When I was 11 years old, I didn't know much about New Orleans. I knew it was an old and interesting place on the Mississippi River, where the dead are mostly buried above ground. I knew simple facts about this wonderfully complicated place. I learned that New Orleans is an undulating, pulsating, shock treatment that wakes you up and slows you down.
A key club convention in the late 70's brought me to New Orleans. My big brother was president at his high school and my mom was the advisor. I was lucky to tag along. A little girl from Opelika, Alabama, swept up in southern accents that didn't sound the same as they did at home. Beautiful scenery wrapped around me, and random sounds of horns and drums seemed to come out of nowhere. Smells of old wood, boiled seafood and pralines swirled together in the air. The chocolate Mississippi River was frothy as the Natchez churned through it.
It looked like the Cafe' au lait at Cafe' Du Monde. I saw people in New Orleans dance for no reason and call me beeeeeby. I liked that. Something about this place stole my little girl heart and refused to let it go. The spirits cast a spell on me, bringing tears to my eyes when we packed the car and headed out. New Orleans was like a charming friend I thought I'd never see again. I was wrong.
After college, a busy career in broadcasting brought me back here. A young man I met on a news story in Alabama in 1989, years before my job in the city, just happened to be a New Orleans area native. He had the same swagger that the city did. I married him a few years later. He stole my heart just like New Orleans did.
It's been a long time since my visit to La Nouvelle Orleans when I was 11, but the spell never wore off. The city marked me. Her horns and drums summoned me back. For over twenty years I've called the area home. I'm living out my love affair with New Orleans, and sharing her magic with my three children who were all born here.
I'm a part of the tapestry now that makes such a lovely quilt. There is a story around ever amazing corner, under every bridge, and in every tall building. There is life in every old brick. Before you know it, you are changed, with the beat of a second line parade, or the hypnotic scent of Magnolia and sweet olive that is like a Sazerac Cocktail in the air.
Is she perfect? No. But her flaws can be covered by the smiles she brings. Through fires, floods, and hurricanes the spirit never dies. It makes her stronger. She's made me better.
Thanks New Orleans for sprinkling magic for 300 years, and bringing us all on an amazing journey that we'll never forget.
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