Friday, November 20, 2015

What Lovely Fervor

A good daughter cooks and bakes for her mother and answers her father's questions before going out to play.

"What band sang 'Highway to Hell'?" he asks from the family room. AC/DC, I tell him

"Who was the 'Originator'?" When I say Bo Diddly, he fills in the crossword blanks with a satisfied smile. "Ah, yes!"

At this point, Mom gets involved. "If you need any more assistance, you'd better ask her now before she goes because I can't be of any help to you on this stuff."

I assume that she means she doesn't know anything about music history. "I blocked out that whole rock and roll period!" she says with disdain, although the truth is she's been to multiple Neil Diamond concerts and some of her favorite songs are by Stevie Wonder.

It's all rock at this point, Mom.

Today's road trip to the Northern Neck had been motivated by Mom's bridge luncheon tomorrow, so I'd spent my time helping make chicken noodle soup, chicken salad and a Viennese torte, all of which took a solid three hours and endless conversation.

Answering Dad's questions takes seconds, and that includes him asking me about my love life.

As parents go, mine are pretty cool.

After driving back through a series of rain squalls, I consider my evening's options and decide that Quill Theater's historic play reading series wins out because it's "Luminous One: An Evening with Ethel Barrymore" and I know nothing about the woman besides that she's a distant relation to Drew.

It doesn't hurt that it's being presented at the Branch House and while I've already seen the new exhibit, I certainly don't mind seeing it again. To my amazement, I overhear a woman say she's lived in Richmond for 17 years and never been in the building.

"What is this place?" she inquires of her clueless friend. Tragic.

I, on the other hand, am enchanted to find the heavy leaded windows are open on this unusually balmy, wet November evening, allowing the moist air inside. This fact alone makes the evening special.

The one-woman show, ably written and directed by Melissa Rayford and starring the reliably impressive Melissa Johnston-Price is set in Richmond and kicks off with its premise.

"I've been asked to write a memoir. Horrors!" Ethel exclaims, standing next to a typewriter. From there, she reminisces about some of what's happened in her life, never writing a word.

She talks about her grandmother who "experimented with marriage" (haven't we all?), her memories of going to the Jefferson for the wedding of Charles Dana Gibson and Irene Langhorne, saying, "By the time she married, she'd had 60 proposals," and dancing on the Jefferson's rooftop garden the night before.

And, like my Dad, Ethel's father kept his word count to strictly what was necessary. When she cabled that she was getting married ("I was constantly trying to let myself get married and it never worked"), he responded with, "Congratulations. Love, Father."

When she broke the engagement and cabled her father the change in events, he responded, "Congratulations. Love, Father."

Turns out Ethel's life involved Winston Churchill, Henry James, the Duke of Manchester, Teddy Roosevelt and Spencer Tracy while wearing black, white and gray clothing because they were cheapest.

Apparently the Barrymores are known for two things: mismanaging money and drinking excessively.

In a particularly telling moment, Ethel complained about the current generation expecting art to be an instantaneous pleasure. As if. Or, as Ethel put it, "If you don't like it, you need to figure out why!"

When the reading ended, we broke for a dessert buffet and mingling. In the course of commiserating about the evils of Verizon, I manged to devour four little sweeties, as my Scottish friend would say, followed by chatting with a handsome stranger.

My mother and her sweet tooth would be proud.

A panel discussion followed, where we gleaned obscure tidbits such as the fact that if Drew Barrymore's children become actors, they'll represent 300 years of Barrymores in the profession. And how Ethel's hair was imitated just like Jennifer Aniston's was a century later. That the Barrymores gave each other red apples on opening night.

Yet another fine Ethel-ism: "You grow up the day you have your first yourself."

The logical place to end my evening was celebrating the third Thursday of November, also known as the day Beaujolais Nouveau is released and as good an excuse as any to visit Amour, enjoy some young wines and sample Beaujolais Nouveau sorbet (while patting myself on the back for missing last night's guests).

Not only is this years' Georges du Boeuf Beaujolais Noveau far better than the usual bubblegum-flavored sipper, but one of last year's Noveaus has aged amazingly well and how often does that happen?

My favorite French teacher and part-time model tries to convince me to consider modeling in local fashion shows and I wonder how I would like being looked at for wearing clothes not my own. The entire bar discusses the difference in "cruise people" and "boat people."

In the strictest sense, I qualify for neither. On the other hand, I've been proposed to eight times, I've experimented with marriage and I've laughed at myself for as long as I can remember.

And you know what I'd hear from the Northern Neck about that?

Congratulations. Love, Dad.

1 comment:

  1. Perfect.

    Proposed to twice - did the proposing once - and that was a lovely accident.

    le sigh.