All posts by ruth ann scanzillo

About ruth ann scanzillo

Professional 'cellist/pianist, private Suzuki string instructor; ....former public school music teacher/childrens' drama coach; .... [ serious ] avocational writer.........background in graphic design/illustration.....influences: Lance Morrow; Garrison Keillor; Peggy Noonan; Erma Bombeck; James Kavanaugh; Billy Collins; Leonard Cohen; and, Alice Munro. Local eccentric, social loner, overdriven imaginator, speculator, and wisening woman. Thank you for reading. And, thank you, WordPress, for the whole thing.

The Junior League.

Mum was a seamstress, a dressmaker, a tailor of the finest order. She could take any off the rack dress, jacket, pant, gown and make it fit any body assigned. She could make three piece fully lined suits from Vogue patterns, ball and wedding gowns, even curtains and upholstery covers. And, she did all this, from her sewing room at home.

While I was growing up, Mum would often ask me to go to the piano and perform for her customers. I would comply, choosing the flashiest solo piece I’d most recently prepared. All the ladies would rave, and compliment Mum on her daughter’s talent .

Marlene was among the most vociferous.

Her family lived a couple blocks down the steep hill, on East 28th Street, in a brick house with a porch. Marlene and her mother, Emma, were very close, coming to the house biweekly for their fittings. Most of Mum’s customers were from the same extended family of second generation Italian-American ladies, working clerically or teaching but, during my high school years, Marlene grew to become a business administrator, community leaders increasingly recognizing her efforts and accomplishments. All the while Mum dressed her, impeccably, Emma duly proud.

Perhaps a gesture intended to give back to Mum, after the decades she’d spent keeping Marlene looking sharp, whatever the motive the day came when, out of nowhere, Marlene declared her intention to sponsor Betty’s daughter to the Junior League of Erie.

Founded in New York in 1901, the Junior League was formed to instill social responsibility and a spirit of volunteerism among community women. Over the years, however, the charitable organization had become a vehicle for debutantes, a class marker for the up and coming young. Being sponsored to join the League was an honor with huge implications for future social and professional connections, not the least of these eligible men of the same rank and level of social recognition.

The act generated by Marlene was directed as a gesture toward her treasured seamstress. In the spirit of the relationship between Marlene and her own mother I was to accept the gift by joining the order, in turn bringing my mother pride by association.

But, I screwed up.

I said no.

******

A few months ago, in the middle of the summer, both of my brothers were able to come through town for a single evening. The younger, now a traveling quality control representative in the health care field, hadn’t been home since Dad died ten years before, and the elder, former divisional medical director turned director/consultant for a major diagnostic laboratory, almost as long away. Both were in town to do inspections. Both lived in southern states, raising their families and working thousands of miles away.

I remember feeling ecstatic that they could both be here, at once. I only had two siblings, no sisters, and no offspring of my own, so any feeling of family I’d ever known had to come from my vicarious association with their sons and daughters’ lives. But, having them both actually here together would reunite us as brothers and sister, like when we were growing up.

We’d planned to eat at a nearby Italian restaurant. Both of them loved Italian restaurant food, both having been to Italy – the elder, several times – each of them working on the road; but, my upstairs wall HVAC unit on the fritz, they also booked hotels. They booked hotels because they also liked staying in hotels, don’t get me wrong; but, had the upstairs loft been temperature controlled, I’d have loved having them both here together for the weekend, in my home.

They arrived, entering via the shed door, and greeted each other in my music room. The elder was shorter and greyer than I’d remembered; the younger, wider. I took their picture. Moving to the kitchen, we addressed my need for construction advice on a household addition; then, we piled into the vehicle assigned to the elder, and headed to the restaurant.

For well over fifteen minutes, both of them charmed the hostess. She was most gracious. I have no idea if she needed to do other things, but she remained in conversation with them without even a hint of distraction. I, with my five year history as a hostess and waitress, was proud of her professionalism.

We’d chosen to dine outdoors on the restaurant patio. I sat in the seat closest to the dividing wall, and they sat opposite each other. Once we finally placed our orders, they continued the conversation they’d begun in the front seat of the vehicle en route the few blocks to the restaurant. I watched them, thinking about how the pandemic and age had overtaken us. I spent a lot of time sitting there thinking, before we got our food, when our food arrived, and after we were finished eating. I was able to do this, because they asked me no questions of any kind. I asked them no questions, either, principally because there was no break in the conversation the two of them were enjoying.

After probably two and a half hours, I invited them to present me with any questions they might have. My elder brother said nothing. My younger brother asked me if I had any friends here, and my answer included a reference to my students and their families as my friends – much like Mum’s customers were, to her. Then, I mentioned the elder’s former wife, with whom I’d had a reuniting phone conversation only days before after fifty years of no contact. The response to this offering was a ten minute dissertation directed at both myself and my younger brother on the woman’s character, as expressed in her past behavior.

Thus ended the dinner.

Returning me to my home was swift. We stood chatting on the sidewalk for a few minutes and, dusk settling and mosquitoes emerging, I said my goodbyes. Entering my house, I watched as the two of them stood at the curb for another half hour, talking with each other in the dark.

******

It’s true.

I’d said no to the opportunity provided me by Marlene, now CEO of a major, burgeoning health care and educational facility in the region and already-former bank president. She didn’t marry until later in life, but had a daughter who would become my piano student. Emily was 10, then, and probably hated those lessons. Maybe she never really wanted to play piano. Or, maybe she just didn’t want to slum it over to my house, on West 22nd St, hauled there every week by Aunt Lena.

No; I never accepted Marlene’s sponsorship into the Junior League of Erie. I was afraid to become an elite member of our community. I didn’t think the other girls in the League would accept me, a daughter of blue collar skilled artisans. And, I wasn’t sure I wanted to become a member of an exclusive strata of society, either.

Had I said yes, I’d have probably met and married a doctor or lawyer, raising my children on Southshore or near the Kahkwa Club. My brothers’ families and I would likely have shared holidays, each of us making sure our children spent time together. We’d have compared notes, throughout our lives, bragging on our childrens’ IQs, their grade point averages, their excellence, their ranking, their accomplishments, their spouses, our grandchildren, and how much the Lord had loved and bestowed His blessings upon us.

But, I didn’t. I married a transplanted, white collar New Englander, a man who would leave me nearly three years hence and continue his rise in the technical world of computerized software. Divorced, I would continue to work, pay off my house and car, establish a music studio, accept performance opportunities with the Union orchestras, and teach public school. My private piano students morphed into cellists, many of both the students and their parents becoming integral to my list of those still endeared to me.

Marlene’s daughter would become a litigating lawyer, and marry a local political figure; Emma would live to be nearly 101; Marlene would continue to oversee the health care facility, long beyond retirement age. And, the Junior League would breed its own, filling the coffers of the needy and establishing multiple community facilities for the arts, for education, for enrichment across the four corners of the region.

I would remain in the periphery of all these, a solitary creative, an observer of the life unfolding among those just beyond my reach. My brothers would recede into the margins of my world, feeling neither obligation nor need with respect to me.

Mum’s mark on the world she served remains. Marlene, at the time of her Betty’s blindsiding death, would stand at the casket exclaiming: “This is not. happening.” So many women would need to find somebody else to take in the seams of their garments, to let the rest out, to form the bodice, measure the hem, and fit them for the stages of the most grandly acknowledged.

From whatever league, as with my two brothers I affect their lives in absentia. Unless otherwise required, I’ll be in my music room, at home.

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Copyright 11/9/22 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. All rights those of the author, whose story it is and whose name appears above this line. No copying, in whole or part including translation, permitted. Sharing by blog link, exclusively, and that not via RSS. Thank you for respecting integrity.

littlebarefeetblog.com

Meaningful Al.

My friend Al just wrote a thing.

Like most writers, who buy the books but rarely read them – largely because they are too busy writing – I rarely read what others write on social media if it smells like a piece. This is true because, like Al says tonight, what’s on others’ minds is rarely relevant to what is on mine. Because, of course, vice versa.

But, I’d just come from cramming the Kabalevsky orchestral reduction ahead of my prize student’s lesson on the subject and, perching at the screen, Al’s treatise was what the newly uncensored FBK algorithm chose to present first in my Feed. Call me ripe for a break in the metronomic mind bending; I was ready to receive.

First off, Al reminded us that all we think about is ourselves. Roger that. Or, he clarified, we think about ourselves and that which directly affects only us. Hence, our American politics, about which he held forth along with the economy with vivid cogency, ramming home his points with an uncharacteristic drive seeing as he would most readily be described by those who say Hey as a laid back jazz drummer sort.

I read the whole thing, I did. He kept me from go.

Then, I set my cursor.

“Apart from the occasional, charming (she said, condescendingly) misspelling, I find this the most comprehensive and cogent commentary on the world situation to come moseying along social media since, well, the last time I read what anybody else had to say on the subject. That would be rare, in and of itself, seeing as I only ever think about myself. OH, wait. NO. I think FOR myself, but ABOUT a multitude of issues yet, admittedly, as they affect me or those who have power over me.

My obsession? Those who have power over me. That would be the mediocre minds who decide a.) what my copay will be for the next medical test; b.) how much of the remainder of the bill will be covered by that old, rusty Cadillac, MEDICARE, into whose back seat I have recently been thrust, kicking and screaming, only to be gang raped by the legion of mediocre gremlins lurking in wait to remind me that NOBODY CARES ABOUT OLD PEOPLE IN AMERICA AND, TO PROVE IT, THE SYSTEM IN PLACE PAYS TO WATCH US SLOWLY DIE. OH, wait – yet, again. Proactive preventive medicine also lurks, deep underground, binding together its mindful and careful constituents, but for a price determined only by market demand. And, demand we will.

So, whichever Party hosts the next shindig, and whichever President raises that toast, here’s to the flagrant hope he/she/it will give a nod to the Otherwise Healthy (minus kidney stones and a penchant for hoarding excrement) among us senior members, and send that Cadillac to the metal crushers.

Tax me? I’ll pay it, to avoid the boot on my front end; but, expect the Mouth to step to the next podium and make a much louder noise than that which can fleetingly be heard sliding through the media feed.

Selah.

p.s. I’m with ya, Al, not against ya; but, don’t rub my butt unless I ask first.”

*****

Now, in order to make anything I just said worthy of the read, I’d have to get Al’s permission to share his thing. And, well, he already technically did – but, only to his Friends on the Book. My only recourse would be to paraphrase, but that would ruin the inherent value, especially were I to commit the venial sin of correcting his albeit phonetic spellings. Next, I could reveal his full name but, again, a violation of the sacred trust of Settings on Facebook.

So, I guess you readers with nothing better to do than plagiarize unpublished (you think) bloggers will just have to search for all the Alans on social media, then pinpoint his exact location, and you know the drill.

But, this Al is a woodsy man, Thoreau’s baby dinosaur, and one is never quite sure where on the planet he rests his sometimes weary, wary and bewildered head. We who know and luv him, myself being among his platonics, are content to be with him in spirit wherever he lights after a long day chopping wood. Winter is coming, yea, even at the doors; he’ll be ready, like he always is. And, he won’t have to write a thing.

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.Copyright 10/13/22 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. All rights those of the author, and her friend Al, her name appearing above this line and his only referenced herein. Be smart, not sneaky, and write your own things, you thieving foreigners.

littlebarefeetblog.com

*Addendum: Here, for those who know him, is Al’s insightful piece, reprinted with permission from its author:

“What’s on your mind , what’s on your mind ? ……You don’t care; you only care about yourself. πŸ™ˆπŸ™‰πŸ™Š

Obama didn’t brag about the improvement of the economy during his time in office. Trump bragged about the economic gains that came from the Obama era, mixed with the short term volatile stock market boost that came from company stock buybacks, knowing that that tax breaks were coming. No one ever mentions how the financial media played the leading roll in this illusion. But financial media has always jumped on the most bullish sounding narrative because that helps to feed Wall Street sentiment. In my opinion, that was the media hyped illusion that everyone missed .

Since that first year or two of Trump , the world economy has felt the hit from covid (which at first was treated like a hoax by Trump who played into his base, which still thinks it’s a hoax)

Of course Republicans have no progressive ideas/vision, so they’re just play on the world economic problems because people don’t generally see world economics. They only see their own problems. Personally, I dread the next presidential election, as much as I hate seeing the election of insurectionist, anti abortion rights, racist, Trump train opportunists… I’d like to see both Biden and Trump step away from re-election. I don’t blame Biden for the economy any more than I would have blamed Obama for what Bush handed to him, but it’s time to give the job to someone else. Trump can only be trusted to work for Trump as usual, and why would we invite that shit show back in ?

The future looks weird. I need to become obsessed with music and art again, and take measures to fend off seasonal depression. I might have to put my stuff into storage and go away for while . Hope you can follow along with my adventures on the World Wide Web.”