Editor's note: EatPlayLive makes a promised return Christmas visit to Amy and Russell Comeaux, whose home was one of thousands flooded in August 2016.
Christmas finally feels right for Amy and Russell Comeaux in this second holiday season after the flood of 2016.
Last Christmas was a sad one for the couple and their daughter, Madison, who made it out of their Clearlake Estates home by boat, each with two garbage bags of possessions.
"This is not a normal Christmas," Amy Comeaux said at the time. "This is a humble, modest Christmas."
Editor's note: This is a Christmas visit to the Comeaux family, which EatPlayLive is following as it rebuilds from the flood.
Things are much better this year in their home. It has been completed refurbished from top to bottom.
"Our Christmas decorations were in the attic, so everything was saved," Amy Comeaux said. "It took three days to bring everything down, but this year it wasn't a chore. We were so happy to have Christmas in our home."
Last Christmas, Amy and Madison Comeaux lived upstairs in Madison's bedroom, while Russell Comeaux, who cannot navigate the stairs after a near-fatal bout with West Nile virus, stayed downstairs in a room roughly finished through the Shelter in Place program. The house was still a mess with no heat and a gutted kitchen.
To show a little spirit in 2016, Amy Comeaux put a small display of potted Christmas trees and poinsettias in the front window where the big tree is now displayed, but she was unable to host the family Christmas party, her favorite event of the season.
This year, it's Christmas again, and everything is ready for the family party on Dec. 9.
"It's like a normal house now," Russell Comeaux said. "We have gotten past the hard things."
There are lights, decorations and snowmen everywhere. Every room is decorated, with the 10-foot Christmas tree, decorated in red and gold, taking center stage in front of the large window in the living/dining room.
The arched door openings are draped with garland, and so is the mantel, festooned with stockings for Santa to fill.
"Getting that garland even on the sides of the door openings tested my religion," Amy Comeaux said with a laugh. "I would nail it up and the sides wouldn't be even, so I had to take out the nails."
All of the family's furniture was destroyed in the flood. Now a new dining room table, covered in red and gold tulle, and upholstered chairs fill the alcove in front of the large bay window, and a new side table at the entrance holds Amy Comeaux's collection of snowmen and a snowman Nativity scene. A religious Nativity scene is a new addition.
The new modern kitchen has been outfitted with pots, pans, dishes and gadgets.
"We lost all of our kitchen stuff," Amy Comeaux said. "It's difficult replacing every single item, because you don't know until you need something."
Editor's note: This is our third visit to the Comeaux family, who are renovating their home following the August 2016 flood.
The patio and outdoor kitchen have been redone, and the Comeauxs are back in their master bedroom with a new master bathroom.
Madison, now a junior, is so happy she and her mother were able to camp out upstairs so she could return to St. Michael High School soon after the flood. Last month, her cross-country team at St. Michael won the state championship.
Like so many others, Russell and Amy Comeaux never imagined that the home they built in Clearlake Estates in 2001 would be one of thousands devastated by this summer's flood.
"She was one of seven chosen to run on the team, and she came in fourth for the team," said her proud mother, who incorporated a photo of Madison's team into her snowman display in the kitchen seating area.
Amy Comeaux recalled a visit she recently had with a friend, whose house also flooded.
"Last year at this time, we were talking about grout colors, paint colors, countertops and backsplash," she said. "This year we talked about Christmas trees and decorations. It was nice."