My heart is heavy this time of year. It’s the time I think on levee breaches and bloated bodies, a beloved city failed by her sons and daughters and my mother’s crepe myrtle tree.
Things can be destroyed, so I don’t really attach myself to them. So when I lost my mother, I didn’t look for her rings, or a piece of her handmade wedding dress. I looked for her tree. The one she begged her mother for, for so long. As my grams’ health failed, her tree began to wither, so she finally acquiesced and gave Mama a branch. Supposedly, that’s all you need for a crepe myrtle to flower. So Mama cleared a spot in the middle of the garden, placed the tiny little branch in the middle, and waited.
It still hadn’t flowered in the fall of 1988 when my grams passed away. There were no flowers in 1989 or 1990 either. It reminded me of the Charlie Brown Christmas tree: skinny, bare, but endearing in its hopefulness. My mother was unmoved. ”The branch has to take root. A little sun, a little water. We’ll have a tree when it’s time. Be patient and it will flower.”
In 1991 we saw a bud. Then two. Then suddenly, there was a tiny tree with an explosion of bold, pink blossoms. It was nothing to me at 15. It was everything to my mother. She shrieked. A little branch, a little sun, a little water, a lot of patience and unspoken hope changed her world. The tree grew stronger and my mother didn’t. One of her few pleasures in her last years of life was the beautiful garden she built around her mother’s tree. Nothing was allowed in that garden that didn’t complement it. By the time my own mother died in 1994, it stood taller than my head.
Once my mother was gone, I got it. Through our mothers’ gardens, we were given the opportunity to cultivate legacy. It was like bringing a part of her back. I’d drive past my house and daydream. I envisioned purchasing my own home. I’d ceremoniously break a branch, explaining the significance of this third generation tradition. Then as time passed, I’d patiently wait for flowers.
In the past nine years, I’ve replaced things twice over. But as for my mother’s tree, Katrina left nothing but a round patch of dirt, reminding me that there was once life there, blossoming with pink promise. That’s what the levee took from me: the only tangible manifestation of my mother’s legacy I’ve ever wanted. Sometimes the sadness of it turns me inside out. I know what it means to miss New Orleans. This is the story for so many scattered sons and daughters, who will forever feel the beat of the second line in their hearts. It’s not always easy, but I’ve made it this far. What’s a little farther?
Plus, now I have my own yard. It’s small, but there’s just enough room to plant my own legacy. Experience tells me I don’t need much. A little sun, a little water and a branch. Then all I need to do is wait and cultivate a legacy.
Question: What do you think of being labeled punk or proto-punk?
Death: We appreciate the rock historians labeling us this. When we made this music from 1973 on, we always called it hard-driving rock ‘n’ roll. The term “punk” for music was non-existent in those years, as a matter of fact, if you called someone a punk in those years — us included — those would be considered fighting words which usually got you either a black eye or a bloody nose.
Your favorite punk band probably sounds like these guys.
'…what’s left is the pressure to sand down the corners of your speech while looking for the rough edges in the speech of your adversaries. Everyone is offended. Everyone is offensive. Nothing is close to the line because close to the line is over the line because over the line is better for clicks and retweets and fundraising and ad revenue.'