Charlotte's family home sits right on the edge of Bayou Liberte. It was built in 1789 by Francois Cousin. Cousin made friends with the indigenous indians, scouting out the best areas for clay. Upon finding it, he made his fortune making bricks. A local ordinance assured that all homes were to be masonry, not wooden, for fire and safety reasons. Previous to his enterprise, the locals had to wait for brick from europe.
His fate was sealed. And this extraordinary place was born.
There's a pond formed by the removal of clay for the business behind the house were a blue heron fishes for eels. And sprawling live oaks reach across the grounds, swaying rhythmically with Spanish moss.
A thirty foot wall of water knocked the home off of its foundation during Katrina. Two hundred tornadoes stormed through the bayou. Sadly, one of them knocked out the largest of the oaks. It's taken five years to raise it on a berm and biers to get it to code. They've only moved from cook house and slave quarters in the past six months.
Charlotte's mother, Pomeroy, was an interior designer and sorely missed these days. She was a powerful force of life. A whirlwind of activity, smart, witty, and talented. The pressures of putting the house back together and the weight of the storm, took her a little while ago. She decorated the interior of the main house with French antiques purchased on trips abroad. One of those purchases, this bar in the great room, was under five and a half feet of water during the flood.
The waters slid under the doors slowly, quietly and filled the room. It receded as it came. And in its wake, disturbed little. Charlotte said when they were able to return, all of the glassware remained on the shelf, untouched except for the mud that filled them. Every piece of furniture had to be taken apart to the last nail and rebuilt and recovered.
The stained glass windows are cracked and ever so slightly bowed now. But the glorious copper French soaking tub was unscathed.
Hud and I stayed in the attic loft. A narrow spiral staircase from the 1800s winds its way up to the bedroom. Full length windows open from the north and the south, offering a lovely breeze. It was unseasonably warm for Mardi Gras. The breeze was a welcome gift.
It stormed on the night we arrived. I got up to shut the southern window, banging in the wind. That's when I felt a presence. I felt he wanted to touch me, but couldn't. When I went back to sleep, he fed me dreams about the house. Always a child, I was bitten by a green snake. My mouth turned black. I tried to tell everyone I was dying, but they ignored my cries. I climbed the spiral stairs over and over. In between dreams, I saw myself turning around and startled, dropping a piece of stemware to the floor. The shards of glass glittered on the hem of my skirt. In another, I was caring for two children much younger than myself.
I sloughed it off to an over active imagination until, in the morning, Hud told me he had similar dreams about the house. Hud never remembers his dreams.
I was almost in tears as we drove up to the house for the first time since Katrina, not knowing what to expect. This is a place of history and magic. I didn't want it to change, but change it did. And most for the better.
At least the ghosts stayed the same.
*In the two hundred and fifty years that the Cousin house has rested in the arms of the bayou, it has never flooded. That is, until Hurricane Katrina.*
*All photographs by Hud Andrews*