In Sight.


“Married At First Sight” on FYI fascinates me. Two psychologists and a sexologist pair up single, independents who have failed to sustain a committed relationship. They meet at the altar, and we watch the rest. After 8 weeks, the couples must choose either to remain together, or to divorce – their climactic, camera-captured conclusion a life lived in fast forward.
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Take a rewind.
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 I used to have a friend. Her grandmother found an eligible young man in Scotland, and arranged for them to meet. A brief courtship ensued, largely from a distance. He proposed, they married, I sang and played at the wedding, everybody ate caramelized bacon and a full sit down, and then the happy pair flew off for the Isle of Skye.
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By the end of the first year, they were already welcoming the first of three sons and a daughter. My three visits – separated by a year, a decade, and seven, respectively – provided me limited, if memorable, observable data. I could only draw conclusions based upon the crystallized aspects of my friend’s personality. Somewhere between the children, the Abbeys, Selkirk, the rare highland walk, and the Edinburgh Fringe, that’s exactly what I did.
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By all accounts, 32 years this October, the two of them are still together. That’s the least surprising fact. In a culture virtually dictated by one David Hume*, maintaining a public protocol of refinement and propriety is paramount. It’s the very fiber of the society. In turn, fidelity and commitment to the institution, let alone the sacrament, of marriage goes without saying. So, staying married is pretty much the given.
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Oh; and, even as recently as 30 years ago, there were still Scots to whom the clan was the Word. This potential husband was none other than a third cousin, once removed, or some version of said descriptor. Yes; blood relatives. Proof? Her youngest brother was already carrying her new surname – in between his first and last. To my knowledge, he’s never left Buffalo.
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Yes; in spite of my three attempts to nurture what had begun in childhood by the only means available during the pre-Internet age – traveling across the ocean – her marriage would prove more durable than any relationship she’d ever had with me.
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Strangely, we had also been introduced by a third party. Our parents were all members of the same non-denominational Christian sect and, although separated from the world at large by strict dogma, were only separated from each other by a few miles and one state border.
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But, because each assembly of said Fundamentalists was characteristically small in number, there was an unspoken intention to generate continuity among its young by bringing them together in as many ways as could be contrived.
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Our earliest visits, for me, were really special. Those from my small city were working class and, while my parents were among its most well respected, her family were merchants well into the second generation and held a pre-eminent place in their small, New York town. In addition, trained well to be of superior hospitality, when they opened their home to my parents it were as if the Queen of England had deigned a major reception.
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I can’t pinpoint when we became each other’s friend, per se. She had multiple siblings and, apart from the brother who was born the same year as I but who almost never spoke audibly, were closest in age. Their house was always buzzing and bustling with laughter, gourmet food preparation, and wide-ranging conversation. They asked all the questions and my family, starved for this kind of welcoming attention, held forth for hours on end, oblivious of any agenda.
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As time passed, our social encounters increased. They lived on the private drive of a country club, overlooking the same lake which provided us a state park peninsula of free beaches across the border. Swimming and chicken fights, bonfires and s’mores were their offerings throughout the summer and, when travel permitted, tobogganing and real hot chocolate in winter. My eldest brother, old enough to be married, created a Hallowe’en haunted barn and hayride on his wife’s farm, a titillating event we would anticipate every year thereafter – in the dark, on the haywagon, she and I, my younger brother and her older sister and all her strapping, handsome brothers none of whom had the slightest time of day for me beyond a jostle against the bales. I had a transparent crush on her eldest, hers on my younger expertly veiled, neither of us ever realizing our longings for either brother but, reaching our teens, crowning it all by taking on the moniker of becoming roommates at the annual Eastern Bible Conference at Grove City College.
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In our miniature subculture, these were the parameters which defined friendship. There were no dances, no illicit parties. The boys were rumored gadabouts, but this was their birthright; as a girl, I never knew much choice, when it came to traits in others which I would grow to appreciate or to which I might recognize myself drawn. In fact, should I become attracted to anyone outside of this realm, assimilation was nigh impossible. Adding the element of proper English Romance novels, the dimension of fantasy easily beckoned, and my submission was all too willing.
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Somewhere between the second and third visit “across”, life experience finally having made its indelible mark on decades of escape, realization began to gel. Perhaps it was the wedding gift, arduous hours of handiwork producing two full color, framed renderings of myself and another mutual friend, so casually misplaced and then practically thrown in my face as I lay cowering under the bedcovers in forced penitence for even raising the subject; perhaps the invitation to perform a Chopin Nocturne for visiting friends, its final pianissimo chord truncated by her loud and mood-hijacking assertions; perhaps it was the toddling along, as a fully fledged adult, being introduced to stable barons and architects and then promptly ignored as if the role were to be that of stray hoping for scraps. Perhaps it was the little flat in the center of town, for which I’d expressed both interest and capital, and a willingness to time share, which was curiously prevented by the local bank. Whichever. The awareness dawned far too slowly, and expensively, in the end; no amount of childhood generosities returned or desire to create greater proximity for both myself and her family could, apparently, sustain something that did not, in fact, exist at all. I had been some enforced presence, possibly a burden borne for too many years of trained tolerance. I was nothing more than a starling, planted in her path by loving and earnest parents, intended to teach her the art of acceptance, patience, and charity. She had outgrown me, and I would be the last to know.
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There were whisperings, in the kitchen, that ceased when I entered. There were references to her husband not being “keen” on my visits, my reminding him of another “teacher” friend who would bore. It was August of 2001, and I would head home to arrive on American soil a scant two weeks before 9/11 – but, not before my own warning about terrorism being the most looming threat to our safeties having beenth met with remote, eye rolling reticence. Ironically, I would be able to use fear of air travel, and its inevitable profiling, as excuse never to return.
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*****
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Rumor has it, social status is still important in her corner of the planet. The marriage, and the family which is now busily producing its next generation, has deliberately endured. All are within walking distance of most of life’s essentials. Money, an object in the past, has returned to its proper place of casual deference. Both patriarchs have passed on, their widowed matriarchs enjoying the fruits, her marriage having taken its rightful throne.
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Arranged, contrived, calculated, constructed; refined, buffed and polished, lives carefully chosen for only their finest attributes, somewhere between a rocky, ocean crag’s gooseberry patch, a tenement row, and a grande cobblestone the world’s tiniest notion of civilization waits for no stranger. I’ve said my “goodbyes”, long ago, to that which only existed just beyond my alleged entitlement. The camera will roll on, sure as the hills of bonnie Scotland, to find its next version of the untold truth.
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(* Yeah. I wrote a paper. Ivy league-generated Professor Jeremy L. Smith has it in his stash.)
© 2/3/16 Ruth Ann Scanzillo
All rights, in part or whole, those of the author, whose name appears above this line.
Thank you.
littlebarefeetblog.com
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5 thoughts on “In Sight.

  1. They had show like that on tv here, I really meant to watch it but somehow missed out – maybe it was on the subscription service. We do have one I watch occasionally called “First Dates” where couples meet for the first time and have a meal, then give a verdict at the end. They have some interesting characters on there, but in general they are quick thinking modern people, quite choosey most of them, still a lot of variety, but they never had any closed sect types!

    I was brought up in a house where it seemed to me if you were a fellow christian you were welcome, pretty much whoever you were, just so long as you weren’t one of those heathen outsiders!! Quite funny to look back on now, I think it would be similar if Dad were into (for ex:) Golf, all his friends from the golf club, and none of your bloody low down no good tennis players or boring cricketers or whatever!

    Now I left behind just about all my old friends and acquaintances from that time in my life, it wasn’t hard, there was no one my age in the church, well, there was one, (but I dismissed him as a pillock) – I was terrible, I met a guy at school from a non christian family, I adored him cos he was into causing havoc everywhere, he really led me astray!

    I was just thinking about him this morning, there was an article on the radio about schools in the 70’s, and how all the staff used to smoke in the staff room, I remember one day at school this kid asked me and my new friend where the staff room was (he was new) my friend said, “oh its down there on the right” the kid went to knock on the door, and my friend said “no you don’t knock, just walk in” so this kid did! That was a total “No-No” at any UK school! There was shouts of outrage, and me and my pal ran off giggling!

    Well aside from all that, I have to say, I had dealings with a Coroner before, I’d like to poke him in the eye, seemed to me his role was to cover up and smooth over, sweep under the carpet medical mistakes and abdications of duties brought on by government cut backs and general meanness brought about by our unequal and unfair society. Admittedly, some people are very difficult to help, but rather than rise to that challenge, his role was to kick these problems out of the arena, a government owned henchman from the upper classes, probably ought to be special kind of hell for that sort. Rhetorical bastard!

    Other than that, for all I know, he might be a very nice bloke! Quincey – he was a nice coroner! 🙂

    I say, if she’s not making the effort, and you don’t feel she needs you there, I’d just leave her to it.

    A vicar and family friend once turned up in one of my dreams, it was extraordinary, I said Oh, hi, how are you? And he said, bloody crap, living with that f*cking dyke! Well, I got to say, he would never ever, under any circumstances (other than in my dream) have used that kind of language! I asked mum if they were ok and still together, she said “yes, of course they are, why on earth do you ask?”

    Well, you never know do you?

    Take care, you owe me an email etc,etc, X0X

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I do, I do, indeed. After the trip to the west coast, I landed two days hence soundly infected. Giving the lessons via Facetime this week, the space a total sick house. Wondered if I’d lost any and all readers by now, I WILL send you an email, because your Coroner reference is too ironic for the English language. OXO RAS

      Liked by 1 person

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