Category Archives: nostalgia

personal history; parents/grandparents; family and personal relationships

The United State of Disgrace.

The predictable effect of the synergy of intensive cacao and sumatriptan had driven her to the mud room. Clock said 7:30 (8:30 in real time/why change it, now?). With resolute intent, she tore up the east corner of its push broom, straight broom, inherited outsized jean jacket, step ladder, white garden picket fencing panels, branch pole cutter, basket of citronella, bag of broken glass, sack for Goodwill, tin sprinkling can, wire hangers, stained sofa cushion slipcover, feral cat infested throw rug, broken plastic trash can filled with aluminum freezer wraps, old DNK winter boots, flat, treadless Red Dogs – and, faded American flag, torn by the wind.

Sweeping and shaking out the grit, soil, and bug residue from the carpet rems beneath provided plenty of meditative reflection. That flag. Offered every year by a veterans’ support group, this one had seen its day, slapping and billowing to the Southwesterlies’ tune through all four seasons. Caught once too many times on the thorns of the climbing yellow blush cabbage rosebush, its edges were split and frayed. She never had obtained the proper anchor and, wrapping and taping it around the porch post had worked for the most part until, embodying its symbolic role, the weight of just everything bent the pole and the flag with it forward in a dejected, resignated bow to audience.

She’d left it like that, for several days. Something had to herald to the world that they were in trouble – led down a path of disease and death by a demagogue with dictatorial designs on their democracy. Might as well be Old Glory, from the southeast corner of West 22nd on the street where the Saraceno family had raised its generations, the Kilmers thereafter and her, barren of offspring, to occupy space for who would have known to be thirty years.

Not one to toss much, being the child of a Keeper of Functional Things ( daughter of the Great Depression), she was discriminating with the pile. Once actually clean, repositioning most of it made for a more settled layout for that corner of her world. She stood, gazing for a few moments, mentally calculating that just as much time might be spent in phase two – actually selecting out the no longer useful. Yet, best that the actual dirt was mostly gone; all malingering superficials would survive the frost for a spring purge.

That spring purge was always the goal. Except just enough sorting and stacking had a lulling, entropic effect. Even knowing, after all these years, that she’d likely never get to the second phase at all carried no power; what mattered was that she had addressed the problem. Appearances were kept. This was the way of the English, founders of their great republic. Things had to look right, even if they were entirely, inherently, wrong. A semblance of order in the midst of utter chaos was foundational, after all. How the world regarded what it saw carried pre-eminent weight in the social and domestic consciousness.

Fast forwarding with a lurch out of her pre-Revolutionary reverie, she shook the last of the dustpan’s collection into the overfilled trashcan and eyed the clock. 8:30, almost on the nose. Can ye not watch with me, one hour? Jesus had said. In that episode of 60 minutes, she’d completed just enough to convince her mother from the bed in her grave that her intentions were good and her effort realized. One corner of the mud room, down; the rest of the national disgrace, in the hands of God.

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© 10/10/2020 Ruth Ann Scanzillo All rights those of the author, whose story it is and whose name appears above this line. No copying, in part or whole – including translation – permitted. Thank you for being the good person.

littlebarefeetblog.com Originally published in My Notes at Facebook/Ruth Ann Scanzillo.

The American Girl.

This is my story. I was, from birth, an American girl. Only in America can a girl tell such a story, and only here will her story be acceptably distinct from the next.

Initially published in the 1950’s, “AMERICAN GIRL” was a magazine intended to help lead the nubile female through adolescence – her self image soundly indoctrinated and properly refined. But, that was the 1950’s. I was born too soon.

Raised by a strict subculture, its roots in sectarian Fundamentalism, I was never a subscriber to “AMERICAN GIRL” or any magazine intended solely for female teens. And, that is only the beginning.

Though born in 1957, post – 911 profiling in the United States and abroad was no news to me. I had effectively known it my entire life. Rather than systemic racism or any of its tangents (prejudice, bias), what I knew was that the way I looked consistently misled nearly everyone.

As a child, all I needed do was enter a room to be visually assessed. At maternal family gatherings, I didn’t look like any of the other cousins. While bearing inherently many of their traits – talkativeness, musical aptitude, a bit of clamoring – I would never have been named as among them by most outsiders unless one looked past the obvious.

The obvious was that my skin was a degree of brown. In those days, the term was “olive”. Neither the warm tones of the American southwest nor the African cafe au lait, it was a cooler hue given to darkening quickly under the sun’s rays and sallowing in winter.

The reason for my immediately distinct appearance was, at that time, simple; my mother’s side populated the extended gatherings, and hers was a mix of paternal Anglo-Saxon and maternal Danish/German. My father not having been raised by either parents or relations, his Napolitan/Sicilian people were never represented in my sphere. We visited them once, when I was five.

When I was just a toddler, mum would braid my long, nearly black hair. Having already borne a brilliant male child and birthed another soon after me, she might have argued too busy to dote upon her daughter with the expected buttons and bows; rather, corduroy overalls and sunsuits were the order of my apparel, mixing into the boys laundry with practical propriety given one, single exception: Sunday dress. Here, Mum’s premiere dressmaking skill shone, every even seam topstitched with rick-rack, every smock uniformly tooled, each elastic, cap sleeve unbearably scratchy with only occasional, stiffly starched lace. Perhaps for this reason alone I would grow to dread going to Meeting, what for the sheer lack of physical comfort being costumed afforded.

Once grown, I would carry a structure of frame and face that distinguished me from all who knew me well. But, those who did might have missed its significance.

Our northwestern Pennsylvania community having been founded first by Irish port fishermen and, a bit later, German machinists, its ultimately large Italian population would take claim on the city’s west side; however, my father having hailed from Boston, none of the Italians on that side of town resembled him or, more importantly, called him family. They were mostly Sicilian or Calabrese, hair black, faces round, skin not as dark, many with blue eyes. To every Italian who lived either there or on our east side, dad was “swarthy” – bearing the aquiline nose and angular jawline less familiar to their ilk.

I would inherit these features. Interestingly, Mum’s father’s nose was also regally aquiline – but, his parents being from the Cornwall coast of England, their heritage was Roman influenced. None the matter; strangers increasingly thought me a pure Italian, even first generation Rome, and nearly every one of them was sure I had been raised Catholic on the west side.

Nobody ever saw the W.A.S.P, though the revelation would sting many with surprise. My behavior never fit the image I bore. Only expressing the occasional Italianate gesticulation, my Puritanical, closed off social limits left many scratching their heads. I carried a Bible. I shunned dances, and parties, and anything likely to tempt the average teen. Mine was a life of Godly fear, and compliance was the order of my carriage.

Of natural course, college education at a nearby New York institution offered me welcome respite; there, blending remarkably well with those from “the city” or “the island” I no longer appeared odd, resembling many. And, higher learning on one of the country’s most liberal, secular campuses meant that none were judged by appearance alone. I flexed my stunted wings, learning far more than the arts and sciences, and grew to both relish and celebrate every aspect of my heretofore anomalous self.

In my case, childhood may have been one of mistaken identity; in adulthood, I now proudly represent the culmination of nature and nurture informed by as random a set of features as the melting pot will bear.

And, for that, no magazine is required.

Who is the American Girl? Allow me to introduce you. Properly.

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© 8/25/2020 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. All rights those of the author, whose story it is and whose name appears above this line. No copying, in part or whole or by translation, permitted without written permission of the author. Thank you for your respect.

littlebarefeetblog.com

“Sweet Remembrance.”

This is Felix Mendelssohn’s first “Song Without Words” (Lieder Ohne Worte), Book I. It is Opus 19, No 1 — but the title, “Sweet Remembrance”, is not found in every compilation.

To those who might be interested, this performance was recorded on Steinway Model M, short stick, Blue Yeti stereo mic set at cardioid, using the PhotoBooth platform on Macbook Pro.