April 17, 1906
Maman rushed me through my toilette lest we be late; I was finally going to attend an opera instead of watching it from backstage. Tonight, we would hear Maestro Enrico Caruso perform in “Carmen.” At age fifteen, Maman and Beau-Père had finally deemed me old enough. I never understood their reluctance, given their fondness for music. It may have had to do with the themes, many of which were violent or dreadfully sad. Nevertheless, my time had arrived and I was going to make the most of it.
I was not only excited to attend the opera; Beau-Père had bought me a lovely evening gown from the City of Paris department store. It was a color called “San Francisco Green,” with a black lace and bead overlay. I had never seen such a beautiful dress before, even in Maman’s closet. I was wearing my skirts down from the time I turned fourteen, but day frocks were nothing to this.
Maman helped me arrange my thick, straight hair; my long, black braids were pinned up and looped so that my neck and ears showed. I lamented that my lobes were as yet unpierced, so that I was unable to wear any of Maman’s earbobs, but she had promised that I might have them done when I turned sixteen. Tonight, one of Maman’s necklaces completed the ensemble: a collar of emeralds that Papa had given her many years ago.
I looked and felt like a grown-up woman for the first time since my visit to Amedeo’s atelier. At least I was wearing my own dress now instead of Maman’s clothes. And the opera was amazing. Maestro Caruso reminded me of the times when Papa would sing to me when I was little. I could no longer bring Papa’s voice readily to mind, which was unfortunate. At least I could hear other men sing and remember him fondly.
At five in the morning, on April 18, our lives changed yet again as an earthquake tore through the City I was coming to love so dearly.