Monday, November 1, 2010

Look what I found on e-bay!

It never ceases to amaze me what one finds on e-bay! I check periodically for Melton memorabilia, though I think I’ve gotten most of the “good stuff” by now. However, a few weeks ago, much to my surprise, look what I found (and bought, of course). A photo of my parents from 1928, taken at a costume ball given by the Seiberlings of Akron, Ohio—at which my parents announced their engagement. (It was at the Seiberling’s that my parents had met the year before.) Nearly 300 guests were invited to this bal masque, and every conceivable kind of costume was in evidence, Colonial dames, princesses, gypsies and sheiks. Mr. and Mrs. Seiberling welcomed their guests dressed in 16th century Venetian attire. The announcement of my parent’s engagement at this event gave, as one newspaper put it, “the final bit of interest to a party that for color and social importance has not been equaled this year.”

Here is how my mother remembered that evening in her unpublished memoir:

Mrs. Seiberling had asked Jimmie to sing the tenor aria from Gounod's Romeo and Juliet, “Ah, léve-toi soleil.” She sent him off to rehearse, and led me up a small staircase to a balcony over the music room, and arranged “Juliet”, in her blue lamé gown, pearl cap and long scarf, facing south. “Cheek in hand, dear, and as Jim sings, toss your veil gracefully over the balcony so he can kiss it when he's through singing.”

I crouched like a caged mouse, glued to the little stool on the balcony. The lights came on, the orchestra played, and Jimmie walked out on the stage, lifted his face, and began to sing, facing north, to my back. I tried to turn, but was wedged in by the smilax and holly decorating the tiny balcony. Craning my neck in the right direction and I gazed feebly down at him, tossing my scarf ardently toward his outstretched hand. It caught on the greenery. I tugged. Smilax fell, scarf didn’t.

Jimmie was in a bad mood when we met later. “I couldn't sing a note with my neck stretched out like a turkey gobbler on the block. And you making smoke signals with that scarf didn’t help my concentration any!” I was crushed, but Mrs. Seiberling’s glow reassured me somewhat, until friends, polite but honest, told me I looked like a frightened rabbit peeking through the bushes.

The orchestra started playing and I smiled hopefully at Jimmie. He said he couldn't —or wouldn't?— dance in his costume, and stood their clutching his cape around his doublet and hose all evening. My father, a jaunty Capulet, was delighted to show off his knees, and whirled me around the dance floor happily. I will never forget how doggedly Jimmie clasped that cape around himself for the rest of the night. This was my first lesson in an artist’s temperament: super-sensitiveness and with a need for perfection.

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