Saturday, November 29, 2014

New York, November 2014

Instead of responding to the frequent Bag Lady refrain, Micah attempts to take the situation in hand and provides calming step-by-step directions from Newark's airport to Penn Station.  She skipped a step, a stop and train change, but amended directions and I got there safe and sound.  She and her friend, Elizabeth, met me at Penn Station and, from then on, I was in her good hands.

In no particular order, here are a few of the things we did...

... went to two law school classes - primary impression:  NYU law professors are intelligent, 
articulate and their vocabularies are um, what's the word..., um, better, uh, way better than mine

...went to Washington Square Park which used to remind me of a Simon and Garfunkel song.   Then, I learned that in the 17th century, the Dutch freed slaves (but not the slaves' children) on the condition that they live on the property surrounding their settlement.  Compassion wasn't their motive.  The freed slaves served as a human buffer between the settlers and those pesky Native Americans who wanted to reclaim the property, now known as Washington Square Park, that the Dutch had stolen from them.  Plus,  20,000 18th century yellow fever victims are buried under the park. All that death really brought the place to life for me.

This is one of my favorite Simon and Garfunkel songs, The Only Living Boy in NY.  I love my memories of singing Simon and Garfunkel songs with David while he plays guitar.

Micah, Haley, and I went to Michael's, the store, and bought craft supplies. 

I love these girls.  Haley visited us last Christmas break.  Her stay must not've been a disaster because she already has reservations to come again this year.   She's one of my all-time favorites among Micah's friends, partly because she exhibits the beautiful quality of looking beyond the obvious in people and situations to understand who they are and why they are as they are.  I love that in a person.  

We went to see Maury and Rachael who just moved to New Jersey, right across the river from NYC.  And, they just had my brother, Michael's first grandchild, Maury, Jr., whom I met for the first time.

David, do you see the resemblance between Kevin and your new 2nd cousin?

We ate out and ordered in.


We went to the Met...

... where I saw the original of this famous David painting of Antoine Lavoisier and his wife, Marie-Anne.  Lavoisier is known as the Father of Chemistry.  They married when she was 13 years old and he, 28, at the request of her father who wanted to spare her the other option of marrying a man three times her age.  After they married, she was his lab assistant and helpmate.  He was guillotined during the French Revolution.  She remarried, but insisted on keeping his name to honor him.  Jacques-Louis David, who painted this portrait, later voted for Lavoisier's death.  Marie-Anne's father was guillotined the same day as her husband, so I presume David voted for his death, too.

I'd never seen this before.:  The Public Viewing of David's "Coronation" at the Louvre 
by Louis Leopold Boilly

Eh, it was okay, but not a David.  This coming from someone whose artistic skill is limited to a square house with four square window, a rectangular door, a triangular roof and a chimney.  My usual doodling of choice. Analyze that.  Art references remind me of a line in the Denzel Washington movie, Man on Fire: "His art is death and he's about to paint his masterpiece."  Another great line from that moive, "Revenge is a meal best served cold."  Before you get the notion that I have a memory for movie plots or quotes, keep in mind that I saw Man on Fire this afternoon.  

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Sibling Rivalry and Subject Rambling

Parenting gone awry:  armed adult children in the living room
But, they're getting along well, so mission accomplished.

Before I launch off into what's really a mediocre anecdote about royal sibling rivalry, here are two sample pages from "Siblings Without Rivalry," a book that will bring back fond memories for my children.  Haha. There was another book with the unwieldy title "How to Talk so Children will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk," by the same team, Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish.  I almost credit (blame?) them for my parenting beliefs. Them (they?) and La Leche League.  Left to rely on my own instincts, I'd have been an impatient, sarcastic, yeller - a direct result of my disadvantaged childhood in a home with four brutish (well, two of the four, anyway) older brothers. 

Not only did I read the books and train myself to think and speak more sensitively, when David and Micah fought or got jealous of each other when they were very young, sometimes I'd sentence them to reading the book.

Encouraging them to express their feelings and opinions has come back to bite me many times, but they're exceedingly delighted that I did.  They took the philosophy and ran with it, sometimes leaving footprints imbedded in me.  (That reminds me of a commercial for a new detective tv show that I heard on the radio the other day.:  sample dialog, disembodied voice, deadpan, "The fatal wound was that of a stiletto heel."  Cue crazy female laughter.)

Download the FREE pdf of Siblings Without Rivalry, if you'd like.

Or, "How to Talk to Kids so Kids will Listen..."HERE.

So, anyway, the not wildly exciting, yet importanttomadeleine, Marie Antoinette sibling rivalry anecdote...

Marie Antoinette was one of sixteen children born to the Empress Maria Theresa and Francis I. Within the brood, there were the usual rivalries, alliances, jealousies.  Show me a passel of kids and I'll show you rivalry.

One of the eleven sisters, Maria Christina, was especially resented, because she was the Empress' favorite and she, alone, was allowed to marry for love.  Throughout their lives, she seemed to lord her favored status over her siblings.  Marie Antoinette, as Dauphine, then as Queen of France, was forever blaming Maria Christina for passing on gossip - true and untrue - about her to their mother. (The blame was deserved, but her advisor, Count Mercy Argenteau, was more often the culprit.) When Maria Christina visited Versailles, Marie Antoinette made herself scarce as much as possible, didn't invite her to the Petit Trianon and, oh, the pain of it, didn't present her with her personal symbol of affection, a scrapbook of her visit. 

Another of the sisters, Maria Carolina (the third Maria Carolina named thus after two who'd died) was only slightly older than Marie Antoinette and the two were especially close.  So close and so mischievous that they had to be separated as children.  When she was sixteen, Maria Carolina was married off to Ferdinand IV after his original fiancée, her older sister, Maria Josepha, died from smallpox (see Post Script, below) on what would've been her wedding day.

Catherine Hyde, servant to Princesse Lamballe and editor of her journal, (maybe... see Post Post Script, below) relates a task she was assigned -  the delivery of letters to Marie Antoinette's and Princesse de Lamballes' family and friends.  She describes the reactions of Marie Antoinette's sisters, Maria Christina, Duchesse of Parma and Maria Carolina, Queen of Naples, each recipients of letters.

Shortly before the October 10 invasion of the Tuileries, the Princesse de Lamballe, Princess Elizabeth and Marie Antoinette each entrusted a packet of letters to Miss Hyde to be secreted out of Paris for delivery to friends and family.  With the words, "Tell my sisters the state of Paris.  Inform them of our cruel situation.  Describe the riots and convulsions you have seen.  Above all, assure them how dear they are to me, and how much I love them.," Marie Antoinette handed over the letters and threw herself on the sofa in tears.  

Miss Hyde was given the Queen's cipher for use in decoding the letters and gifts of a gold watch, chain, and seals from Marie Antoinette and, from the Princesse de Lamballe, a pocketbook of gold enamel with the word "Souvineer" in diamonds on one side and the Princesse's initials on the other. Her explicit travel instructions included telling no one of her route, traveling via coach not her own, writing to no one of her plans, procuring a passport and avoiding Danton who would recognize her.  

While Miss Hyde traveled, the invasion of the Tuileries occurred, after which the Royal Family was moved to the Temple prison.  It was a tragic turning point about which Miss Hyde observed, "There wasn't a feeling heart in Europe unmoved at their afflicting situation."  She goes on to say, "It would be uncandid in me to be silent concerning the marked difference I found in the two royal sisters of Her Majesty."

Maria Christina, Duchesse of Parma, the imperious much older sister

Maria Christina, Duchesse of Parma

"I had never had the honor before to execute any commissions for her royal highness the Duchess of Parma, and, of course, took that city in my way to Naples....  I did not reach Parma till after the horrors which had taken place at the Tuileries on the 10th of August, 1792.  The whole of the Royal Family of France were then lodged in the Temple." 

"I arrived at Colorno, the country residence of the Duchesse of Parma, just as her royal highness was going out on horseback....  I ordered my servant to inform one of the pages, that I came by express from Paris, and requested the honour to know when it would be convenient for her royal highness to allow me a private audience, as I was going, post haste, to Rome and Naples. Of course, I did not choose to tell my business either to my own or her royal highness's servant, being in honour and duty bound to deliver the letter and the verbal message of her then truly unfortunate sister, in person and in privacy. The mention of Paris, I saw, somewhat startled and confused her. Meantime, she came near enough to my carriage for me to say to her in German, in order that none of  the servants, French or Italian, might understand, that I had a letter to deliver into her own hands, without saying from whom. She then desired I would alight, and she soon followed me; and after having very graciously ordered me some refreshments, asked me from whom I had been sent. I delivered her majesty's letter. Before she opened it, she exclaimed, " O Dio! .... Oh, God ! all is lost, it is too late !" I then gave her the cipher and the key. In a few minutes I enabled her to decipher the letter.  On getting through it, she again exclaimed, "E tutto inutile! it is entirely useless ! I am afraid they are all lost. I am sorry you are so situated as not to allow of your remaining here to rest from your fatigue. Whenever you come to Parma, I shall be glad to see you." 

"She then took out her pocket handkerchief, shed a few tears, and said, that as circumstances were now so totally changed, to answer the letter might only commit her, her sister, and myself; but that if affairs took the turn she wished, no doubt, her sister would write again. She then mounted her horse, and wished me a good journey; and 1 took leave, and set off for Rome. I must confess, that the conduct of the Duchess of Parma appeared to me rather cold, if not unfeeling. Perhaps she was afraid of showing too much emotion, and wished to encourage the idea, that princesses ought not to give way to sensibility, like common mortals. "

Maria Carolina, Queen of Naples

Maria Carolina, Queen of Naples

"But how different was the conduct of the Queen of Naples! She kissed the letter: she bathed it with her tears ! Scarcely could she allow herself time to decipher it. At every sentence she exclaimed,
"Oh, my dear, oh, my adored sister! What will become of her!  My brothers are now both no more! Surely she will soon be liberated!" Then, turning suddenly to me, she asked with eagerness, " Do you not think she will? Oh, Maria, Maria! why did she not fly to Vienna ? Why did she not come to me instead of writing ? Tell me, for God's sake, all you know!"

"Oh, God of Heaven!" cried the queen- "All that dear family may ere now have been murdered! Perhaps, they are already numbered among the dead! Oh, my poor, dear, beloved Maria! Oh, I shall go frantic! I must send for General Acton." Wringing her hands, she pulled the bell, and in a few minutes the general came. On his entering the apartment, she flew to him like one deprived of reason. " There!" exclaimed she. "There! Behold the fatal consequences! " howing him the letter." Louis the XVI is in the state of Charles the First of England, and my sister will certainly be murdered." "No, no, no!" exclaimed the general. "Something will be done. Calm yourself, madam," Then, turning to me. "When," said he, "did you leave Paris ?" "When all was lost!" interrupted the queen. "Nay," cried the general; "pray let me speak. All is not lost, you will find: have but a little patience."  "Patience!" said the queen. " For two years I have heard of nothing else. Nothing has been done for these unfortunate beings." She then threw herself into a chair. "Tell him!" cried she to me: "tell him! tell him!"

At this point, the Queen of Parma collapses and is put to bed and Catherine Hyde discusses the situation with the General until he tells that she doesn't look well and insists she not continue her journey until she's rested.  She, ill with fever and exhaustion, takes his advice.  She's confined to bed for days where she's cared for by Maria Carolina's servants.

Catherine Hyde recorded the account of the difference in the manner of Marie Antoinette's two sisters upon receipt of their respective last letters, in her notes when she published the journal of her mistress, the Princesse de Lamballe.  She closes the subject with these words.:

"I was certainly somewhat prepared for a difference of feeling between the two princesses, as the unfortunate Maria Antoinette, in the letters to the Queen of Naples, always wrote, "to my much beloved sister, the Queen of the two Sicilies, &c," and to the other, merely, " to the Duchess of Parma, &c." But I could never have dreamt of a difference so little flattering, under such circumstances, to the Duchess of Parma."

Maria Carolina, at about the time she receives the letter from Marie Antoinette
 Vigée Le Brun, 1791

P. S.
Rather dramatic story on Maria Josepha's death...  Just as she was preparing to journey to her wedding, her mother, the formidable Empress Maria Theresa, insisted that she go down into the family crypt and pray at the tomb of her sister-in-law, a recently deceased victim of smallpox.  The story is that Maria Josepha contracted the disease because the tomb was improperly sealed, but Europe was in the clutches of a smallpox epidemic and she'd recently been inoculated.  She died within days, on what what have been her wedding date. I read that she began to show signs earlier than the incubation period would've allowed had her exposure been a result of the trip to the vault, but, at the time, that was the belief.

P. S. S.
Miss Hyde, supposed journal editor, is a mysterious, shadowy figure.   I've never, knowingly, encountered her in anything except for said journal.  A journal, published more than thirty years after the fact, which may or may not be apocryphal.  It's good reading with its anecdotes (some of which correspond with accepted historical facts) and its insider's view (most of which is unsubstantiated). It's certainly not impossible that the identity of a woman whose job it was to deliver secret information and secret correspondence, run secret errands, surreptitiously gather secrets from the streets, take part in what amounted to a counter revolution, could be lost to history.  If she existed, her job description necessitated flying under the radar.  There must've been many low profile players in the drama whose identities aren't corroborated and have been lost to history.  So, did Miss Hyde exist?  Maybe.  Was the journal based on the Princesse's writings?  Maybe.

French Revolution. Scrapbook. Like.

This year, my favorite Paris trip souvenir came from the Conciergerie gift shop.  It's publication in 2009 had escaped my notice and I was instantly captivated at the sight of it.    It's 12" x 12", comes in a decorative box. and has the facsimiles of forty famous documents tucked among the paintings, text and illustrations.  I like it a lot.

In keeping with my usual lazy writing, here's the Amazon review.:

Superbly illustrated, The French Revolution brings to life events such as the storming of the Bastille, the march of the Parisienne women on Versailles, the Oath of the Tennis Court, endeavoring to find a middle-way compromise, the Royal Familys attempted flight to Varenne, their execution, the ferocious tricoteuses (made famous by Dickens in A Tale of Two Cities) and sans culottes baying for blood on the Concorde, the Terror, in all its gore; the famous contemporaries, Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, Mirabeau, Danton, Marat, St Just and Robespierre, and finally the advent of 26-year-old General Bonaparte.

I came across an online version of the 1901 publication, My Scrapbook of the French Revolution by Elizabeth Wormeley Latimer, available for free download, too...)

Nickle and Diming on Ebay

Terry has mellowed.  Maybe he's seen the light.   Or thrown up his hands.  He used to raise his eyebrows at my squandering of his paycheck.  Once, he wrote "Trash" across the cover of a People magazine I'd spontaneously thrown into my grocery basket.  No more does he object.  And, no more would I waste money on People magazine, because I'm too old to recognize, nor be interested in, the People in it.  I've moved on to bigger and better.

Last week, Terry walked in the house carrying seven small boxes that had come in the mail and only smiled indulgently as he placed them next to me.  Ebay has gotten the best of me. When I cringed at my wastefulness, he said, "I'm glad it makes you happy."

I made a shadowbox of family and ebay treasures.:  my infant dress,  Marat CDV card, Count Axel Fersen miniature, three French Revolution uniform buttons (one with the word "Republique" misspelled as "Republiuqe"), silver shoe hook, my mother's handkerchief that I carried at her funeral, my mother's mother's childhood charm bracelet, drawing of a 18th century French aristocratic couple that hung in my father's mother's bedroom, a magnet that Micah brought me from Paris that shows the location of L'église de la Madeleine on the metro map, my mother's antique broach

I made this second round pick of my parents' corner cupboard in order to store my collection. Woefully inadequate space. The list of possessions that I consider priceless reads like a hoarder's inventory. Assignats, gifts from my husband and children, arrowheads and pottery from land surrounding Terry's family's New Mexico cabin,  Dad's POW cigarettes, National Convention decrees, 250 year old medals commemorating events like the birth of Louis-Joseph, used tissues from my mother's bathrobe pocket, 2" thick Sotheby's JFK estate sale catalog, David's and Micah's childhood books, toys, Hannas and cloth diapers... Thousands of treasures in the eye of this beholder.  

A few things I happen to have pictures of... 

Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette medal

~ copy of Michael's Cardinal Maury family seal - he was a member of the National Convention and maybe of my family ~

family letters, pictures and inkwell

Cross-stitched gift from my maternal grandmother

French letter with French Revolutionary calendar date and seal

French Revolution uniform button

 ~ Limoges box commemorating the French Revolution ~

~ original press photo of my dad, in a bathrobe, examining products in the Navy Exchange during the POWs first layover in the Philippines after being released in 1973 ~

8x10 newspaper photo of my dad demonstrating Vietnamese rope trick torture

~ 1846 Sèvres Tuileries pattern china with Louis-Philippe cipher to add to the collection Terry started on our anniversary a few years ago.  He didn't realize he was starting a collection.  He thought he was buying six place settings for $400 at a local antique mall.  (A steal, btw.  There's one plate on ebay for $375 right now. )  There's a funny/sad story to go along with that china.  ~

seals for letters infrequently written


 1794 original Maine newspaper with long front page article describing Robespierre's 9 Thermidor overthrow and death

~ supposedly real aristocratic seal collection ~

~old Life magazine with Madame Du Barry on cover and article about Enlightenment that claims, among other things, that some Comtesse (I've forgotten which, but it was a name I recognized) kept a cadaver in her carriage, so she could dissect as she travelled from ball to ball, so carried away was she with the enlightened advances in science ~

~ Edition of Life magazine featuring Paul Galanti on the cover - in this Vietnamese propaganda shot, he shot the finger, but Life, considering it too risqué, airbrushed his fingers out ~

A sampling of material objects for which I'm grateful on this day that happens to be Thanksgiving.  I'd be cooking or celebrating except Micah is sick in bed and David is in Austin and we've postponed the holiday.  

I'm thankful for all the good in my life, material and non.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

My brother, Jerry, sent me this picture that he'd found in a box of my parents' stuff.  The expression reflects my interior self today.  My emotional development sputtered out in about 5th grade.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Good Mourning

Micah and I went to a cool exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art last weekend.  Cool as a crypt, in fact.  Death Becomes Her:  A Century of Mourning Attire explored the 18th and 19th century custom of mourning as expressed through clothing and jewelry.  I want to bring mourning clothes back.  (Unlike Justin Timberlake who just wants to bring Sexy back.)

This Elle magazine review describes the exhibit much better than I could, thanks to the talent of  journalist, Rebecca Moss.  I liked her article, so I googled her.  Reminds me of a way more put together Bridget Jones.

Pale mannequins draped in dark shades that seemed to float through the room, though they were motionless...

... as Gabriel Fauré's Requiem set the tone.  There seemed to be a swirling, foggy mist, though there wasn't.

Hair of the deceased worn as jewelry

Quotes on the subjects of death and mourning, projected onto the walls, faded in and out, ghostlike. Among them...

“Black is becoming; and young widows, fair, plump, and smiling, with their roguish eyes sparkling under their black veils are very seducing,” Robert De Valcourt, The Illustrated Manners Book: A Manual of Good Behavior and Polite Accomplishments.

Framed illustrations from the turn of the century (not the last one... the one in 1901) Life magazine series traced the path of a young widow as she transitioned from married woman to available woman. You can enjoy the illustrations at this website.  I don't know how accurate is the image of the grieving woman as alluring and the other women as suspicious and resentful. 19th century perspective, male perspective, both/neither, accurate/inaccurate?  In the last installment, she decides to join a convent where even the clergymen lurk in the background, eyeing her. I bought a first edition of the Life book that contains the series, on Ebay, for Micah, as a remembrance of our day at the museum. It's a big book - 18" x 12" or so.  

Marie Antoinette's final order from her favorite dressmaker, Rose Bertin, was for black mourning clothes when Louis XVI was executed.  The authorities denied her the right to wear them for her transport to her own execution though she felt somewhat comforted that the white she was told to wear was the original mourning color for Queens of France.  

Pictured:  praying at Conciergerie, awaiting trial, under guard, wearing mourning

Marie Antoinette's mother wore mourning for her husband (Francis I) 
from the time of his death until her own fifteen years later.