A few years ago, my friend and WNO colleague Patricia Portillo told me she was creating a special jabot for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and wanted to know how she might go about presenting it to her. I told her I would happily speak to the Justice’s assistant Kim and let her know it was in the works.
Fast-forward to 2018, when my husband and I had moved to Florida, and were preparing to bring a group of his students from the Honors College at Florida International University to Washington for a Spring Break trip. One of the events of the week was a visit with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the Supreme Court.
I asked Patricia if she thought she could complete the jabot in time, and she told me it was almost done.
She was beyond excited to be able to present her stunningly beautiful work of art to Justice Ginsburg–and on the day before her 85th birthday.
The day was a special one. Patricia and the nine FIU students were thrilled to meet a living legend. The Justice gave brief remarks and then answered the students’ questions. Then her eyes lit up as Patricia presented her with the beautiful lace jabot, and she promised to wear it at a future Court sitting.
This type of lace is called ñandutí, the Guaraní word for “spider web;” it’s a traditional needle lace made in Paraguay.
As usually happened, the conversation quickly turned to opera and we spoke briefly about the WNO production of Verdi’s Don Carlo, which the Justice had enjoyed and which I was seeing that evening. Patricia was working part-time in the costume shop and spoke of having worked on the costume for Jamie Barton, the wonderful mezzo singing Princess Eboli.
We left the Court, happy to have been part of the Justice’s 85th birthday observances.