Editor's note: This is a Christmas visit to the Comeaux family, which EatPlayLive is following as it rebuilds from the flood.
This is no normal Christmas for Amy and Russell Comeaux or the thousands of area families whose homes were flooded in August.
In "normal" years, Amy Comeaux would decorate her home from "head to toe," with a 12-foot Christmas tree in the living room, garland and trim all over the house and a display of her extensive snowman collection.
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"It's so sad not to see my decor," Amy Comeaux said. "This is not like a normal Christmas. This is a humble, modest Christmas."
However, things are better since The Advocate visited the Comeauxs in their Clearlake Estates home in September, a few weeks after the flood. The water reached the fourth step of their staircase and the family made it out by boat, each with two garbage bags of possessions.
They are making progress on their home, but still have lots of work ahead.
In September, Russell Comeaux was living in a condo, while Amy Comeaux and their daughter, Madison, 15, camped out in the two upstairs bedrooms of the home so Madison could stay at St. Michael High School, where she is in the 10th grade. In early October, the Shelter at Home program roughly finished a downstairs bedroom and provided a toilet and tub for Russell, who cannot navigate the stairs after a near-fatal bout of West Nile virus in 2012. The program also installed a small refrigerator and set up two units that can provide air conditioning and some heat.
"This is a temporary fix," Russell Comeaux said. "They were just trying to get us back in the home."
The first contractor the Comeauxs hired worked for three weeks until he became "overwhelmed" and said he could not finish the project.
"The contractor is now me," said Russell Comeaux, who did find a subcontractor, who has redone and painted almost all of the walls and installed about half of the cabinets.
One of the biggest problems is getting what they need to rebuild.
"The hardest thing is that everybody needs the same things," Russell said. "Everybody needs a washer and dryer. Everybody needs an oven and a stovetop. Everyone needs the same materials, the same interior doors."
Amy Comeaux said the decisions can be overwhelming.
"So many decisions give me anxiety. The paint colors, the color of the granite, the cabinets, even the cabinet knobs," she said. "Russell and I built this home 12 or 13 years ago, but I find it more cumbersome to rebuild. Now I make one decision a day. That's all I can do."
The decision to paint the kitchen-keeping room area a bright yellow was a near disaster that required a redo.
"It looked like the sun threw up in here," Amy Comeaux said with a laugh.
The couple really misses cooking at home and relaxing in the keeping room off the kitchen, where everyone always gathered.
"Going out to dinner every night was fun for a while," Russell Comeaux said. "You just don't realize how much you miss your oven and home-cooked meals."
"And ice," Amy said. "I miss homemade gumbo, soup and chili."
Madison has been a trooper through it all. Her parents attribute her good attitude to her participation in St. Michael's cross-country team.
"It has kept her focused with meets every weekend and daily practice," her mom said. "When she has homework to do, she just sits on the floor and opens her computer and does it."
Even though the Comeauxs lost most of their furniture and all of their clothes, they feel lucky that not everything was destroyed. Their Christmas decorations were in the attic and were untouched by the flood — safe, sound and ready, like most of Baton Rouge, for 2017.