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Silver Threads: There comes a time to yield to the forces of Nature

A friend told me that when her CBD office finally reopened after Katrina, the boss made a rule that only one hurricane story could be recounted there per day. Her favorite was this one:

The morning after the storm, an elderly woman decided to salvage the shrimp in her thawing freezer by making a pot of gumbo. Her husband was raking up debris in the yard of their lakefront area home. Suddenly he rushed in with the news that water was coming down the street. Don’t get wet, she advised him, and kept on stirring.

He went back out to check again, and reported that the little stream of water was beginning to turn into a raging river. She decided they should leave, grabbed the pot of gumbo, and they set out for the two-story convent across the street. A nun came out to help — by this time the current was climbing to their waists — and, ditching the gumbo, the couple clambered into a window of the building.

A few days and many tribulations later, they were loaded into a bus bound for Houston, the wrong way since their only child lived in Atlanta. So when a pit stop was made at a gas station-convenience store just outside Beaumont, Texas, the couple hid amidst the aisles until the bus departed. The manager offered them food and lodging for the night, and a phone call to their son, who drove to their rescue the next day.

I got to thinking about this episode Saturday, when my husband rushed in to tell me that Algiers was going to flood because the levee at The Point had begun to leak. CNN was on the story like gumbo on rice, it being a slow news day with all the lawyers and politicians probably out playing golf. He told me to start packing while he got both our cars filled up with gas.

Now as you read this Algiers may have flooded, but I have not packed and my car’s gas tank has not been topped off because I refuse to evacuate again in two vehicles. What, after all, is automobile insurance for?

Before my spouse went into his emergency mode, I had been pondering a column about reducing household clutter and even went so far as to examine the contents of the little drawer on my nightstand. I won’t go near the non-utensil drawers in the kitchen because I know they hold un-mailed warranty cards and usage instructions for every appliance we’ve ever owned. Plus important and mysterious screws, picture-hanging nails, dead batteries and string and used-up plastic tape holders.

In the nightstand drawer I found about eight fancy bookmarks, one a red felt Santa Claus, another a metal number from a Radisson hotel in east Berlin, which I visited not long after the wall came down; four of the “sunglasses” the eye doctor gives you after you’ve been dilated; two 10-year-old never-opened decks of playing cards from Stonehenge; six Elvis Presley memorial stamps (29 cents); six Daffy Duck stamps (33 cents); a black lacquer pin with flowers painted on it, bought in Russia in 1987 and never given to anybody; a folded newspaper page with a photo of Mr. and Mrs. Anding at a party; an eye mask I got on an airplane; a photo of the bougainvilla that didn’t survive the freezes of two winters ago; about two-dozen little packages of buttons that come attached to new clothing; and assorted screws and picture-hanging nails. Much of the drawer was filled up with pharmacy printouts detailing the horrendous possible side effects of every prescription medicine I’ve taken during the past several years.

Frankly, it surprised me that almost everything in the drawer was so valuable and worth hanging onto. But I know that isn’t true on my husband’s side of the bed; I dare not go there. He, after all, is largely responsible for the kitchen drawers.

Now to the point — and I know you‘ve wondered about that. Isn’t it awesomely ironic that just as you decide to de-clutter your house you learn that Nature may well do it for you? Maybe I’m just being dramatic.

Bettye Anding is a former editor of the Living section of The Times Picayune, for which she wrote “Silver Threads” until her retirement. Email comments to her at


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