no cavities. I, of course, do.
SIMON: the night was alive with sounds. That frog had friends, and their friends had friends. And so on, and so on.
(SOUNDBITE OF FROGS)
THOMPKINS: This would not be remarkable except for the fact that just a short time ago, all the houses of Pontchartrain Park were submerged in hurricane waters. Back then, my family's single story tract house stood in nine feet of water, all the trees were dead, and the birds had flown away. When the place dried out, it was so empty I told NPR's Neal Conan at TALK OF THE NATION that I could run buck naked down my street and there would be no one around to notice.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
NEAL CONAN: Gwen, I'm not going there.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
THOMPKINS: Now, there are neighbors here to report naked people running down the street - should they feel the urge. And among the returning neighbors are creatures, grievously missed, who for one reason or another quit Pontchartrain Park long before the storm. I'm talking about the frogs and the dogs and, yes, the flying cockroaches. There's something rewarding in this, in nature's refrain. Given the chance, what disappears will one day come home again - like the two blue jays I saw fighting in the yard the other day, like the frogs, and, yes, like me.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHERE OR WHEN")
PEGGY LEE: (Singing) And so it seems that we've met before and laughed before and loved before, but who knows where or when...
SIMON: Gwen Thompkins is a writer living in New Orleans.
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