Category Archives: creative writing

Blessings in Disguise.

 

 

Two weeks ago, inexplicably, or as fate would have it, or Providentially, or whichever persuasion suits the reader’s bent, I tripped over my Stability Ball and crashed to the floor. Tendering a bruise the size of your fist on my left hip and a swelling injury to the outer wrist, being a professional musician I did not take this lying down. Oh, wait. Well, you get the picture.

Wouldn’t we discover that, being forced to juggle a performing schedule, I would choose to push back one event by a month, the full length recital for which collaborative piano was my commitment and which was to have been presented two and a half full hours prior to call for another ensemble performance.

As the referenced weekend approached, the demand from the rest of the music – one Bach Cantata No. 4, for which I was to provide cello continuo – soon became evident; had I remained committed to the recital date as well, the mental gymnastics would have been excruciating. Neuroplasticity is not the forte of the post-menopausal, nor is any inclination toward proving feats of extraordinary finesse. Ask your mother.

Quite without warning, perhaps due to a combination of immediate attention to emergent need and a diathermic dinosaur complete with pallets for paws at the chiropractor’s office, the wrist healed within three days. The Bach, rumor has it, was exquisite.

Bach’s music is always exquisite. No respectable musician ever takes the credit. Oh; and, the flute student for whom the recital was rescheduled would reveal no small relief at a reprieve of several weeks. So, one full on resolution for the composition book.

Within days of the performance of the Cantata, I joined the Y.

Yes. That was an abrupt modulation. Middle aged women hold the monopoly. Tell your father. Having narrowly escaped a ruptured ulnar ligament, I’d call it gratitude.

Traveling light being the preference of the standard cellist, I arrived with application form completed and my driver’s license in hand, for verification. When it came time to head to the track, simultaneously discovering that I had no pockets outside of the jacket which would take its place on the wall of hooks, I reached down and slid the license into the elastic belly band of my yoga pants.

Two miles later, and eighteen solid months of support cushioned, sofa seated decompensation, my right hip flexor hit raging revolt. Off to the chiropractor, for round two.

He, being the intuitive by practice, rejected my presumption toward decompression and began to manipulate my lower appendages like a pretzel maker’s apprentice. The volume of vocalizations generated from deep in my diaphragm embarrassed all the men in the waiting room, but he would show no mercy. This is the role of the healer, after all; pain is proof.

It wouldn’t be until I’d been home for over an hour that any realization would come.

My driver’s license. was. missing.

In full celebration of advancing age, I searched the pockets of my coat. Then, the corners of the car seat, and between, and across the drive to the brick path leading from the house, and again. After which, the phone calls ensued – first, to the administrative offices of the Y, complete with reprimand regarding the absence of fair warning with respect to theft on premises; then, to the chiropractor, asking for complete search of the chair and examining table. Lord knows, the pretzel I had assumed that afternoon was convoluted enough to dislodge a gallbladder, let alone one flat, laminated card placed squarely beneath my bellybutton.

Earning nothing whatsoever except a round of apologies, I loaded my ammo for the email onslaught. No amount of ten plus years in the service industry would permit me any compassion toward any part time temp who cared insufficiently for my encroaching needs as a woman old enough to be everybody’s mother. I mean everybody. Give me the old woman’s shoe. I’ll make it my palace. What are you looking at?

The mind’s tricks are unfathomable. They lie in wait to deceive. The tactile memory of arising from the commode infiltrated like a stealth trooper, accompanied by fleeting contact between object and point of arrival. Inorganic object, to be sure; this was no common lavatory caper.

I looked down at the belly band of my yoga pants. And, then I remembered. Lifting it, I did what every bewildered existentialist did in the ’60s: I stared at my navel. I had no choice. There was nothing else there.

Convinced that I had flushed the driver’s license down the toilet, I made the requisite, illegal trip up the miracle mile to the DMV, declared mine to be the Story of the Week, paid the $27 fee, and drove legitimately back down the hill for home.

Then, just as my mother before me, and every other Daughter of the Great Depression (look it UP), I dug out the recently acquired, turquoise LED flashlight from the ValuHome dollar bin, and the scalloped foam Outdoor brand knee pad, also strangely turquoise, and made one, final, dedicated effort to search the depths of the car floor for the license.

Setting the pad on the driveway cement, I placed my dormant knees on the turquoise foam, crouched forward, and stuck my whole head of smelling henna under the front seat.

No generational equivalent of illumination could have prepared me for what that mini-LED wand would unearth. There, between, the seat and the gearshift compartment, lodged in that raw, steel Mechanism of Death, was a white, laminated card.

The Highmark. PPO. Blue. medical. insurance. card.

The one I’d blamed the local ER intake department for retaining. The last time I’d presented with migraine induced vertigo. That one. Don’t point. Pointing is rude.

Now, most west side Italian girls were raised Catholic. I’m an east side transplant. This is enough to skew all the statistics, baffle the bigots, and make the idiots really angry. But, I will thank the Patron saints, the ones who protect all those who travel and those who search, for listening, loving, and then teaching even the oldest woman in the room that blessings always arrive in the shimmering, brilliant, mystery of disguise.

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo 4/16/16     All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Thank you for your respect. And, please. Don’t stare.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Birthed.

 

The American musical is ubiquitous. Sooner or later, all that is popular finds its way into the genre that delivers singing, dancing, singular sensation. Ever since opera buffa drew the local crowds to the town square, promising momentary diversion from war, pestilence, plague, and stench, humans have craved the escape of pure entertainment.

Enter Steven Sondheim.

A boy, born to a woman who loved a man who left her for another. Said child to learn at the feet of the greats – Oscar Hammerstein, Jimmy Hammerstein (Jimmy Hammerstein). Leonard Bernstein.

One would have thought that, bathed in such saturating influence, the young composer would have churned out second rate imitations of the icons who surrounded him. But, there was another factor at play, one that would be profoundly key to what would ultimately distinguish him as the social commentator of the age.

But, to reveal it would give away the heart of the story.

Steven Sondheim, for any musician from any genre, for any poet, for anyone who loves or has loved, for any student of the human condition…….people, you know when you come home from a session with your therapist, and all you can think about is how much money these people make for telling you to breathe deeply when you’re angry? Last weekend, I saw this man’s definitive autobiography, “Sondheim on Sondheim” at the Erie Playhouse. If you are privileged to see any production of this blended retrospective of his work, two full acts which he narrates on accompanying video, be sure to stay until the end. If you do, you will see into a mirror that will show you what you never before realized, feel things that you didn’t even know you needed to or could, and be floored by what is revealed.

As in his very life, the experience will tear you up and put you back together, like nothing else. It’ll be all the therapy you’ll ever need.

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© 4/15/16  Ruth Ann Scanzillo     All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Thank you for your respect.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

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 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 been 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 and 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 reality show 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 story it is and whose name appears above. Thank you for respecting fantasy, the stuff of unrealized dreams.
littlebarefeetblog.com