When I was a little girl in 1981 & 1982, my family moved from Illinois onto the island. My dad worked offshore and it was just me and my mom most of the time while he was working. Because I wasn't old enough to be in school at the time, most days were spent exploring the island, usually barefoot. I remember the feel of the old seashell streets on my feet and running through the tall grasses to play tag in the old cemetery. I remember dodging the spiderwebs in the palm trees. I remember when the beach didn't have the big hill and you could see the camps just steps from it. I remember fishing off of the old fishing bridge that used to be the old highway, and going with my grandma to the library that used to be just around the curve from the marina when getting onto the island.
But, in 1982 my parents moved to Houma and eventually Cut Off before relocating back to Illinois in 1987. Years went by and I got married and had kids of my own. I often spoke of the island to my husband and shared my barefoot tales with my children. In October of 2013, after about 30 years since I first lived there, my husband and I decided to take our kids there. My husband hadn't ever been to Louisiana, let alone the island, and I was excited for him to see what I had been talking about all those years, and interested to see if my memory of the island was as romantic in reality.
Although the small towns lined along the bayou had changed some, and the road to get there different, once getting on the island, I couldn't believe how much I remembered about the island. A lot of the houses I remember were gone, due to storms and age. The fishing bridge was different. The seashell streets were just asphalt. The library moved. The beach was different. Yet, the essence of the island remained unchanged. The people were warm and gracious. The pace laid back and easy. The food still awesome. We all loved it so much, we made it back two additional times, just recently this past Christmas and New Year's Eve. Best of all, I was able to make contact with an estranged family member who I was unsure was still alive, and he was. This really made the island no longer a vacation spot, but really made it home again.
Almost everyone I know has never heard of Grand Isle. Those who know we've been there a few times ask why we would keep going back there instead of going to Florida or somewhere more "exciting" or "exotic". I simply say, "It's home". It's where I was for a short time as a child, but somewhere I've never forgotten. More importantly, I feel blessed to have taken my children there, to have given them the memories I had when I was young. To them it is new, but for me, I'm home again.