I was asked by a reader of the blog if they could submit a guest blog entry about their time growing up…in Louisiana!
As an adult, I always wonder what it was like for other adults growing up as kids but in other neighborhoods, other cities or even other States.
Kimberly was kind enough to submit her essay.
Memories of Belleview Subdivision
I recently came across Steve’s blog about growing up in Brooklyn and was instantly inspired to write about my own experiences growing up in my small-town neighborhood in Louisiana. As I confirmed while reading Steve’s post and comments, growing up in Louisiana is drastically different from growing up in Brooklyn. Still, there are a few things in common, like the strong sense of community you get when everyone looks out for one another.
First off, I want to thank Steve for giving me the chance to write about my childhood neighborhood experiences since this blog is dedicated to his Brooklyn neighborhood, Windsor Terrace. Steve’s post got me thinking about how significantly the times have changed and made me recollect all the good times I had growing up. Nowadays, with the busy lifestyle of work, kids, and two crazy dogs, I barely have the time to just sit and think about my childhood. I’m excited to share my story with you.
Before I start with my experiences, let me tell you a little bit about myself and my hometown. My name is Kimberly. I’m fifty-three years old. I grew up with three brothers, Teddy, Eddie, and Freddie. To this day, my mom still claims that she didn’t mean to rhyme my brothers’ names. I grew up in a small town in Louisiana, called Plaquemine in a neighborhood called Belleview Subdivision. There were about 5,500 people living in the entire Parish – Iberville Parish (In Louisiana, a county is called a Parish).
There were probably about 4,000 in the town of Plaquemine. Today Iberville Parish has just over 7,000 residents. Plaquemine is located about thirty minutes outside of Baton Rouge on the Mississippi river and has one of the few operating Ferries which is used to transport cars/people across the River (if you are a tourist, it’s a cheap way to experience the Mississippi River, actually ride on it and cross it for $1.50 or so per car). I called Plaquemine my home for eighteen years, (1958 to 1976) until I went off to college.
Every day was an adventure growing up with three brothers. I was a tom-boy, understandably, and I attribute that to the fact that I was the youngest child surrounded by three insane brothers. With very little parental supervision, my days were filled with endless possibilities. During the summers, every day was jam-packed with fun. I would wake up, and go fishing in my backyard, which coincidentally was the bayou. There was never a day that went by that I didn’t see multiple snakes hanging out of the trees and swimming in the green water. On a good day, my brothers and I would take our boat out and water ski. It still amazes me that nobody ever got attacked by an alligator or some other eerie creature that we couldn’t see in the murky water.
I spent a lot of time with my brothers, but there were always other neighborhood kids and cousins that joined in on our fun. Nearly every day after school, we would get together and play a game of baseball, basketball, or football. I read in one of Steve’s posts, there were many female athletes in his neighborhood that could “hang with the boys” and I happened to be one of those athletes.
I really appreciate his “comment “she’s good for a girl” never pertained to these athletes.”
One of the most enjoyable games I remember playing with my cousins was “dirt wars!” We would play in my Uncle’s yard, which happened to be covered in dirt all year-long and just simply through dirt on one another. As silly as it sounds, that game was a lot of fun. Unfortunately, my mom was never happy to see that we had been playing “dirt wars” when we came home.
Some of my favorite memories are from Christmas time. It is a big tradition in Louisiana to build bonfires on the levee and then light them on fire during Christmas. I have vivid memories of all of us kids waiting excitedly on the levee as our father’s built the bonfires. On Christmas Eve, we would all go to the levee, light the bon fires, and then light our home-made firecrackers all night. It’s a wonder how nobody ever blew a hand off while lighting their home-made cherry bomb.
Back in the good old days, it was acceptable to do just about anything we could think of. I can recall multiple times, walking down the street with my brother, Teddy while he carried his shotgun to shoot jaybirds. No one ever said a word about it. It was just not a big deal to walk down the street with a gun over your shoulder.
Our parents never knew where we were, but we were never too far. We kept time by looking at the sun. When it started to go down, we knew it was time to go home and at about that time, we would hear our moms calling out the door, “Come in, it’s supper time!”
When you think of Louisiana, you probably think of Cajun food. It was a weekly event to eat either Jambalaya or gumborecipes at my Uncle’s house.
By the way, if you ever happen to visit New Orleans, I don’t recommend trying any of the Cajun restaurants on Bourbon Street. The real, authentic and delicious food comes from the little, non-tourist restaurants. Also, about once a month, the neighborhood would have a crawfish boil. All of the moms would stand around and gossip about the husbands while the husbands would stand around and talk about the LSU basketball game and how incredibly Pistol Pete Maravich played.
It is amazing to me that nobody I knew got seriously injured doing the kinds of activities we did on a daily basis. The scariest day of my life was when my brother, Freddie convinced me to swim across the Mississippi River and back with him. Just as we started, a huge barge was crossing. In case you don’t know, a barge can suck a small boat under the water and spit it out on the other side of the river. So, imagine what it would do to a small child. Needless to say, we both made it out okay, but it was a close call. We just about gave our mother a heart attack when she heard what had happened from the neighbors.
Looking back on my childhood makes me smile. Plaquemine, Louisiana may be just a small town to pass through to some, but when I called it home, it was the greatest place to grow up. I know that according to Steve, his neighborhood was the greatest place to grow up but I think we can both agree that what makes a place wonderful is not so much the place as it is the people and the memories we make while living there.
I have since moved on from my small town days. When I turned eighteen, I took a leap of faith and moved to New York where I went to college at NYU. You can imagine the shock of a small town girl when she stepped into the big city. It took me a few short months to get acquainted with the city but once I did, I fell in love with it too. The first time I rode the Subway, I ended up getting off at the wrong stop, getting completely lost in the city but somehow happened to discover my future all-time favorite place to eat! It is a little hole-in-the wall place that only sells French fires, called Pommes Frites. If you’re ever in Manhattan, try the mango chutney sauce with your fries, it is delectable! The only down-side is that there are no tables, so you may have to use the mailbox outside to eat on. After getting my undergraduate degree in Information Technology, I was offered a job opportunity in Dallas, Texas that I could not turn down. However, I was not finished learning and decided to go back to school to get my Master’s Degree. Since I was working forty hours a week, I decided to try online classes. I ended up going to Utica College and getting my online Cyber Security Degree.
Today, I call Dallas home but I will forever appreciate the time I spent in New York and the many great childhood years I spent growing up in Louisiana. I hope y’all (sorry, the Texan slang has gotten to me) enjoyed reading about my experiences growing up.
Thank you Kim, that was beautiful!