Tag Archives: Alice Munro

Bare Feet.

CHAPTER 42.

Surely he could feel the peeling, dead skin on her heels.

His hands, wide and thick, had never reached for her feet before and, to her, the nearly thirty minutes of gentle massage seemed out of character; generally self absorbed, he would more typically nestle, head in her lap, whenever they would share the couch.

His sofa was leather, and lacking in any spinal support; hers, much cheaper kettlecloth, had the firmest foam rubber money could buy – a lesson from the faux suede Oxford grey which had slept herself and so many from ’86 to ’99, its cushions heavenly soft until morning told the aching tale.

She was surprised the old faux grey had remained, after the divorce. Its presence had become a nagging reminder, not of waking lower back pain but of the curious ritual which would stain it thereafter.

Her mother in law’s visit, while uninvited, had been endured as part of a special delivery; she’d found them the perfect dining room table with six cained chairs and completed the compulsion by dismantling and packing the entire set, piece by piece, into the back of the Isuzu for the nearly eight hour trip from Vermont in time for her son’s birthday. Their inextricable bond was soon confirmed when, hardly twenty minutes after unload and assembly, the two of them settled onto the sofa for what had become a familiar session of mutual foot rubbing. Baring their feet, each took turns providing the other massage, oblivious of the intrusive third party who actually owned the house and all furnishings already found therein.

Decades hence, the old grey’s frame moved to the curb and only a cushion or two salvaged for floor seating in the loft, its Carolinian love seat substitute since replaced by her current, scarlet red she’d learned to recognize ritual behavior. Now, her own feet in the hands of one living out his own subconscious fantasy, she’d felt like an object – not of affection, but of surrogate need. The same one with whom he so vitally had to meet earlier that very day, herself worthy of his deceit, had been described by another, who knew, to enjoy end of day, hour long foot massage; as such, he’d spent the beginning of his first hours of official retirement in search of her company. Only a global viral pandemic could stand between his hands and her feet. The one already exposed would have to serve, instead.

No more romancing, real or imagined, in this house. Self preservation was Job #1.

She was by herself, at home today. Leaning forward on the firm foam rubber, she stood. The house had plenty to say, were walls and hardwood floors to talk. Time for her lone, bare feet to add their prints to the story.

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© 3/26/20     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 reconstituted alteration, allowed.  Sharing permitted only by permission of the author. Thank you for respecting original material.

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The Sweet Nature.

 

Some people are born to it.

There are all kinds of traits which, science is now disclosing, are expressed rather automatically because, well, they appear as genes along the strands of our DNA helix. We are so proud, we humans; we’d like to think that we never intended to be the person we actually are.

But, in large part, we get dealt a hand and then the game plays itself out.

Or, does it?

My mother was one of four daughters. Her father’s name was Henry Thomas Sweet. He said his parents were from Cornwall, on the English coastline. Ancestry.com lists:

“This Anglo-Saxon last name has three origin theories. First, it is a baptismal surname meaning “the son of Sweet”…. Second, it derived from the nickname “the sweet”, a good, pleasant, or agreeable person, from the Middle English word swete. The old English personal (first) names Sweta and Swete also derive from this word and may by the source of the surname. Third, as asserted by William Arthur in his book An Etymological Dictionary of Family and Christian Names, the name refers to a Swede, a person from Sweden or who was native to that country. Fourth, it can be an Anglicized version of the German/Jewish surname Suess ….. The given names Suet and Suot were documented in the Domesday Book of 1086 AD, which was a survey of England and Wales ordered by William the Conqueror. Fifth, the book English Surnames by Mark Antony Lower claims it’s a nickname for a person “who has either a vinegar face or a foxy complexion”.

Hah.

One wonders if “agreeable and pleasant” married “a vinegar face or foxy complexion” to form the genetic expression handed down to me by my mother’s father.

“Sweetness”.

Sort of a vague reference to guileless, I guess. Gentleness comes to mind, in tandem, along with pleasant countenance. Ain’t no bitch face in the sweet one.

I can say that “The Sweet Girls”, as they became known – Dora Mae; Lydia Elisabeth “Betty”; Frances Magdalene, and Martha Louise, if ever they bore common “sweetness” would have largely been due to the nature of their mother, Mae. Rather, each had an immediate feistiness, manifest more readily by the first, third, and fourth born. Mum’s was demonstrated on her own turf, where she ruled the roost with a formidable tone, but hidden in public behind a radiant grin and a gullibility born of her Aquarian dreams.

So, what’s in a name? Any number of ultimate aspects, all of them inherited.

Mary M. “Peggy” Zeppenfeld, however, was truly sweet. She was a flute player, in the Erie Chamber Orchestra and Erie Philharmonic, and a music teacher. Her students adored her. Her family adored her. Her colleagues did, too. She was “kind”. She was “devoted” to her students, and to music education, an “extraordinary teacher”, generous of spirit. Her maiden name was Munro, Irish to Scotland to fight for William Wallace. Robert Munro served Robert The Bruce; Alice Munro would descend to write sterling short stories, her characters never socially important but always both starkly recognizable and memorable.

Peggy Munro was entirely without ego. Preferring to observe from a distance, watch she did; I can remember more than once looking up, from my seat at the front of the orchestra we shared, to see her gaze directed at me. Peggy was keenly aware; she likely picked up signals from body language that others missed entirely. Perhaps she was just alarmed by any number of reactions which I so irrepressibly demonstrated, but I often wondered if Peggy was the only musician in the room who perceived my needs. Whenever I felt frustrated, or dismissed, or ignored, I could feel Peggy’s eyes on me.

Peggy’s career in the world of professional performance wasn’t so brief – 25 uncelebrated years. Like me, she came to it all by default, receiving an appointment at a time when someone with her qualifications seemed right. And, just as quietly, when the players at the card game increased in power and might, she lay down her hand and bowed out.

This past week, Peggy died. She was only 55 years old, nobody with the power or might to prudently diagnose the disease which took her life having stepped up to save it. And so, another sweet one escaped the earth, to leave behind all those whose hearts hurt because they were so touched.

And, these were innumerable. So many young, eager students. So many colleagues. So many family and friends. And, even one such as I, from the distance between her eyes and mine.

I will miss you, too, Peggy.

Perhaps some are born to live briefly. All are born to die.

It’s the nature of life.

Thank God for those who are born to bring the sweet.

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Mary M. “Peggy” Zeppenfeld

January 1963 – January 2019

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© 1/19/19   Ruth Ann Scanzillo.  All rights those of the author, who can be sour, and whose name appears above this line. Thank you for respecting this tribute.