National Geographic : 2004 Feb
GREENWICH, CONNECTICUT Architect Patricia Balardi Kantorski sits for her Portrait, a Christmas gift for her husband. Other tokens of love-such as 10-carat diamond rings gleam at Betteridge Jewelers on Greenwich Avenue (below). The store commissioned the U.S. made "Rolex" clock out front. Any other fake Rolexes intown? "Not on my customers,' says store owner Terry Betteridge. It's an interesting concept: astronomical wealth as great social leveler. It might explain the marked lack of competition among the 25 debutantes and their parents at the annual Greenwich Cotillion, a fund-raiser for the Junior League. All is a happy buzz as the girls mill about in their long white dresses with bouquets of pink peonies. They wear surprisingly utilitarian hairstyles-lots of sensible comb-outs or plain barrettes. "Most cotillions in America are society driven, with girls included only by invitation or lineage," says Junior League president Laura Geffs (a "post-deb" from South Carolina). "We don't turn anyone away." Indeed, every senior high school girl is invited. Each participating debutante is required to do community service (and each family is required to pony up $5,000 for a table for ten). There are military campaigns less carefully planned and executed than the Greenwich Cotillion. At 7:47 the debutantes line up. At 7:55 their fathers enter, peeling off one by one to the strains of"When the Saints Go Marching In." At 8:05 the young ladies and their escorts advance to "Thank Heaven for Little Girls." It's amusing, this use of beloved stan dards as subtextual commentary. But what can it mean when the music shifts to the beautiful albeit ill-advised choice of the Gershwins' song for the lovelorn, "But Not for Me"? At 9:08 the debutantes waltz haltingly with their fathers. The couples bump up against one another sweetly, like apples in a bathtub. The evening's light drizzle has grad uated to full-on torrential. It sounds like applause against the walls of the enormous tent. In 1640, when Greenwich was founded, the set tlers had little idea of the nation whose birth was more than a century away, or of how Greenwich itself would become a shining symbol of that new republic's most bountiful promise. Even now, the place appears as an almost unattainable dream. 5 WEBSITE EXCLUSIVE Find more 06830 images along with field notes and resources at nationalgeographic.com/magazine /0402. Tell us why we should cover YOUR FAVORITE ZIP CODE at nationalgeographic.com/magazine/zipcode/0402.