Back in the good old days, when I thought that The Little Drummer Boy was the greatest choral arrangement ever, and when the only wine Millie would deign to drink was Mateus, the world was a simpler place.
Even as Millie and I progressed from being friends to becoming husband and wife 32 years ago, the world seemed to revolve around us, there to make us happy. We even took joy in the Diane-Arbus-like moments of our picture-book wedding at Madewood. Are we the young, trim couple standing in front of that Greek-Revival mansion, with two adorable little flower girls cavorting in the foreground?
We both agreed that the wedding dresses that Millie tried on at D.H. Holmes just didn’t fit the bill. In the end, she had a yellow slip made to wear under an antique lace dress that had belonged to one of my mother’s great aunts and finished it off with a yellow sash. I think she spent $75 on the whole ensemble.
Through the years, we’ve played the game with friends, when everyone has to recollect the happiest day of his or her life. Wise men and women choose either their wedding day or the birth of their first child. Our favorite response came from a coworker who, after wrinkling her brow in intense deliberation, declared that it had to be the day she got her little red Miata convertible. At the time, her children hadn’t arrived; and the marriage fell apart several years later.
Clearly, THE BEST DAY OF MY LIFE WAS MY WEDDING DAY. But beyond that, certain things stand out. I met many of the city’s celebrated artists at my family’s Downtown Gallery; and I remember when George Valentine Dureau was a young, non-controversial artist, impeccably attired in a three-piece suit, who painted still lifes and beach scenes. Mother kept trying to fix him up with the winner of the Miss New Orleans contest at Pontchartrain Beach.
In those same years, we often visited Louisiana primitive painter Clementine Hunter in her cabin near Natchitoches. Mother would bring her blank canvases, and we’d return a month or so later to revel in the new crop of wonderfully-imaginative “markings” that had migrated from Clementine’s dreams to the canvases.
A landmark day, though it seemed so natural then, was Sunday, June 10, 1964, just days after Mother had signed the papers to purchase Madewood. We were giddy with delight over having a real plantation house all our own, but had no idea how it would shape our lives.
So on this last day of 2013, less than six months from celebrating half a century at Madewood, I want to “drink a cup of kindness yet,” for — as our friend and erstwhile Madewood resident manager, Inge O’Quin, once sang “Auld Enzyme.”
I do that just because, as Inge also used to say at this time of year in her best Viennese accent, “I’m happy as a log.”