“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players” — attribution disputed, apparently
Third grade was kind of strange; my class, though decently-behaved, went through 7 or 8 teachers over the course of the school year. Batting second in this lineup was Miss Williamson, a wispy, rather artsy type. She’d make us all stand around pretending we were wheat waving in the wind. (She was also out sick a lot, thereby paving the way for teacher #3). So when she decided we should put on a class play for the school, what subject did Miss Williamson choose for us hapless third graders?
The life of Mozart.
We (i.e. our moms) had to come up with period costumes, learn to dance a minuet, and all that 18th-Century-European-court stuff. As the only boy in the class who could play any of the pieces on the piano, I was given the role of Wolfgang Amadeus his brilliant self. A girl I was good friends with, who’d also had piano lessons, played Mozart’s sister.
Meanwhile, another girl happened to be in that class who I became friends with some years later. In fact, she became my first wife.
In the years we lived together, I can only recall one instance of us ever discussing that we had both been in that peculiar play so long before. We were both in our early twenties at the time. I said I obviously could remember that I’d played the title character, but who had she been? Marie Antoinette, she informed me.
I hadn’t even remembered Marie Antoinette being a character in the thing. Then again, who we’d each been in the play seemed to be about the only elements either of us were able to recall. Oh well. End of discussion.
Anyway, we got married, separated, then divorced. I moved into my parents’ house until I could find a new place of my own.
One day, my mother came home from the supermarket with Volume 1 of one of these 20-volume sets of classical music they used to periodically sell in supermarkets. The first volume always sold for just 99 cents, to hook ya, & contained 2 or 3 LPs. My mom thought maybe it would be something soothing for my dad to listen to after a hard day (though I have no knowledge of them ever actually listening to it at all). That night, while depressedly moping around their kitchen, I was checking out the booklet that came with Vol. 1, which of course contained track listings plus little explanations of the pieces & very short biographies of the composers represented.
And there was Mozart. The bio, although only a few paragraphs long, contained a very famous “cute” story that has traditionally been in every Life Of Mozart (and may not even be totally apocryphal).
It seems when Mozart was around 7, being shown around by his father as a boy genius, they went to the Austrian court of Empress Maria Theresa, who was suitably charmed, of course, and who had a child of her own, a daughter, just about Wolfgang’s age. The famous anecdote entails the two kids playing tag in the palace and Mozart slipping & falling on the slick marble floor. Little Marie Antoinette (ah, the daughter!) helps him up, and young Wolfgang says to her, “You’re nice. When I grow up, I’m going to marry you.”
I wouldn’t exactly say my blood ran cold, but you could certainly call me surprised. As I read that old story, it all came back: an eight-year-old boy’s embarrassment at having to say “I’m going to marry you” to a girl from the class, in front of the whole class during rehearsals, and then, even worse, in front of the entire school — even parents. That boy was me, and when I grew up, I did indeed marry her.
At least now I knew why.
Free will, my ass.