The Unexpected Present

A Forever Life Changing Masquerade

NYE Masquerade Ball

New Year’s Eve. The most memorable moment was when Yuri’s and my stars aligned and our crisscrossed paths across the universe finally met during the Viennese Masquerade Ball at Soyuzivka Heritage Center on New Year’s Eve 2010.

Yuri would always be working a New Year’s gig; it was Christmas week, and I hadn’t planned on anything at the time. Both of us were mourning a personal loss and hadn’t been in contact for a couple of months when I wrote the email, “What are you doing for New Year’s?” He wrote back immediately. “Working. Playing the gig at SuzyQ.” My response shot back, “I’ll see you at cocktail hour.” I had to work fast and get the appropriate attire and accouterments. Luckily, my sister and brother-in-law would be there with their friends. Last-minute arrangements worked out.

The two-hour drive to the foot of the Catskills made my heart rush with anticipation. Was I ready for this? Would Yuri be happy to see me? Did my silence after the initial connection at a Kinderhook reunion concert cause a waning of interest, just as would an illustrious waxing moon’s appearance? The road led the way for me to take a chance again. It made me think of the late spring Jazz and Blues Festival in Red Bank when Yuri pointed his bow at me, dedicating an original tune, Heart of a Woman Part II. But the summer months were hard with being a caregiver for an ailing loved one. I didn’t allow feelings other than stoic responses necessary at the time.

After sadness and grief of my loss, I accepted a girlfriend’s invitation to see Yuri’s November jazz gig in Whippany. His performance charmed me once again as he leaned over from the stage, greeting us. Afterward, we had a few drinks at the bar and went out for breakfast at the local diner. As we arrived in the parking lot, I slipped my arm into his and asked, “So, how have you been?” A question he later recounted as an unexpected one that almost made his knees buckle from under him. He chose to sit next to me in a booth near our other friends who were observing our encounter and the apparent buzz of sensual tension. We parted, but the question remained: after all the years of disappointments, was it possible to find love at this stage in our lives?

I arrived at a magical Dirty Dancing moment with a snowfall backdrop at a mountain resort in the late afternoon in time to dress for the occasion. Black velvet and a sequined mask, I was ready for the start of the evening festivities. Cocktail hour. The Main House lobby was exquisitely decorated in European style, with men in tuxedos and women dressed to the nines with a well-tended fire in the stone fireplace, bouquets, wreaths, glamour, glitter, clinking glasses, and camaraderie. As I stepped into the excitement, I had a feeling of great enthusiasm and eagerness to get back into the celebration of the new year. Yuri stood out. Our eyes met, and we smiled. It wasn’t long before I noticed a woman latched onto his arm. My heart sank. He was taken.

It took every bit of goodwill and courage to greet them as a couple, but I noticed Yuri was uncomfortable with the attachment. Throughout the masquerade ball, she and I would jockey for position during the breaks, taking the lead, making polite moves, overtures, and subtle preludes to the end-of-the-evening possibilities.

At 2 a.m., I entered the empty hall where Yuri was alone on stage, meticulously packing equipment, and invited him to an afterparty in the Main building. Later, he told me that after watching my exit and echoing footsteps out of the cavernous hall, he thought to himself, “If I go to this afterparty, my life will change forever.”

A full moon added to the elegance and shone the way to the after-party, and we stayed together until the morning star came out at dawn. On New Year’s Day, at breakfast, Yuri explained there was no other woman in his life. He wanted to continue our romantic interlude and invited me to a home-cooked meal at his home with an introduction to his cats, Lola and Digit. My cat, Nellie, would meet him soon. We were married within the year.

There’s a saying that what you do on New year’s Day, you will do for the rest of the year. That year, our lives changed forever. For better or worse, for richer and poorer, in sickness and health, we are together in the past, present, and future in the year 2024. We never know what life will bring us, but we know that whatever comes our way, we will take it and come back in the spring, just as the universe sends with love. Stay the course. Keep the faith. Happy New Year.

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