by Andrea Wackerle

New Orleans: Christmas, 2018


We are informed, by people who claim experts in such matters, that nurturing gratitude is a healthy habit that leads to a well-balanced life. If that is the case, then we have a bit of healthy work ahead of us.  There are many people to whom we ought to show some gratitude, of whom this is just a sample.


  • Our warmest regards to Shea and all the staff, especially Ms. Kiana Thornton at the Holiday Inn Express Slidell, who rapidly warmed to our children as we practiced “Leave no Trace” during the chaotically continental breakfasts, and who festooned our children with treats… just because.     
  • Thank you to the two wonderful ladies at Jean Lafitte Baratarian museum,  who shared so much of their family history and the present and future of the people the town of Jean LaFitte and the noble history of smuggling, piracy, shrimping, ghosts stories and general tomfoolery, skullduggery and courage.
  • We are grateful to the Audubon Insectarium and Aquarium, who shared their knowledge, expertise, butterflies and manta rays with us.
  • We were relieved when Dr. Rachel Kobe at Pontchartrain Animal Hospital realized that Jeffrey had fallen madly and desperately in love with a yellow, swamp-soaked snake-killing bird-hunting nomad, and who moved heaven and earth to ensure that upon our departure, she’d be ready to become a mountain dog in her new forever home.  Welcome home, Sadie Beignet Grabe!
  • We were festooned with history, culture, and cuisine when Chef Ricardo at the New Orleans School of Cooking taught us about Gumbo and crawfish Etouffe.  I was personally grateful that, after my heart breaking decades of making roux with the consistency of cottage cheese and the flavor of resignation, he finally taught me how to make that miracle happen.
  • We were fortunate to have learned Creole culture from Cajun culture, a distinction previously only vague to most of us but essential to understand revolution, jazz, soul, blues, rock n roll, civil rights, and myriad other things that make our nation what it is today.
  • An extraordinary effort was made by the Infinity Science Center staff in general, and Melissa and Bill in particular who guided our heart dissection…I’m fairly certain I had as much or more fun than the students did. Their questions were great, even if the occasional comment was a bit more culinary than scientific.
  • The Team of Lea, Jessica and Mark at the Mardi Gras World experience. We were flabbergasted by the skill, the resources, the depth of the tradition and the breadth of its impact on the economy.  The complexity, scope and artistry of one of America’s oldest cultural traditions will not soon be lost on us or our students. The masks were beautiful, too.


I’ll be the first to admit that there may be a few I have left behind, but the town showed such generosity of spirit and joie de vivre that I should emphasize that the failure is all mine, as to mention them all would make for more of a document than we have time to read. Seeing something through the eyes of a student is always a privilege, and for those of us who teach them, it is one privilege deeply to be cherished. As doses of gratitude go, this seems to be as healthy as they get.  I hope that the people know how we felt before we left. If not…I guess we’ll need to return. Any takers?


Thank you, all, and bonne noel, et joyeux fetes!