About 100 years ago, Paula’s off-the-boat Sicilian grandparents settled in this small house near the end of Metairie Road in Jefferson Parish.
The Demmas raised an active family of seven children in this house. My late father-in-law Philip was born here in 1926.
Metairie means “little farm” or something like that in corrupted French. The community, New Orleans’ first Jefferson Parish suburb, was a cluster of small houses at the end of a shell road which ran along the high ground of Metairie Ridge.
The old timers said that the only place to live was on the high ground of the ridge, or right up by the river levees. The other ground was reclaimed swamp; the soil was “coffee grounds”, highly organic peat that would decay and compact.
As far as I know, this old house has never flooded. In the ’27 flood, though, Philip’s older sister Lucy carried him out through four feet of water, holding the infant Philip over her head.
Lucy is now near 100 years old, and is on hospice care.
Philip died in 1988. His wife Rena passed away two years ago.
But tomorrow Colleen, the only granddaughter Philip ever knew, will be getting married in New Orleans. Philip would have been so proud. Rena too.
Colleen’s sister Ellie was a “bun in the oven” when Philip passed. She will be her older sister’s maid of honor. Philip’s skills on the diamond skipped a generation, and Ellie got them all.
We hope to see Philip and Lucy’s brother Emile, a/k/a Bootsie, at the wedding.
When the sun breaks through the clouds tomorrow, we’ll think of Philip and Rena and how proud they would both be.