A Happy Holiday for The Christmases
By Mike Marzelli, RTNO House Captain
For three years after Hurricane Katrina displaced him from his Gentilly home, Adolph Christmas worked at a hotel in Lafayette. During his shifts, he often found himself on the east side of the building’s third floor, where the windows looked out onto Interstate 10. He was looking at the road to New Orleans; he longed to go home.
Adolph Christmas Sr., or ‘Dolphy’ as his wife Mary affectionately calls him, can tell you exactly how long he was displaced in Lafayette following the storm, right down to the week. It wasn’t because he and his family were struggling, as he had successfully managed to find an apartment and a job to help support his wife and three children. It was because he couldn’t bear the thought of being away from his home any longer.
“I was just so devastated being gone from New Orleans for three years, six months and two weeks,” he said. “I hardly talked to anyone. I said ‘good morning’ and greeted everyone in a respectful manner, but as far as going out and socializing with the neighborhood, I couldn’t do that because all I could think about was getting back home.”
Adolph and Mary Christmas have been married for 33 years. They moved into their home on Debore Drive in the Ponchartrain Park neighborhood 21 years ago and built a stable, rewarding life for themselves. Adolph worked as an air conditioning repair man and Mary in the billing office at Tulane University. They raised three children and were proud of the life that they had created.
“I pat myself and my wife on the back when I think about what we’ve accomplished,” Adolph said.
When Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, Mary and the children fled the city while Adolph stayed behind.
“I told Mary ‘I’m a man, I’m staying and protecting my house,’” he said. “That’s all I could think about was protecting our house.”
When the levees broke and the city flooded, Adolph fled his home and was forced to spend four days and three nights on Interstate 610 before buses arrived and transported him to the Houston Astrodome. It was a week before he was able to make contact with Mary and his family and let them know he was safe.
When the Christmases were finally able to return home a month later to check on their house, they couldn’t believe their eyes. Twelve feet of water had rendered their single-story home and everything inside it a total loss.
“You should have seen me at the time, I was like a little kid crying,” Adolph said. “I didn’t think that we’d ever be able to get back in here. Everything was turned upside down. We worked hard for all that. I just couldn’t do anything but look at it all and start crying. It was like a nightmare.”
Through all of their anguish, the Christmases worked to get back on their feet. Through a neighbor they hired someone to gut their house. After receiving money from the Road Home program, they hired contractors one job at a time until they were finally able to move back in. Finally, with the help of Rebuilding Together they were able to scrape, repaint and fix up the exterior of their house.
Now, with the holidays upon us, the Christmases are more thankful than ever to be back in their home where they have shared so many memories with their family.
“It’s such a blessing around the holidays and I give thanks every day that we’re able to be back home,” Mary says. “It feels like home for us again and we realize how special it is to be home together after all we’ve been through.”
“We couldn’t be more thankful or more grateful.”