MOSCOW, March 15, 1914 – No. 11 Vakhatangov Street was the home of my dear friend Elena Scriabin. The yellow and white mansion cried tears of wisped rain, making it difficult to see past its clouded panes, yet I knew without a doubt that little Elena would be watching for me. With his hand grasping my shivering hands, I could feel father’s arm lifting me through the slushy dirt as we walked briskly down that familiar street.
Elena had begged her father to let me come to tonight’s eventful evening. Her father Alexander Scriabin was, “the most eccentric man alive”; well, that’s what the grown-ups said anyway. I didn’t know what the word “eccentric” meant, but by the way they used it, “eccentric” didn’t exactly sound very pleasant; regardless, I was very eager to see Elena, and I was sure “eccentric” was the last thing to describe Elena. When the Scriabin’s moved into their two-story mansion two years ago, Elena and I met during a neighborhood event and had been inseparable ever since.
As we neared the mansion’s yellow glow, I heard my dear friend squeal as she trotted out to meet me. “Now,” said my father holding me back with a firm grasp, “remember what mother said about behaving. I’ll be back to walk you home at ten.”
“Yes, Papa. I’ll remember! I’ll remember,” I readily assured him as I tightly hugged my cherished friend. It was only six o’clock, and I was certain we were in for an eventful night. As I said good-bye, father stooped down for a quick kiss and then continued briskly walking the short two blocks back home. Father never stayed too long when accompanied me to Elena’s home. He wasn’t a big fan of Elena’s father, Alexander Scriabin, and I never quite understood why. Perhaps it was the sore on Mr. Scriabin’s upper lip. In fact, Mr. Scriabin’s frail figure was just over five feet tall -That never exactly fit my description of a despicable man at all, but then again, Elena and I were only thirteen, and I still didn’t know what the word “eccentric” meant.
With our arms tightly linked together, we finally rushed to Elena’s door and triumphantly arrived in front of her waiting step-mother, Mr. Scriabin’s second wife Tatiana Schloezer who gently hung my woolen overcoat and scarf on their wooden rack.
“Thank you,” I politely said. She graciously nodded, patted me on the head, and walked back towards the dining hall where I could hear a muffled hum.
Un-accustomed to my formal attire, Elena mockingly sneered at me, shrugged, and smilingly said, “I’m just glad you could make it!”
“Mother insisted I wear my Sunday best. It’s not my fault,” I retorted. “So, what’s the big surprise?” I asked Elena as I flattened out my navy blue jumper.
Then, leaning over with my ear cupped in her small porcelain hands, Elena whispered, “Today, we have a special guest!” There was a slight pause of anticipation as she commanded my undivided attention; then she continued, “He’s a Russian-born American!”
“And so?” I curiously wondered – I had never met a Russian-born American. “What’s his name?”
“Vladimir Horowitz!” Elena exclaimed his name as if she had won a new doll.
“Shh!!” My hand covered Elena’s mouth. “They’re just in the other room,” I said while I wistfully listened for an American accent from the back room. “I want to hear his accent,” I said.
Muffled sounds came from Elena’s mouth as she struggled free from my grip. “He’s not FROM America, silly!!” She exclaimed. “He was born in Kiev. His parents are American.”
“Well, can we take a peek?” I curiously inquired. Formal evenings like tonight usually meant sneaking quietly around the company of Mr. Scriabin’s guests. Elena’s father didn’t like the idea of us children interrupting their deep discussions about what Elena called theosophy. She said her father was obsessed with this theosophy: the believe of various philosophies that professes one can know God through spiritual ecstasy, direct instruction or a special virtual relationship with Him. I had often wondered how Mr. Scriabin balanced his two passions: Music and philosophy.
On previous occassions, Elena and I had learned much about her father’s musical inspirations from listening in on all their dinner conversation. Perhaps we could learn much more about this Vladimir Horowitz if we listened in on their conversation!
As I prepared to tip-toe down towards the dining hall, Elena grabbed a hold of my tightly braided hair and said, “Wait!”
“Ouch!” I whimpered, trying to stay quiet. “Let go!”
“Oh, sorry,” Elena said as she loosened her grasp, “I just got so excited. It’s just that tonight is different, my friend! Father said we don’t need to sneak around this time! We are going to sit at the table!”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! Mr. Scriabin never invited us to dine with their guests of honor!
“Just get a hold of yourself,” Elena said as we headed down that familiar green-lighted hall and into the dining room.
“There they are!” Exclaimed Mr. Scriabin himself. He was sitting in the wooden armchair at the end of the dining table with his back to the window. I fidgeted around nervously and glanced up at the ancient Egyptian-themed embroidery hanging on the diamond-patterned walls.
“What delightful children,” another familiar voice remarked. It was none other than Mr. Scriabin’s childhood friend and peer Sergei Rachmaninoff. “We must introduce our new friend tonight!”
Confused as to why such prominent musicians and well-known figures would want us to meet such important company perplexed, I hung my head bashfully down as I was seated next to Elena.
“Look up!” Elena whispered.
White from gripping the end of my seat, I slowly veered my gaze from my white knuckles to the porcelain dishes and finally to the guest of honor, seated right across from me!
It took every ounce of energy to keep my jaw from dropping. I couldn’t believe it. Vladimir Horowitz was just a boy – a young boy – and he had come with his mother. There were a total of seven sitting around the table: Vladimir Scriabin, Tatiana Schloezer, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Vladimir Horowitz, Mrs. Horowtiz, Elena Scriabin, and me.
After we were all acquainted sat down I soon learned He looked younger than me! Tonight, he had come with his mother, who
With weather hovering around zero degrees Celsius, even Russia’s capital city shuddered in all its brilliance.
“I am the apotheosis of world creation. I am the aim of aims, the end of ends.”