Category Archives: family history

Minneapolis.

I remember so much about Minneapolis.

The first visit, winter. The year, 1978. My elder brother’s college buddy had come to town, charmed our mother, and swept me off my feet. Tall, ruddy, he was the one who’d applied himself – getting the grades, being accepted into med school and, now, establishing his own clinic in greater Minneapolis/St Paul. He’d even just purchased his own white cottage, complete with hardwood floors. I, being almost 21, couldn’t have been more willing to submit to the fantasy of a lifetime.

Well, almost. But, I did fly out for a visit. With him, I did eat banana pancakes, drink Cold Duck, and inhale a reefer, all for the first time ever. Alas; a list of firsts which omitted that which he’d most anticipated.

But, I did see the city.

Winters in the midwest were fabled for their dry cold, the kind you didn’t feel, unlike those frigid to the bone affected by the Great Lakes. The first thing you noticed was the absence of significant snow. Oh, there was a certain whiteness, but it was hard, frozen, packed down like pavement. The only thing betraying the season was the cloud of breath coming from your mouth, as you made your way downtown; once you stepped inside the massive mall pavilions, the strip, chain restaurant nooks, or the concert venues, all was warmly lit and wonderful.

I remember thinking, months later, drawing comparisons to New York’s Manhattan and the likes of Cleveland, Ohio that what distinguished Minneapolis was its pace. People moved more gracefully through this city, nothing propelling them either from behind or within. Enjoying all the amenities and style of its contemporaries to the east or west, nobody there seemed driven; everyone was settled, content.

Returning, on or about 2015, this time in the fall to visit a dear old friend – herself, a native Minnesotan – we again spent time both in her suburb and the city itself. An antique store, where I acquired four carnival blown milk glasses; a bakery, serving large loaves of German breads. Again, I marveled at the elegant design of the wood framed downtown center, the grand foliage, the parks and, yes; the pace of the people. Nothing appeared to disturb their peace.

Today, I endured another realization.

Recalling both of these visits, separated by decades, I was now able to recognize one, unavoidable feature through the incisive view of hindsight; nowhere had I ever remembered SEEING a black person.

In fact, I wouldn’t have been able to tell if Minneapolis had any minorities, at all, among its residents. If they were there, they must have been miles from wherever I had been.

Now, I wonder. How many of those miles separated me from what, back home, could only be termed an integrated community? How far apart, instead, were its residents from one another – black to white, Latino to Caucasian……………German to Swede……..

How carefully crafted, by city planners, the American heartland. How many decades of suppression veiled deep bias, among its peoples.

Minneapolis. The heart of the midwest. Today, aflame.

False peace; deeply disturbed. Vastly entrenched racisms; exposed raw.

Fond memories, nevermore the same.

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© 5/29/2020 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. All rights those of the author, whose story it is, and whose name appears above this line. Thank you for respecting the authenticity of another’s experience.

littlebarefeetblog.com

The Present Mind.

 

It’s not that I never saw what Mum saw.

It’s that I never saw as she did.

My view of Mum was always from behind. Her back ever turned, either standing at the kitchen sink or seated at the sewing machine, this was a mother intent upon managing the household. And, fulfilling this charge was the daily commitment – task by utilitarian task. Born likely of deferred dreams, to her the home was more about its daily upkeep and less about the living beings who occupied the space.

But, occupy I did.

Whether sprawled across the davenport, face embedded in the corner behind the pillow, or planted at the piano, or poured into a novel……I was there. And, what I saw while known to be was driven by the images which first appeared in my mind. Pictures; stories, entire narratives, from a single seed of thought. Though my body lived in her house, I dwelt well outside of it — inside my head.

But, to Mum, whose immediate purpose was home maintenance, anything worth vision was populated by that which dictated the next, practical move. Dishes, crusted with drying food, waiting by the sink. Dust, coating the coffee table. Cluttered magazines, sleeping with newspaper. Dirty clothes, lounging about. These, she clearly saw, every day of the week and Saturday, too.

On the unavoidable occasion which brought us both into the same room, her raised voice would sometimes penetrate the air around me. In tones of exasperation:

“Are you just going to sit there, all day?!”

There was “work” to be done. Didn’t I see it??

No. I did not.

Oh, I saw the coffee table. I saw the sink. I saw the magazines, and the newspaper, too. These were all props, in a delectable scenario which morphed every time my eyes rolled back and to the left, never requiring my interaction. But, if they captured my fancy, I might consider the contour of the sofa pillow, or the crisp leaves of paper, or the outline of the scalloped table’s edge. Perhaps I would grab the sketchbook, and draw them into the still life of a given afternoon.

But — clean them? Straighten them into regimented rows? Why spoil a good lay out? Why wreck the whole picture?

Some fifty years have passed, since Mum moved about around me in the house we called home. Now, the novel coronavirus has been upon the planet for at least eight weeks of our current lives. None of us, whether absent or present of mind, can see it in any form. All we know is its power to manifest, in potentially life threatening proportions. And, because we are nearly defenseless against such invisible, yet diabolical, intent, we must gather our senses as if to battle. We shield our noses and mouths, attacking only that which must afterwards be thoroughly washed. We count the number of steps between our feet and those of the person approaching us on the sidewalk. We stare through the windows, instead of going outside at all.

And, as we look, we are called upon to see our surroundings as our mothers did, as they appear before us demanding our command. The layout of our lives has changed, fundamentally, for as far into the foreseeable as we are able to imagine. We exist framed in an entirely new panorama, one to which we must be accountable nearly every minute. With each blink of our eye we must be present of mind, lest we be found absent, forever.

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© 5/14/2020    Ruth Ann Scanzillo      All rights those of the author, whose perspective it is, and whose name appears above this line, literally.  Thank you for respecting original material.

littlebarefeetblog.com