After Hurricane Katrina, Robin Baudier moved back to New Orleans to be with her family. She believes the experiences of living in a FEMA trailer and helping rebuild her parents’ home were a blessing.
I believe in strange blessings. I have never been in such good shape. I have never spent so much time outside. I caught the last three sunsets in a row and unless I am mistaken, I will catch the one tonight. I have never felt so close to my family. I have never felt so sure that I was doing everything right.
I live in a FEMA trailer with my parents. I moved home from L.A. February before last, quitting the job it had taken me almost a year of miserable internships to get, to make sure first-hand that my family was okay. Now I work on my Dad’s house on the weekends and at his dental laboratory during the week. Shutting the curtain on the bunk bed area doesn’t always cut it for privacy, so I spend a lot of time outside exercising the dog and just trying to get away from people. I take her out on the levee and run to get rid of all my frustration with not being able to have a job that will allow me to afford rent. I run to get out, when I have been stuck inside, reading to escape from life, not even able to sit up straight in my tiny bunk. I run to feel like I am doing something when I am overwhelmed by all the things I can’t do anything about.
The reason I caught the sunset yesterday is that we have been waiting for two weeks for FEMA to come fix a leak in our plumbing. I was so frustrated with running out in a towel to turn the water off, then mopping up the floor with the rotating assortment of towels that we have hung outside the trailer that I decided to put on my bathing suit and shampoo under the hose. But God, that was a beautiful sunset last night.
I know it might sound strange that I am indirectly describing Hurricane Katrina as a blessing, since it took my family’s home and recovering from it has taken over our lives. But I love my awful life so much right now, that I find it hilarious when I am unable to convince anyone else of it.
I make less than the people working at Popeye’s. I repeatedly have to suffer the indignity of telling people that I live with my parents. But I have finally gotten rid of back pain that the doctors always told me was from stress. I occasionally have weekends when I realize that I am building a house with my Dad, which I used to dream about when I was six and watching Bob Vila with him. And I am back where I belong, no longer kidding myself that there is anywhere else I want to be.
I believe in strange blessings, because taking away my house brought me home.
Robin Baudier lived in her family’s FEMA trailer for 10 months in 2006. Before Katrina, she worked on script development for an independent film producer in Los Angeles. Baudier now has her own apartment but continues to help rebuild her parents’ house.
Independently produced for NPR by Jay Allison and Dan Gediman with John Gregory and Viki Merrick.
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