Category Archives: psychology

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.

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© 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

 

 

 

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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.

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© 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

 

 

The Gift Card.

 

 

Last week, I thought I’d found it: the perfect Xmas gift.

In fact, it seemed perfect for BOTH of my oldest, and dearest, friends.

Free food. Who could possibly reject free food – for the whole family, for a solid week, brought to their doorstep, complete with all supplemental ingredients and specific instructions as to how to prepare each meal for a truly gourmet dinner? And, how truly practical, as well; who enjoyed taking time to grocery shop during the holidays?

Yet, there it was: Hello, Fresh! the company – and GROUPON, the third party offering a discount that just could not be ignored.

Eagerly, I clicked on the appropriate online link, and ordered the products as Gifts. Filled out the forms, paid with PayPal, and off they went. So enthused was I a big, pink Facebook post followed; I’d found t.h.e. perfect Christmas present.

At first Lisa, my old college housemate, was ecstatic. She’d just sold their house in NY, was closing on the new one in the LA burbs in just days and starting a new job within the week…..this, she said, was a “godsend.”

Well, God’s been busy. It’s the holiday season, after all and, in these times, He’s had to field all manner of religious holy weeks and festivals and fasts and, well, who would want that job?

PROBLEM #1: How would this [free food] be shipped to either of my friends (in California), if their addresses had not been filed by GROUPON?

Oh.

The Voucher.

There was a Voucher, a Gift Card of sorts, which had to be printed by the Gift recipient who, in turn, needed to sign on to the site to select the meals. I quickly emailed my friend, with the heads up.

In between viewing job prep clearance videos and appointments for the requisite physical, she’d managed to open the email and become thoroughly confused. Perhaps she’d wait until her husband came home from his job as cartoon editor at Warner Bros. He’d make heads and/or tails of why she couldn’t seem to.

PROBLEM #2: And, this was huge. Access to the menu selection site. GROUPON, she said, was actually asking the gift recipient for credit card info, claiming some “ongoing subscription” requirement.

WHAT??! Did I do this to my two, best friends?!

Over on the other side of the county Alex, whom I’d called Sandy since first grade, was beyond any gratitude; she was incensed.

To her, self-employed business owner for decades, the whole thing felt so impersonal, and annoying, and no way was she entering any credit card info in order to receive food or anything else alleged to be a “gift.”

Several texts and emails later, far longer than it would have taken to coast over to the nearby department store for its weekly Tuesday Over 55 sale, true story: Hello, Fresh!, greedy as they came, in cahoots with GROUPON, the latter offering a discount to the giver, was roping the gift recipient into some ongoing subscription contingency; in short, no Hello, Fresh! meals delivered unless membership was first established which, of course, everybody knows, could be Cancelled At Any Time By Calling The Number On The WHAT??

My wallet was already filled with Gift Cards. There were 5 bucks left on the Bed, Bath & Beyond; at least one bookstore; and, now defunct, a local Mall card so old so as to carry an actual expiration date – meaning, in spite of the money put down by my former students’ parents, after a certain date that chunk of cash was doomed to the ether, or Bank of America, whichever held out solvency longest.

I’ll give you Cancel At Any Time.

I’ve got your number.

Commercial America: you want attention?

I’ll send you a card.

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© 12/13/17  Ruth Ann Scanzillo    All rights those of the author, whose story it is and whose name appears above this line. Be a good person; it’s free.

littlebarefeetblog.com