When my dad died just after Christmas in 1990, I was working in Wisconsin, had just bought a house, and still owned one in Massachusetts, which I had been trying to sell since my relocation two years earlier. I flew down to New Orleans for his funeral in January and was fired shortly after my return. I managed to unload the house in Wisconsin, but had no savings (I was underpaid, not profligate) and no prospect of reemployment. I figured my best bet was to move back to my hometown, but I lived on an island in the middle of a river and would have to wait at least three months for the ice to break up (I accelerated the process as best I could) before I could ferry my furniture across the river and evacuate.
After the thaw, my wife and I sold one of our cars, rented a U-Haul truck, loaded the furniture and the kids and a large tranquilized dog, and set off in two vehicles for New Orleans. We then spent four of the most miserable months of our lives in the house I grew up in (my mother, always eccentric, had become addicted to ballroom dance lessons and gone completely mad) before escaping to a wonderful cypress cottage on the banks of Bayou Teche in New Iberia that rented for just $300 a month.
We moved ourselves again, in the heat of Louisiana summer, only to find that the water was not yet turned on. Our new neighbor, Adrienne Dubois, brought over an ice chest filled with “soft drinks” and showed us how to turn on the water ourselves in the lid-covered hole in the front yard. (“Don’t wait for the water man, cher. I’ll show you how to do it.”)
But the heat had already taken a toll on us, and Evann and I were laid up for two or three days. Eventually, we got back to normal and had time to visit with the neighbor who’d brought us the lifesaving refreshments.
One day, as we were sitting together under a beautiful giant oak tree at the picnic table at the far end of our narrow three-acre yard, not far from the bayou, it suddenly occurred to us that the only thing missing was a nice bottle of wine to share with our new friend. And then, the strangest thing happened.
We looked up, and there was a UPS (or FedEx) man with a package coming toward us in the yard, making the long trek from the street. We had no idea what the package was or who it was from, but we thanked the courier, and proceeded to open it. Inside we found two bottles of wine!
They were house-warming gifts from two friends, and former colleagues, who’d been terminated simultaneously with me.
Amazing! It was one of the nicest things that ever happened to us — and we’ll always cherish our thoughtful friends the Nekoleks, for their impeccable taste and perfect timing.