What Was Found

Common Ground Collective volunteer housing, St. Mary of the Holy Angels School, Bywater, May 2006. All photographs by Maura Fitzgerald.

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What Was Found

by Maura Fitzgerald
Southern Cultures, Vol. 14, No. 2: Katrina

"You'll wait in this city where they bury their dead and their Mardi Gras floats above ground. And there you'll rest next to a bust of a Saints quarterback, the last Viking king, a painted foam Tin Man and his oversized heart. And for an epitaph, a sign on a far wall to state the obvious: . . .the stuff that dreams are made of."

Leaving aside what was lost, for the moment, here is what was found:

In the top drawer of the dresser in Ms. Maddie’s bedroom: a cardboard box filled with baby teeth tucked into tissue-lined compartments. In two inches of caked oil covering her carpeted living room floor: a dozen tiny elephants, beaded, ceramic, Chinese porcelain, dusty terra cotta or shimmering eggplant and marigold. In her Chalmette house: space and light.

The place looks so much bigger than it ever did. She is standing by the kitchen sink washing the dishes, watching the kids play in the street outside, hearing the blare of the television in the den, the clatter of videotapes tossed aside. Her grandson comes to the threshold and there is his grandmother, alone in the hollow plywood skeleton. He runs back to the street crying.