John Howell Sr. Editorial 2/25/2014

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Grandson finds N’awlins climate, parades to his liking

Rosemary and I have been hosting a week-long, five-alarm Eli visit to New Orleans during the last week, a trip that has grown into an annual tradition to give him and his mother a break from their bleak Milwaukee winter and crushing cabin fever.

He ran into culture shock as well as climate shock. It was the first weekend of serious Mardi Gras parading and temperatures reached the humid lower eighties during one day of the visit. Both shocks appeared to agree with him.

Eli is almost three. Unless he is sleeping, he’s operating at all-ahead-full. As we walked from the plane at the New Orleans airport to the car, I was surprised at how thin his mother has become. After the first couple of days, his grandmother and I knew well the reason and realized that though thin, she’s not frail. Dealing with Eli is high maintenance and hands-on. We were soon encouraging Mary to use heavy whipping cream in her coffee and planning heavily-caloried meals around her.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

For all the New Orleans attractions, the Kaboom Playground at Wisner Park across the street gave us the most mileage. We walked over at least twice most days and just let him enjoy climbing and running in the warm weather. Our time there during the past week adds up to many pleasant hours. He fell into play with all manner of kids and sometimes adults.

With every visit there spontaneously developed some version of games of chase. Once it was freeze tag facilitated by a couple of grandparents whose animated participation soon lured into it almost all of the dozen or so kids there. Once it was just Eli and me. I found my own animation, briefly viewing shooting stars after bending over to chase him through a small opening and raising my head on the other side just in time to crash into a climbing rail. My wife would later point to the playground rules sign that suggested age 12 as the maximum recommended for participants.

We spent a beautiful day at the Audubon Zoo. Then with the weekend came parades. Sunday brought rain, sometimes heavy showers that kept many spectators away. Not us. Rosemary and Mary dressed him in a bright yellow raincoat and matching turnout boots. Any reluctance that his common sense may have fed about venturing out into the pouring rain was overcome when they presented him with a small purple and gold umbrella for use by hisownself.
A three-year-old with long, slightly curly blond hair sticking out of a bright yellow rain hood among the few spectators along a rain-soaked parade route attracts lots of throws. As the loot showered down, the boy caught on to the very brief but high value of plastic. He’s now hooked for life.

A Facebook friend who viewed the short video clip I posted of Eli catching a throw asked if we would rent him out for loot bait. The answer is probably not. We’d probably get paid in plastic whose value deflates dramatically after it has been once thrown and caught.

Today I will carry them back to the airport for their return trip. If the trip has been successful, his familiar toys and surroundings will look good to him when he gets back. He’ll be so glad to see his daddy.

And when I watch to catch a last glimpse as they disappear into the security maze at the airport, I will feel a now familiar trembling of my lower lip.