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CHAPTER TWENTY SEVEN.
In spite of Ancestry.com’s insistence that her saliva-spat DNA read 55% Southern Mediterranean, she was no Greco-Roman scholar. Nor was she specifically able to hold forth on the literary genius of Shakespeare, beyond an appreciation for his Stratford-mounted plays. ( 17% U.K., or no.)
But, with appropriate portense, her high school English teachers made sure they’d all met MacBeth. And, during her maiden visit to Scotland in ’84, the most brightly colored plaid scarf beckoned her purse and she’d succumbed. Right. A perfect accent for the navy Pea coat, every winter thereafter: the curse of the MacBeth tartan.
“Beware the ides of March”, saith the thespian from the stage, in character to warn Julius Caesar of his impending murder on the 15th of the month. Yet, curiously, had she not found October to be most pivotal?
Indeed; for her, the ides of the tenth month were to be approached with caution, as they would bring with them events of undeniable shock, a cut to the very core, challenging paradigms and forever altering the course of her life.
Specifically, on or about the 18th.
Beginning on October 18, 1981, her college boyfriend, whom she’d loved with every fiber of her as yet unclaimed hymen, told her that he had lain with the psych major with the green eyes and the overbite who’d met them both on the cafeteria steps, the stare of an unblinking flounder meant only for him. Upon hearing this revelation, she’d torn up the entire Temple Street hill from the center of town, kicking and screaming through terrified, dying leaves, finally veering into the driveway of her apartment to fist pound the side of the house in rage and disbelief.
A year to the day later, she would give it up on a foam rubber mat on the floor of a generic apartment to a Hungarian Don Juan who, five days hence, was already moving on the paprika-haired piano major from the House of Mercy.
Nearly every year following, the ides of her October would press in.
Once, a pink slip; at other times, an unexpected death. Being stood up for a home cooked chicken divan, signaling the end of yet another wobbly attempt at Being The Girlfriend. Occasionally, a suddenly new someone, or next enterprise. But, always a one – eighty, as if some spectral plumber had put a plunger to the top of her head, twisted, and physically plopped her onto some obstacle course, in unspeaking terms: “Now, you will be going this way. Don’t bother watching your step.”
So, it was with lessoned trepidation that she approached her ides, should they occur to her in real time; but, when inattentive: blindsided.
Such was the case in 2016.
The boys and their mother bounded into the kitchen with their customary aplomb, the youngest always ready with a minxy commentary infused with a delightful inflection that rendered him irresistible. The eldest, enduring a growth spurt these days, had been arriving more thoughtfully, less likely to have anything to say, but still sprinting to the sofa and the latest of her storybooks to bury his whole body behind the throw pillows until time came for his turn.
These were her prize students. The firstborn a cellist, he’d won a scholarship competition only months before; the younger on violin, their mother an experienced violinist herself, this was a family that was committed both to the process and the philosophy which founded it. She was a Suzuki-registered instructor, they were a Suzuki family, and nothing would ever break their equilateral triangle, ever.
Except the ides of October.
The announcement came so casually. The youngest, in the midst of disclosing he “hadn’t practiced” because they’d been in Kentucky.
Kentucky? No family there, no reason? The little one said it:
She’d had other families leave the area. One, after less than a year, all the way to the Southwest. But, this family had been part of her life for over four years, and had begun to occupy her fantasies, those of a private teacher hoping for at least one student who’d see it all the way through to a major career. Never in a million did she expect them to just disappear.
The tears were immediate. What would she ever do without them? Their mother cried, too. Hugs, and more tears. The ministry had called the boys’ father to another parish, several states south, and there was no argument; they would be gone by mid-December.
The glorious maple across the street, visible through the living room windows, was grateful for another unseasonably warm October day. Much rain and cold had threatened to swipe its leaves before they’d reached peak performance. But, even as she watched, more orange flames seemed to ignite before her eyes. The season would run its course; the leaves would be spectacular once again, and then they would descend.
She had become more tenacious as she aged. Always in search of solutions which sustained, less inclined to accept finality in any form. Technology was a ready tool; they could Facetime on a Smart TV, after all, every week. This would even be fun.
The MacBeth tartan had been hiding in the bottom of the bureau drawer. Whether or not it could still wield a stab to the heart from that vantage point was up to the gods.
But, there was no denying the power of October. Like the fortune cookie foretold:
” There is nothing permanent except change.”
Et tu, Brutus?
© Ruth Ann Scanzillo 10/18/16 All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Thank you for your respect.
The management of the Pittsburgh Symphony has threatened its musicians with a lock out, attempting to impose a pay cut which would reduce them to a second tier orchestra, and making noise about hiring substitute players.
THE MEMBERS OF THE ORCHESTRA HAVE CHOSEN TO PERFORM, ANYWAY!
Since Friday night’s concert was to have been CMU night (Carnegie – Mellon), Carnegie-Mellon University has graciously provided their Kresge Theater as a venue, and the musicians will perform Friday, after all – FREE, to all public, including those who had already purchased tickets to hear the originally scheduled concert at Heinz Hall.
The concert begins at 8:30pm. this Friday, October 7th, at Kresge. God knows where that is, but I’ll find it.
I’m so proud of these musicians. This is just a brilliant solution – bring your audience with you!!
We are there.
Ruth Ann Scanzillo, principal cello, ERIE CHAMBER ORCHESTRA, ERIE PA
AF OF M LOCAL #17.