After disaster, family celebrates Christmas in Carson City
Appeal Staff Writer
This is a season of “firsts” for the Robinson family.
This year the family is spending its first Christmas away from New Orleans. Their first in Nevada.
Linette and Keith Robinson’s two oldest children played in the snow for the first time. Keith Jr., 7, and Keaira, 4, made snow balls and threw them at each other.
This is baby Aaron’s first Christmas. He turns 1 on Jan. 3.
An artificial Christmas tree stands in the living room of their Carson City home, where the family has lived rent-free since October. The tree is artificial because Aaron is in the grabby baby stage and they don’t want him pulling down a fist full of pine needles.
Linette Robinson bought the tree for $25 at Wal-Mart. The family decorated it with glass balls, felt ribbons and red tinsel. She wrapped all the presents, which were stacked in rows under the tree.
Despite the many changes, they said, their Christmas has been marked by abundant kindness from strangers.
Keith Jr., a second-grader at Seeliger Elementary School, was given $100 to buy presents at Wal-Mart, and Keaira has already peeked at the gift he bought for her. A small tear in the upper left-hand corner of the square package revealed the cover of a book.
The school also gave Keith Jr. a new bike.
“We told him it was for someone else,” Linette Robinson said, days before Christmas. “It’s hidden.”
Old Navy donated clothing for the children. First United Methodist Church, where Linette attends, also donated Christmas presents.
This is the family’s first Christmas away from the extended relatives. The majority of their family relocated to Baton Rouge, La., after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita cut through the Gulf Coast. The Robinsons’ former home in New Orleans was flooded and is inhabitable.
Linette Robinson, 27, will make gumbo for the first time today. Her mother, Carolyn Brown, usually makes it.
“She’s going to take me step by step on how to cook everything,” Linette said.
Keith Robinson, 32, said they plan to relocate to Baton Rouge, La., in February, where he can work in casino security. Keith has worked as a surveillance agent at the Horizon Casino Resort in Lake Tahoe for about four months. The Robinsons evacuated New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina hit in late August. A small group of hurricane evacuees came to work at the Horizon after the hurricanes flattened the river boat gambling industry in the Gulf Coast. Of that group who transferred to Tahoe, Robinson said only he and another man are still in the area.
Friends in Service Helping provided the family with the three-bedroom home in the Stewart Indian Colony. Katrina’s Hope, a local nonprofit group that sprung up to help hurricane evacuees living in the area, donated furnishings and clothing to them. The Robinsons also received a Dodge Intrepid, which Robinson said they will return to FISH before they return to Louisiana. Two of Linette’s sisters have moved back into New Orleans, but the Robinsons won’t be going back.
“I think we’re going to live outside New Orleans so we don’t have to go through the flooding again and so we don’t have to turn around and evacuate again,” Keith Robinson said.
The promised federal funding of reconstructed levees around New Orleans doesn’t buoy his confidence.
“I’m done with that,” he said with a smile.
Keith and Linette Robinson would like to buy a home near where the river boat casino ends up docking – that probably won’t be the Gulf Coast.
Despite all the changes, Christmas won’t be all that different.
This morning, Linette Robinson will wake the children at 4 a.m.
“She’s more excited about Christmas than the kids,” her husband said.
They’ll watch the children play with new toys and then eat dinner. The menu is turkey, macaroni, stuffing and several side dishes, including gumbo. Linette’s mother will be walking her through the recipes from 2,100 miles away. Keith said, while laughing, that his wife needs some help with the cooking.
• Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at email@example.com or 881-1212.