Windows on a Different Time

November 7, 2001

Background Music: Albert Ammon's Blues

I've been gone now some six days, days of flying, driving, leafing through old manuscripts and letters, scanning microfilm and tramping across fields where cannon roared and bullets flew.

I ate and drank well, and I listened to jazz and savored the blues.

I transcribed about ten thousand hand written words from a manuscript that is related to my diary project and looked through the eyes of another at a time none of us has ever known.

A walk in her world to the salt pond usually "ended by a call at the neighboring plantation or sugar estate where the usual courtesy was to offer silver spoons and invite the guests to eat of the hot “Sling” and sugar first crystallizing in the seething caldrons; great wooden coolers as they were called into which the boiling liquid was poured to crystallize. Surely there is no confection on earth that can compare with it! "

I walked into a church and asked if they had the records from 1862 and found their names written in the book. I had the microfilm copy of the marriage license, and the newspaper announcement of their wedding.

Somehow though, I felt detached as I wandered through the church, I just couldn't seem to connect to the past that is her istory. With nothing left to find in the records, I went up to the dark sanctuary and stood and marveled at the windows.

As I looked behind me I could see the late afternoon sun bathing the church balcony in blue. I roamed the church camera in hand and then headed off to my hotel with a handful of images.

The next morning found me back in the archives, as technology and hundred year old paper met on the top of my desk. Friday's transcribing was paused early in the afternoon for a trip out to the airport where I met T, my oldest daughter.

"Bean" I called.

She couldn't see me but the smile told the story.

The tall brunette stood there, statuesque and poised, ready for a weekend with dad.

A hungry child was introduced to a Muffuletta that we shared on the banks of the Mississippi and then we wandered round Jackson Square for her first introduction to life in the Big Easy.

Later we feasted in River town and returned to the Quarter where I introduced her to the street called Bourbon. We walked and talked and she marveled that people would flash for the equivalent of 50 cents worth of beads.

The next morning found us headed north into Mississippi through rolling hills and occasional splashes of color as we drove through the edges of the canvas of fall.

The sun was setting over the Mississippi river valley and she squatted next to me as I fired off shot after shot. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted the sunlight on her hair. "You taught me to do this," I said as I added what is known as "fill in" flash. She just smiled.

We returned to New Orleans on Sunday, ate more great food and on Monday she toured the Law School while I typed furiously in the archives.

I finally finished typing with about 4 hours before her flight was going to leave.

I asked, "How about another Muffuletta on the Mississippi?"

Again she smiled.

I had gone down to New Orleans in search of historic treasure. The real treasure however, was found in the time we got to spend together.

Advertisers sometimes get it right. There are things in life that really are priceless.