Ariadne often wore a plush, pink terrycloth bathrobe with a wide collar that framed her face like a fur. She looked pretty and cuddly in her pink bathrobe. It was a special item we had bought it for her. We didn’t have money ordinarily for clothes, but we managed some special things for Ariadne, things that made her look like a well-to-do, stylish little girl. Natvar didn’t want his daughter to appear anything less. It was one of the things he had against Neysa, that she dressed his daughters like plain little American girls from the suburbs.
We bought Ariadne a small electric Casio keyboard for Christmas our first winter in Athens. The keyboard cost about $100 – like $1,000 to us. But Natvar wanted her to have the keyboard more than anything.
We didn’t have a tree, but somehow we had Christmas morning. Mark had written a little rhyming song for her, and he played it for her on the new keyboard, while she leaned against him, smiling. Mark was in his seersucker robe, his wide feet bare. It was one of the moments when Mark and Ariadne were loving each other, Mark the endearing, creative uncle.
We were indoors for Christmas morning. By then, December, we were no longer eating out on the tiled roof garden. We had furniture now, not like the first few weeks back in June when we’d arrived and were eating on a sheet spread on the floor.
A year later on Christmas day we took a color photograph, all of us seated in a row on one of the two white couches we had had a tailor make. Not a regular tailor, but one of them men – and they were everywhere in Athens – who made what Athenians called “tents,” custom-sized pieces of thick, stiff canvas that people used to shade sections of their terraces.
It was one of the very first things Natvar had bought for the apartment, a large rectangle of royal blue canvas that we stretched over the back of the tiled garden, back where we did not take guests, back where we hung laundry, just outside the sliding glass doors of Ariadne and Traci’s room.
Natvar had gotten the idea to ask the tent man to use thick, white, rough-textured fabric to make several large cushions. Placed on two wooden bases that we picked up somewhere for free they made cheap but expensive-seeming couches.
We sat on the couch, each dressed in our best clothes. It is a picture each of us wll send home to our family – that’s the point of it. Above us on the wall is a large batik in reds, blues and beiges that Mark had thought to bring from New York. I had never noticed the cloth in New York, but he had brought it and Natvar and he had stretched it tight across a frame and hung it above the couch in the living room, facing the front door. Mark and Natvar had gone out and found a small brass museum light and placed it above the batik. Both of them could create these things flawlessly – nothing crooked.
Everything here is homemade, or feels that way, but it gives the impression of wealth, especially here in Athens where most of the homes I have seen are drab and tasteless. There is a lot of ugliness here, as if beauty were too expensive. I have seen how impressed the Greek clients and friends are when they step into our living room. They have never seen anything like this.
The idea of the photograph is to show our families that yes, we are doing fine, but also that we are very sophisticated, doing mysterious, high-level things. I sit on the couch in the battered gray high heels that Mark and I stole out of Arianna’s apartment for the court appearances. I wonder why I never look like someone who wears high heels all the time. I have on the earrings I stole from Bloomingdales. It’s as if I have all the ingredients: jewlery, the shoes of a socialite – but I feel like an ugly person, trying to convince others that I am glamorous.
In this context Traci is prettier than me. She is much better at wearing the clothes, and her clothes were actually bought for her, fancy designer clothes that we bought for her during one of the Bloomingdale’s shopping sprees. I have one or two designer dresses too, and I do feel much more confident in them, but they are summer wear, not the right thing for Christmas morning.