Perles Chanceux Tale
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Near the mouth of the Mississippi, there lived a lady who spent her days along the broken pavement, selling beads.
She said they were lucky. She shielded herself in layers, sometimes wrapped in a parachute and hardhat, sometimes in a pretty dress. She engaged in little conversation nor did she tell of how she had ended up in the southern heat. Curses and dirt were her weapons against anyone who tried to get close. They worked equally well against petty meanness.
Some say she had always lived here. “Buy a Lucky Bead?!” she shouted to anyone she shuffled past. Her offers of beads, and the curses that frequently accompanied them, were spoken in an unfamiliar accent. It was a clue to show she was before she came to be here. In this old city of stories, the mystery of her inspired the tellers.
Everyone who spent time in the old quarters, knew someone who claimed they knew someone who knew her before. She was said to be a Russian princess who had fled the Revolution. The beads she sold were the last of her legacy, carrying with them the sorrow of her exile.
There were some that knew her when she was a young Swedish bride. She moved to this exotic city so her husband could lecture at the university. Soon after settling into their apartment on the grand boulevard, her husband became ill and died. Without ties to the city, she fled to its streets in an effort to escape her sadness. By the time the pain dulled, the narrow alleys and buckled sidewalks had become home..
She was said to be the ghost of a concubine of a French soldier. Deserted and destitute after his return to Europe, the woman stepped off her balcony and ended her days on the bricks below. In death, she haunts the streets offering her bitterness with the “luck” of the bead.
The truth was that her family had named her Leah. A beloved daughter and sister, she was a beautiful girl who became an Israeli warrior. Because of this service, her country honored her with a scholarship to a university on the west coast of America.
She arrived there during a rebellious time of ideas and experimentation. Her ordered life had not prepared her for such an explosion of choice. The experience damaged her. A brilliant mind was lost and the soul that remained was wounded. After a journey now known to no one, the streets of the dank old city offered a harbor. She was givewn a name and soon became a legend. The Bead Lady of New Orleans.
It took over forty years for her family to find her. She had not been Leah for so long, there were few traces left to follow. When her brother finally located her, illness had removed her from the streets and placed her in a
Hospital. She was too old and frail to return home to Israel. The streets of the city wouldn’t let her go. So when she died she was buried in the city which had grown to love her. She would always be the Bead Lady but now she could be Leah too.
IN MEMORY OF LEAH SHPOCK-LUZOVSKY, THE BEAD LADY OF NEW ORLEANS.
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