I met my husband sixty years ago on a transatlantic crossing. We were on the steamship SS Liberté, both of us off to Europe, but for very different reasons. Elliott had finally amassed enough money to take his first European trip, and I had received a scholarship for intensive study of piano and music theory in Paris for an academic year. There had been three requirements for this grant: an audition on my instrument, a submitted recording of a performance in recital (in those days you “cut a disc” in a studio which existed for that purpose), and reasonable proficiency in French. Upon arrival I had to arrange for my own lessons and courses at the conservatory. As it happens, I attribute my having won the award by virtue of my mother’s inexplicable gesture of having hired a French governess on my behalf when I was a small child—other children growing up in our modest Jewish neighborhood in Baltimore were enrolled in Hebrew School, so my learning French was considered by both family and neighbors to be a pretentious act.
Looking back, it is entirely possible that my mother’s gesture determined the course of the rest of my life. My audition did not go very well—I stumbled during the requisite Beethoven Sonata and didn’t get to play my “showpiece,” a Chopin Ballade. In fact, the only part of that audition in which I acquitted myself was regarding my speaking of French; I was fluent and “had no accent.” Quite sure that I had not won this sought-after year of music in Paris, I reported that to my parents and proceeded to make other plans. A few days later however, I found out that I had received the scholarship. To this day, I’m convinced that it was my fluency in French that won the day—it’s hard to believe that they were crazy about my piano performance
Our trip across the Atlantic took five days. As passengers were assigned seats in the dining room for meals, we quickly became acquainted with one another, inasmuch as there were only four people at each table. I told Elliott about my scholarship and he confided to me that this was his first trip to Europe. After working at an advertising art studio for two years he’d saved enough money to see parts of England, France and Italy. He asked me if I would consider coming with him to some galleries when he arrived in Paris because he knew no French and wanted to be able to ask questions, and I agreed. Elliott left the boat at Southampton and a day or so later the ship arrived in Le Havre, and I headed for Paris. About two weeks later Elliott called and said he was in Paris for a few days. When he asked me to accompany him on his exploration of some of the galleries on the Seine, I concurred, but asked (quite ungraciously) what was in it for me. When he said “dinner,” I was ecstatic and we agreed to meet the next day. Walking back to where I was living, we were on the Right Bank near the École Normale de Musique and we could hear the sounds of students practicing their instruments. I said, “Isn’t it wonderful to hear Mozart on this lovely evening?” He replied, with what I found to be a total lack of tact, “Yes, though, actually that’s Haydn.” I concealed my embarrassment and rage as best I could; he appeared (needless to say) totally oblivious, which was at that moment, convenient. For the first time, I knew that I wanted very much to see him again.
I heard nothing more from Elliott. He’d returned home shortly after our evening together that September. And from then on, until I returned to New York in June, I thought only about my courses, (including music analysis with the formidable and completely merciless Nadia Boulanger) and practicing furiously in preparation for my piano recital.
Back in New York, I wasted very little time before calling Elliott, who seemed glad to hear from me although in all those months he had not written a single word. We set a date to meet, went to a concert, and the rest is history. Almost 60 years later we have three children and six grandchildren. Elliott spent many years in the advertising business, for which he’d been trained at Parsons, but which he didn’t enjoy very much. Finally, he sold his business and became an artist, illustrating several children’s books. He’s a painter as well, and has had many shows over the years in several galleries in New York City—a few in the Village and Chelsea. I taught piano for 35 years in the Village. Now that we live in Hoboken, I have only three students, one of whose two talented daughters I had taught back in the day. The daughters are now a thoracic surgeon and a writer.