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Packing your NOLA baggage

baggage

As part of NolaVie's Yeah you write! campaign, we are inviting readers to submit New Orleans-related content for a chance to have their work featured on our site. Whether it's a personal essay about moving from New Orleans, a photo of French Quarter Fest, or a video of a second line, we want to know: what's your New Orleans story?

Today's featured submission comes from Nola transplant Margaret Abrams, who recently wrote about being a New Orleanian even after you've left the city.

Packing, no matter where you are, is overwhelming. You think you’re almost done, only to spot the furniture you forgot, memories you should have thrown out long ago, and Craigslist respondents who never actually planned on buying.

Moving from New Orleans is a different experience entirely. If you’re lucky, it won’t rain. If you’re unlucky, you’ll need rain by the end, so soaked in sweat from the summer Southern heat that you’re sure you haven’t lost this much liquid since a particularly humid Jazz Fest weekend. You’ll desperately need a drink, only to realize the last of the Jack Daniels has been stowed away for safekeeping.

My Lower Garden District apartment, only blocks from where American Horror Story was filmed, is comprised of a collection of rooms with cracked walls and vivid memories that could easily double as a set for a scene. It’s two stories; the stairs are narrow, steep, and, generally speaking, the stuff nightmares are made of. They’re the kind of stairs that can’t handle heels (or after one too many cocktails) -- needless to say, they’re hardly equipped for maneuvering boxes and heavy furnishings.

Boxing up my life in New Orleans leaves me with more questions than answers. How well do Muses shoes travel, and better yet, how will I explain to the people in my next life the purpose of toting gently used pumps across America? I’ll be sure to leave a trail of glitter everywhere I go. Do I pick a favorite shoe? That seems unfair, given the sheer amount of alcohol and persistence it took to catch them-- at this point, my Muses shoes are like my babies.

One glance at my collection of Zulu coconuts and I immediately remember the desperation I felt Mardi Gras day. Cold. Hungover. And desperately in need of a coconut to add to my collection of Carnival memorabilia…even willing to trade a beer. I know they’ll rot and fade away, eventually, but I can’t bear to leave behind the best, happiest reminders of Mardi Gras day.

What becomes of the obscene volume of beads I’ve collected over the years? Like all good New Orleanians each Mardi Gras, I donate some and toss the remainders into the trees, freeing my neck from a heavy prison that clings and clangs. But the most beautiful ones remain, hanging from my balcony. I know I can’t take drag an entourage of boxes when I leave. If I took them all, my U-haul would have to double as a float, with me throwing them onto the street.

I have a life-size piece of luggage devoted entirely to costumes. Sequin dresses for Mardi Gras -- most far too short for any other occasion, a seersucker for summer strolls, red dresses for running. Of course I can wear these garments again (at least, I hope I can), but for the most part, each item is loaded with memories. White linen, miraculously unsoiled from the red wine that sloshed in strangers cups as they pleasantly bumped shoulders on Julia Street. Red dresses drenched in sweat from the sticky Southern summer heat. T-shorts from Fleurty Girl, embossed with puns you only understand if you too are a real New Orleanian -- an emblem of our regional belonging.

Yes, packing everywhere is hard, but in New Orleans, it’s an almost impossible feat. Do you take Tony’s, in case you can’t find it where you’re going? Can your Bulldog glasses survive the long drive and sudden stops? If it’s this hard to travel with my memories, how can I ever leave?

This city is part of everything I do, wear, and think -- from my Mississippi River necklace, to the city’s coordinates wrapped around my wrist. I may not have a fleur de lis tattoo, but my body is covered in New Orleans. While packing, I realize this city will never leave me -- but that doesn’t make it any easier to leave.