Category Archives: human behavior

relationships; society; sociology

Pam Baker.

 

I learned one of life’s most valuable lessons from Pam Baker.

She wasn’t a teacher.

She was a classmate, and she sat behind me in 7th grade.

Pam wasn’t a close friend of mine. During the first months of junior high everybody was a bit strange, so many of us having converged from the various elementary schools in the area. I still missed my 6th grade teacher, and struggled to find each room in the building which had been designated for every subject being taught.

I was fairly tall for a 7th grader, as was Pam and, yet, we’d both either chosen or been assigned seats near the front of the room in the center row. Gone were the days when the tall girls ended up in the back, of each row, with the boys.

The scenic memory is vague. Perhaps we were doing seatwork, or the teacher had stepped out of the room for a moment. I felt a tap on my shoulder.

I turned around.

It was Pam.

“What race are you??”  she said.

In those days, white people called those of color Negroes. None of the white people had a clue what Negroes called their white counterparts because, in those days, there was no dialogue between people of differing race. Pam was one of the Negro girls and, that year, I was the darkest skinned white girl in the entire school.

My father’s parents had both emigrated to New York on a ship just as the 19th century was flipping to the 20th. They were each of Southern Italian descent, though my grandfather would have born the darker shades of hair and skin. Appearing to be Sicilian, my grandmother had the light eyes and broad, full features marking Moorish ancestry. Dad had only met his mother once and his father never, providing the family only a bridal photograph, and I took after him almost entirely.

In early September, Pam’s skin was the color of coffee with milk, just like mine. Hers stayed that way, though, as the winter encroached, and mine faded just enough to make the subject less of a concern to anyone.

Clearly, Pam had never seen a white girl with skin the same color as her own. And, up until then, I had seen few African American people at all in my world, only those who came from Virginia to Grove City College to attend our Eastern Bible Conference every summer, among them the Hintons – Arthur being the thin, quiet boy who always smiled at me across every room.

What I learned in 7th grade was that there were those who weren’t sure what I was when they looked at me. I also learned how it felt to be the person nobody was sure about, unless they knew my family or attended the Bible Conference where people came to worship in spite of their skin color even if they did not sit together. Arthur Hinton could have been my boyfriend, and Pam Baker and I could have been sisters, but in those days nobody would have understood.

The bitter cold had lifted somewhat and there were about forty minutes for three belated returns, one a large postal shipment, before my private students would arrive. A full thirty of those had already passed before I realized that the Post Office would be closed. Today was a legal holiday, in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Pam Baker would have remembered.

.

.

.

.

.

.

© 1/15/18   Ruth Ann Scanzillo       All rights those of the author, whose story it is, and whose name appears above this line. Leave prejudice at the door. Thanks.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

Advertisements

Tip of the Iceberg Age.

 

The Museum of Natural History in Cleveland was the first.

A wooly mammoth, life sized, in a room trimmed by taxidermy. Murals, glass encased, tracing the alleged history of its life on this planet. Something about a monster ice floe and fossilized bones of sufficiency to reconstruct the entire elephant. I was disinterested. On a trip with the eighth grade science classes, I was fourteen; the Age of Aquarius was all the rage that year.

A month or two ago, I and my equally old boyfriend took a day trip back to Cleveland. Yep; right alongside the whole Paleolithic Age, that wooly mammoth was still there.

The pre-historic had a new meaning to us, now, as we mutely viewed primate skulls and their gradual similarity to our own. Two elderly lesbians, aged a good decade beyond us, eagerly soaked up the narratives in each chapter of the timeline, reading aloud to one another as if no one else were in either the room or the world, for that matter.

A few hundred miles south of the museum, President Trump was meeting with his military advisors. The Senate and Congress were addressing the trespasses of members of his campaign committee and cabinet. Televised pundits worked overtime to cover everything in a single news cycle. The stock market was ballooning.

Biblical prophets had foretold the Last Days. Gog and MaGog would be lining up, all the power centering in Israel, then Jesus would come in the clouds and all the born-again Christians would disappear into the air with Him along with the dead in Christ, which would have been summoned first from the grave. Somewhere in Africa, in the midst of all this, a family of chimpanzees would scream in the trees.

Today, it was Christmas. A snow squall the size of the North Pole swirled around outside our window, holding all of us living hostage until at least 2:45 pm while the prime rib seasoned in the new, French doored fridge. Having a “White Christmas” around this Great Lake used to be typical, so being enveloped in drifting and blowing snow felt oddly comforting, as if we weren’t really living in the Tip of the IceBerg Age. Maybe, for just one more night, the whole world would hold off melting with fervent heat before that great and terrible day of the Lord.

Twenty four hours hence, and a record breaking sixty three inches of pure as the driven. God only knows what our wooly mammoth would say about the whole thing.

.

.

.

.

.

.

© 12/25/17  Ruth Ann Scanzillo         All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Be a civilized person; there’s still time. Thanks.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

Perfection.

 

Perfection.

We all think we know what it is. For the artists and designers, it’s all about symmetry – balance, equal emphasis on all sides. Others envision an absence of flaw, neither errant marking nor crooked cut.

But, all of us know one thing: perfection ain’t us.

Nope. Those angelic beings on the Hallmark Channel who gaze deeply into the souls of the downtrodden and despondent, assuring them of that which God sees in each one are the only ones convinced. We already know, full well, that they are likely full of the old, well meaning Welbutrin of life.

We know our every stumble, each faltering uncertainty a reflection of that profound propensity for fallibility.

One equally well-meaning fellow told me recently, in the form of a compliment, that he loved my vocal style as solo cellist. That particular performance, by my own assessment, had been plagued by inaccuracies, provoked by hasty rehearsal and general physical discomfort with the surroundings. But, momentarily, I’d been taken aback in a sort of reassured fashion, concluding that said “vocal” style so described was both pleasing and somehow elevated in value above the usual critique – at least, to his ears.

But, more to the intended point, that moment gave me further pause to consider. To what end do we recognize the distinction between both that which is flawless and that which is both worthy and beautiful?

Much like a white patch on a black cat, a well-placed mole can render a human face visually balanced and lovely; whereas, the bridge of a certain nose can interrupt the flow of an entire profile, tossing the whole impression into that familiar pile, the “plain” face.

Now, take the Creator. If God had wanted to reveal Omnipotence to the human race, might the Almighty have appeared in some daunting, looming, larger than life presentation, commanding our immediate subjection and pronouncing upon us, the created collective, one sweeping absolution?

And, how might we have responded?

Rather, the inconspicuous, messy fragility of childbirth, followed by growth to maturity – this manifestation coming upon the clear midnight with us almost entirely, save a handful of lowly onlookers, unawares.

How many of us have been, through the ages, then found to be drawn in by this, as if to a mystery, compelling our best intuitive, analytical and reactive efforts – and, our recognition?

That which is just beyond our reach and experience is ever of pre-eminent value.

Better to be persuaded to ponder perfection.

.

.

.

.

© 12/22/17  Ruth Ann Scanzillo      All rights those of the author, whose lowly name appears above this line. Be human, but good. There’s the challenge.

littlebarefeetblog.com