Tag Archives: Baby Boomers

The Difference.

 CHAPTER 32.
The sheets and blankets rolled into their customary clump again, like a load of laundry waiting to be sorted. There was the top sheet, placed to protect the rest from animal dander; the knit blanket; the small downy; and, somewhere impossible to determine, the sheet intended to cover the body directly – never found, just felt, in a tangle, around the calves.
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At her frustration, he cursed, and tossed them all on top of her, four frozen minutes later getting out of the bed and heading to the kitchen. He was finished sleeping, after all, and it was morning on his day off; five in the morning, but morning in his world, just the same.
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She really had no definition of love, apart from her own experience; as such, it likely differed from everyone elses. When she awoke in her morning, her first thought was usually about what she could do. Might she help clean, or find something else practical that should make all his days off easier before the inevitable return to the grind? Maybe there was a gadget to acquire, or some task she could cover; maybe a food, or a practice, that could increase the quality of his health or environment.
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Then, she’d set about to do it. She’d think about what she could do, for him, and then she’d do it.

Granted, sometimes there was a failure to recognize how he might want to spend a day, or how he might want to do something or have something done. Her desires for him, in conflict with those for himself.

This is how love was expressed toward her, indeed the only way it was ever expressed in her family, and that by the mother; Great-Gramma, Mammy and then mum were ever about doing what would keep the family going – sustained, protected, cared for. It was the definition carried down by her family, and its small, exclusive, Fundamentalist fellowship; a woman, after all, born to serve.

She, however, had inherited at least half of her father’s DNA and he was nothing if not independent-minded. While primitive in scope, he’d much preferred exactly the way HE did things, even when his wife felt differently about either the quality of his efforts or the choices he prioritized.

And, that had been their fifty-plus years together; mum, serving what she determined to be dad’s needs, and he serving himself.

She couldn’t think of a single thing that dad ever did for mum. Ever. Perhaps he’d tried, early on – only to be met by her bitter ridicule of the quality thereof. Yes; that was mum – a child of the Great Depression, who’d been raised to perform tasks for her very survival. There was nobody else who knew how any better than she, and she made sure that everybody knew it.

Now, she could hear him, even with the bedroom door closed, emptying the dishwasher of its cutlery – each fork and spoon, dropping into its slot in the drawer, like water torture during World War II, she envisioned, tightening her arms over both ears. Even in spite of his particular family dynamic – absent biological father, present if abusive step dad – he’d been raised to expect a woman to care for his needs, and to place them at the top of her agenda. Even when he didnt want her to, he still ultimately expected it.

This was generational. Eventually, many women got wise to the fact that, unless they did for themselves, nothing they really wanted out of life would come to them. That was when they began to put aside enough money to buy their own cars, and then their own homes, and to make lives for themselves.

Others continued in the tradition of their forebears, by: attracting the man they’d selected; manipulating him into supporting them; and, getting their needs met through him indirectly without his realizing —  including going elsewhere, behind his back, to get what he could not or would not offer, all within the framework of the life they’d maneuvered for themselves.

But, she was part of the generation of women which broke ground and established separate identities. In her case, truly believing that she would attract a man of such quality that he would actually want an independent female who would share in the load of life. Yeah; that.

That was her generation, and it pretty much left the men who were her contemporaries blindsided; who would be left to care for them, in the manner to which they had become accustomed?

In an effort to feel worthy, her generation of men had become the step-dads of their era. The new step dads – not like those of their own, bitter experience. They’d become the ones who rode in on their steeds, fully armored, ready to love both the single woman AND her brood of offspring left by the deadbeat in his wake. Hence the acronym: SMILF (and, the title of the new Tv show): Single Mother I’d Love to F@$k.

This was hard. The women watched, from inside the houses they’d bought and the full time jobs maintained, as the vast majority of their own men selected “unwed” or divorced mothers instead of independent women to care for and love.

It didn’t surprise her, at all then, that he remained curious about his ex’s daughter, even after the death of the girl’s mother. Neither was she surprised when he became annoyed every time she asserted a need of her own, however small or petty it may have seemed to him.

Unclasping her arms from about her head she shoved away the mound of covers and sat up, her aging, overtired body fighting to right itself. His mattress, designed to absorb the body’s configuration, had no rebound capacity. On this morning, even the bed was no help.

Playing second, third, even fourth – behind the dogs, the cat and the laying hens –  on this morning, her reality had come home to roost. Only she wasn’t home. Not really.  There was an old, displaced farmhouse about eighteen minutes northwest, one she’d acquired at age twenty nine for thirty four five at eight and a quarter fixed; paying on the principal each month, she’d become its owner in just under sixteen years. For her purposes, the location had been ideal; under ten minutes, in any direction, to get anywhere in town. On this morning, still very much the middle of her night, its walls were calling. Her house, her spouse.

She just had to get back to her established domain, and nurture it for herself. Today, she must. She had learned that, in spite of the overwhelm left in its neglected wake, that home was still her own. Her comfort zone wasn’t built for her; judged however by the outside world, she. had. built. it.

Yes, she had built it, just like he had built his own. The difference was: having spent a lifetime waiting for somebody to express as much interest in trying to care for her needs and enhancing the quality of her life as she did for the man for whom she now felt love, per this morning it appeared that she was still waiting.

Perhaps he did truly love her. Maybe tomorrow, she would know. But, even in the cold car, she could already feel it. Her bed. One warm flannel, and a fleece.

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© 11/30/17  Ruth Ann Scanzillo    All rights those of the author, whose story it is and whose name appears above this line. Thanks for being that good person.

littlebarefeetblog.com

“Is love a binder of wounds?

…or, merely a lubricant on a squeaking part?

…..or, an element of transition from rough to gem?……”

——  David Michael Sammarco  ©12/1/17

 

 

 

 

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© 11/30/17  Ruth Ann Scanzillo      All rights those of the author, whose story it is, and whose name appears above this line. Thanks for being that good person.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

The Voice of My Generation.

The Chinese boy’s name was Doonk. Or, at least that’s how he pronounced it when I asked him who he was. And, he’d done everything humanly possible to make my take out buffet dinner as delectable, if gluten and soy free, as he could.

But, sometimes,  we’re just in the right place at the wrong time.

I brought my dinner home, alright. Got it all set up on the sofa, and turned on the TV.

There he was.

Catching the tail end of the finale of his live one at PBS’ Austin City Limits just a day or two before, I’d heard enough to know that James Taylor and his band of back up singers and musicians had been one of the all time best that series had ever known. The collective light in everybody’s eyes told that tale.

And, this night, the time on the clock said 7:06 p.m.; with my carefully selected repast laid out before me, I’d be able to enjoy nearly the whole hour of his concert! This was more than the old single girl had bargained for, on such a Sunday evening in early summer.

Eagerly, I dug in to my meal, glancing up every so often at the radiant face of the man who had clearly come out the other end of a life that had borne its depths with what could only be termed a riding high. Smiling broadly as he sang, segueing from one song to the next with that rare fluency that only comes with the perfect band, the perfect night, the perfect scene, the perfect moment…..he was the perfected artist. As attuned to him as if they were inside his head were the flush, back up vocals, a wailing sax, Jimmy Johnson’s solo bass, and the subtle drumming of Steve Gadd always just under the lead of his clean, smoothe tenor.

To the innocent, Taylor seemed uncontainably happy.

But, I’m old, now. Just old enough. Old enough to know most of the stories – about people, and places, and things. There’s rarely a newsbyte or a bit of sound that comes across the ticker that doesn’t, in some way, trigger an associated memory. My fascination with the pure joy emanating from Taylor’s face was informed. His was a story of triumph.

In the early years of his fame, James Taylor was our lead balladeer. When we were down, or troubled, or we just needed a helping hand, that song……..that song brought it all home, for us. We didn’t know until the next decade that his own life would rise to the heights and plummet to the pit of despair; he would come out to us, eventually, not as a spokesman, but as a confessor of sorts for the rest of the bi-polar community.

And so, as I sat over my Chinese take out, I soaked up James Taylor in his finest hour, feeling the celebratory relief of a life that had come up out of its own troubles, coasting in conquering mode.

But, as if to gently prod my sensibilities, my taste buds started talking back. How audacious of them, really, in the midst of a perfect sensory evening. What was that bitter residue that seemed to be saturating every mouthful of my banquet?

Choosing my buffet meal with alleged care for only protein sources and clean nutrition, one fleeting, personal moment of weakness had permitted two small squares of red jello to pile on before I’d closed the styrofoam container. These had, in the emerging summer heat, decided to melt. Liquified, this red stream had meandered under the whole dinner, soaking up the rice, the noodles, the cheesy potatoes, the shrimp; and, worst part was, this was the artificially sweetened variety. The whole meal had been tainted by an alien chemical; it tasted awful.

Now, everybody knows – at least, anybody who reads a nutritional report produced by health conscious experts – that artificial sweeteners are, in large part, toxic. There is a larger point, here.

My generation is in that rare place: still comparatively lucid, and able to connect vast amounts of information from the past to the present. We are in the decade of now or never, the one that nobody has to tell us is our moment. What’s important, here, is that we go beyond realizing and actually do something with it.

We can look back, while we still have perspective; we can look ahead, while we still have our health. We can make ourselves available to any and everyone who seeks to benefit from our various wisdoms, and we can do even more: we can change our course completely without any concern for the judgments of others. We can break brand new ground, with far more than the idealistic notions of our youth; we now have the freedom to make sound decisions born of  the vision that comes with the experience of knowing.

Had I been some twenty years younger, that melted red jello, that faux food would have ruined my entire evening. I would have brooded at the injustice of it all, maybe even written a letter to the restaurant owner berating his choice of dessert options.

But, James Taylor’s voice was still there, its beauty and clarity undiminished, to teach me everything I needed to know. There was a bigger picture, finally, even if I had needed almost a lifetime to see it. There would be another Sunday night, more Chinese take out to be had. Duke, as his name turned out to be, would greet me cheerily the next time, with added recognition.

And, there didn’t have to be any more melting jello embittering anything. We could all rejoice with the voice of our own, small triumphs.

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo   6/18/16  All rights those of the author, in whole and/or in part, whose name appears above this line. Thank you for your respec. Bon Appetit.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

 

We Do?

Do we ever feel like one person in our own bodies, but then see ourselves in photos and videos and think: “But…..that’s not who I thought I was?”

Our body language, the way our personalities play across our faces. It’s no small baffle, really. But, I’m talking about something else.

Maybe mine is a preoccupation of sorts, in more recent decades. Say, since 911.

Prior to that tragedy, being the Mediterranean in a room full of standard white people was the norm for me. To some, I was the “exotic” one, meaning of course that, to them, I was different. One guy actually saw me performing from a distance and thought he was looking at a girl straight from the Old Country. He told the conductor he wanted to meet “the woman from Italy”. And, his parents were both Italian. Go figure.

Hah. Ah, well. It was a fun year and a half. Too bad my shabby apartment, grey suede fringed boots, and acute lack of scholarly gravitas put him over the top. I was teaching marching band, for God’s sake; give me a freaking break.

Oh. Both my brothers have since been to Italy, the elder five times or more. The younger went to Rome on his honeymoon. Sure enough, he said: “All the women in Rome look like you. ALL of them.”

Okay, then.

After 911, I began to see something else in the mirror. I profiled myself, and was found wanting. I had the facial bones of a suspect.

Invigorated by regular summer travel, I’d been across much of Europe (though, not Italy) most recently for a third round to Scotland in August of that same year. Now, it was clear; no wonder the little children in Selkirk had stared balefully at me, their unblinking eyes wide with fear. I did not board a plane thereafter until 2006.

Now, as our American society becomes increasingly global in its representation, the Millennials seem completely immune to any effect from categorical differences. Whereas we from their parents’ generation notice Asians, Middle Easterners, and other fairly new nationalities as soon as they walk through a door, these kids never seem to look up. Or, if they do, the subject is addressed and dispensed with in some fleeting informality (“Are you, like, Thai? Okay. That’s cool.”) most probably because, among any group of six or more, there is likely to be a greater mix of types than ever before.

My problem, yes, so it is, might likely be related to having grown up surrounded by Anglo Saxons, never associating with my Dad’s side of the family. Being the brown one. Being the odd one. The boys took after mum. Being the only one.

In fact, I have a dear cousin I hadn’t seen in probably 15 years who, seated beside me at a family wake, kept repeating rather self-consciously: “You really look Italian.”

Hmm. Okay?

For all of these reasons, postulates, theories I see images of myself, and the first thought that takes shape is: ” I look like the girl whom many people don’t trust. I look like the villain. Hard, severe, and type-cast in my own body.”

For starters, people around this town, for multiple generations, saw a dark toned Medi and thought: “Roman Catholic, west side, multi-generational family; probably Sicilian, or Calabrese. Somebody’s niece. Father worked for the city.”

All wrong.

[Former] Sectarian Fundamentalist, east side, second generation; mom’s side indoctrinated English, nobody’s niece anymore. Dad was a barber, from Boston, and his father was Napolitan. Didn’t know what gnocchi was until I bought my house on the west side.

Wrote a short poem years ago. It’s in my original poetry; you can find it. “Ode to the Ethnic Child.” That’s actually the second title. The first one was: “Ode to the Unwanted Child.” Yeah, well. Changed it, when I thought such a moniker wouldn’t sell. I’m shrewd like that.

Oh, and just to deflect that percentage of the readership that is poised to find complimentary ways to respond, I’m really not addressing relative attractiveness. This is about what makes people feel warm, secure, safe, comfortable.  For all their attributes, “exotic” and “ethnic” to those who are neither, well, they don’t make that cut, do they.

See, the term “ethnic” has undergone its own evolution. Some social factions think the term applies to black folks. Still others think it must include Latinos. Really, “ethnic” to these people applies to any nationality not already appearing in their own DNA.

[ insert winking smiley icon]

As for “exotic”, many shop at Pier I because they want to add a certain element to their decor. More drama; striking texture; the unexpected image. To them, that’s exotic. Imports. These bring it.

(No surprise to anyone, I love Pier I. Feels like home, to me – !)

The interesting thing about the exotic element is, were people to be brutally honest and open they’d have to admit that decorating their entire home in exotic images, shapes, textures, and elements might just make them feel, well, a tad uncomfortable. Exotic elements are meant for accent pieces, or that one, relatively small room featured when they entertain.

Touche. Like the court jester, trotted out to amuse the King.

Now, all this would be a benign yawn were we not talking about a real person with, allegedly, a soul and a mind, a heart, feelings and, that load, needs. But, we are, see? We’re talking about a girl. With a look that didn’t match who she thought she was when she entered a room. With a presence that still might leave all kinds of misleading impressions in her wake.

In fact, this might be one of the reasons I started this blog. Beginning with those in closest proximity and reaching all the way across the planet, I sought to dispel myths. Myths, first, about myself, and then well beyond merely me to reach all those baseless suppositions that push people apart instead of bringing them together.

We, perhaps instinctively, seek our own. And, we self-segregate. Yes, we do. It’s about familiarity, which is synonymous with comfort. We don’t call ourselves bigots, because we don’t feel like bigots, and we certainly aren’t prejudiced because we hate prejudice and self-loathing is not healthy.

To one extent, I might be the only formally Caucasian woman who understands how black folks feel in American society. Or, the newest of Middle Eastern immigrants. Not because I have a rich Mediterranean heritage, because I actually don’t; my father was displaced from his immediate family at birth, remotely connected to them thereafter, and absolutely none of the customs of the Italian American were ever a part of my life.

How I do relate with these is as one who appears to be different. I know how it is to be superficially accepted, to be gently patronized, to be called “striking” (please stop), to be kept, ultimately, at arm’s length – just beyond the mainstream of power and influence. You know, like the “ethnics” in the perceived majority of American society.

Perhaps actors are the only group immune to all this agonizing self-examination. They probably take a frank look at their faces and body language in some Movement or Characterization class, acknowledge their “type”, and proceed to compile their qualifications into a series of head shots and demos. They learn to believe Who They Can Be and, by some mercy, can forget who others might think they are.

Maybe this is why, for all my life, I have been so transfixed by thespians. You know, the ones who can put on a thousand masks and be whatever their role asks of them. Who can enter any room at any given moment, and bring whatever they choose to be. I can’t imagine where they go for trust, or comfort, or any sense of reality. Perhaps they are as protective of their own as the rest of us, and place a premium on their families. But, beyond this, at least they have a community of distinctive and disparate individuals, all under the same tent – clowns, tragic heroes, buffoons, tyrants, ingenues, matrons, sages. Like the children of our generation, they look past type and see one another.

Can we do this, too?

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo  3/22/15; edited 7/12/18

all rights those of the author, whose story it is, and whose name appears above this line. Thank you.

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