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Aunt Ruth Ann.

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Perhaps it was last night, or the night before. All I know is, time stopped for me.
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In fact, I managed to miss the entire Smoky Mountain conflagration which, as it turned out, should have occupied my riveted attention; several old friends, who owned precious property, endured devastating loss in that fire.
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Fact is, we all endure all sorts of losses as we age. Most notably, once our parents are gone, we confront the deaths of former classmates. These really hit home. They remind us that the end of life isn’t just for the bodies that house our elderly; like the princess said in Braveheart: “Death comes to us all.”
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But, last night, or the night before, when time stopped, I was very much alive. All my senses were primed. I was teeming. And, this made what happened all the more deadly.
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Having just returned from my family reunion, planned by our eldest brother to be held over Thanksgiving, I’d begun decompressing and trying to process what felt like a thousand emotions. This seemed best accomplished by getting the two hundred plus photos off of my phone and uploaded onto Facebook, so the family could finally have them.
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But, what a chore. A task. Normally one I enjoyed, being an amateur photog and a rather developed visual artist, this time the cognitive dissonance clawed through my psyche like a blade across glass.
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I’d been invited to Kentucky by the brother who lived there. He was determined to bring our family, fractured since mum’s death and apart since dad’s, into the same room. He was also desirous that we all see his masterpiece, the new home into which his family had finally moved after selling the one they’d occupied for several years right next door. A PhD in Chemistry, he’d spent his professional life as a medical lab director, but his real love was construction and he’d built this house from scratch.
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At first, I balked; a professional musician, I’d been asked again to perform continuo for yet another Bach Cantata which, according to its rehearsal schedule, conflicted with any trip south for the holiday. But, there was a new baby in the family, one whose adorable face I had seen so many times in the Feed. And, my niece and her husband would be driving all the way from Florida to be with everyone. In all likelihood, I would have only this one chance to see and hold the child before her precious years were relinquished; so, when a suitable, qualified sub became available, I booked a flight.
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As the weeks went by, I knew in my heart that seeing this baby would not be my singular focus, nor would my presence there be the reason anybody else in the family would have made the trip. I knew that I, among the nearly twenty guests in that house, would probably be the least welcome. I was the one nobody really knew.
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From childhood, I had been relegated to the role of female in a sectarian, patriarchal belief system which rendered our family fraught by a power structure which would upend my ability to find any place in the larger society. For every freedom my brothers enjoyed, I had a restriction imposed. My life choices, once I had finally come of age, were made with very great and radical defiance – even if, to the majority of civilized people, these were nothing more than the decision to pursue higher education and live independently. But, guilt and fear, borne in me by the patriarchs’ dogma, ruled my motivation matrix; I remained close to my parents, studying at a university only an hour from home and taking employment within the school district which had raised our entire family.
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My brothers had both long since left town. They had each established homes and families several states south. Their autonomy from our parents seemed complete. It would take our mother’s death for me to discover how dependent upon her support they had actually been over the years; in truth, though I lived a mere ten minutes away and my sphere of influence seemed small, I had without realizing it the greater degree of independence.
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But, to offset my independence both from the family and the system in which I was raised, and to prove to my mother that I was not the lazy and worthless child who refused to lift a hand to help her around the house, I became a workaholic. Seven days a week, from September to June, I worked. Apart from the scant fifteen minutes the orchestra took to break during rehearsal, I had no social life; following the Saturday night band competitions and concerts, when Sunday came my voice was so tired I’d spend the entire day mute, resting it for the onslaught ahead. (And, the first three weeks of summer were the cumulative version of a Sunday off; decompression was the game, played alone.) Beginning in August already, I taught competitive marching band; then, choir, chorus, strings, stage band, and private lessons from one end of the county to the other; and, then, packed my cello and drove to symphonic rehearsal four nights out of seven twice per month and again for the pops weekend. I had no time at all for any human beings on earth, unless they were part of my days and evenings at work.
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My eldest brother married, divorced, married again. His children were born. I was rebuked for my alleged, rumored lifestyle as he folded diapers, reduced to tears, leaving their home never to visit again apart from family birthdays. When they moved west, I was absent from their lives.
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My younger brother finally married, age 31. His children were born. As both brothers each moved their families hither and yon, from Arizona to the Bahamas to the Carolinas, I was not there. I was working.
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Several of the photos were just awful. The baby would not smile. Not for me. (Granted, her mother was bedridden with a familial migraine.) But, neither would anybody else. The body language of my family screamed the enmity they felt in my presence.
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Yes. There had been, as mum used to call it, “words.” We’d had our “words”, over the years. Most of mine had occurred in bursts, my being backed into a psychic corner by crushing ridicule, passive aggressive slander, embodying the butt of every sly joke, the subject of every snicker, the unblinking, staring scowl of every boy child and girl who had been taught to revile the aunt who was never there.
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When finally ready to post the photos, I chose to couch them in what I thought was an uproariously hilarious montage of parody, using the most distorted images among them and captioning each with what I was sure would lend levity to our miserable inability to just accept each other.
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My timing couldn’t have been worse. What ensued was a backlash from one nephew which caused me to recoil in horror. I’d had neither any earthly idea he felt such contempt for me, nor that he would choose to become the second family member to condemn me publicly.
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The Bible warns us to honor our father and mother, so that our days may be long on the earth. Three psychics have independently offered, unprovoked, that the world will be stuck with me for quite awhile. My parents, in the omniscience of Abraham’s bosom, now know how desperately I loved them both. They know how helplessly I endured inexpressible love for my brothers’ children. And, they know how I have tried since to carry on without a family of my own.
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I just hope that you, dear reader, can find it in yours to forgive my long winded, self absorbed, “unrepentant”, as my nephew David intoned, “hard heart”. Though he warns me that I may very well die alone, when time finally truly stops for me he may be surprised to know that all the fires in my life will at last be quenched and the blessing of solitude will grace me indefinably.
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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo   11/30/16     All rights reserved. Write your own story. I double dog dare ya.  Thanks.
littlebarefeetblog.com
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To the Third Power.

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In my senior year of high school, due to an oversight by the guidance counselor, I ended up choosing a higher math class instead of taking civics. Hated math, quit the homework, ended up with a D in the final, and saw my class standing drop from 18 to 26 – missing the highest honors by just a few points. It wasn’t until the last week of school that somebody told me I didn’t even need that math class to get accepted into college.

Nothing makes my blood hit boil faster than being told I should have done something differently.  Oh, except, maybe, being told that I should have done differently because my actions will have had a negative effect on outcomes, whether mine or those of another.

Since birth, I have been a creative. This means that, without knowing whence the impulse originates, I have been moved to make something – whether story, song, or visual image – and that, daily. Sometimes hourly.

Creatives don’t take kindly to being assessed for either their inherent value or the value of that which they are producing. During the creative process, there is no conscious attempt to meet any external standard. Praise is always thrilling, but that comes after the process has come to a close, and has no direct cause/effect relationship to the process itself.

Deadlines are the bane of the creative. We use time according to the nature of what is being made. If external deadlines are imposed, total control over the outcome is interrupted, and the quality of the end product correlates directly.

However, even in the life of a creative there are processes that take a line of reasoning, instead. Rather than make something, we are sometimes called upon to draw conclusions about events or people, taking any action where deemed appropriate.

Major decisions, regarded as important both by self and others, this creative makes with very great deliberation. Weighing multiple factors, I seek out as much information/data as can be obtained.  Once I determine that I have sufficient data, I draw my conclusion and then I act.

Now, such data to me might be factual, or it might be impression-based. It might be intuitive, knowing no linear path, or historically correlated. I suspect that what is required of the brain during the creative process is brought to bear in this reasoning, but how or where or wherefore I could not say.

What is key: I determine that I have sufficient data at the moment when I see my conclusion in sight.

With regard to the recent Presidential election, I can safely say that I spent hours of days over a period of many months gathering data, and then deciding which factors played a role in what I determined independently to be the priorities.

The wild card factor played a significant part in my readiness to meet its deadline.

When that wild card played, I came upon a vital collection of data within a time frame that had a rather sudden death effect on my final decision. Up until that point, I had gathered a wealth of impressions, and some facts; but, my nagging intuition kept informing the process, suggesting conclusion. This vital collection of data was historically relevant in nature; once I entered it into the equation, my entire body released all inner tensions. I knew that I had reached conclusion.

At that point, my vote was ready to be cast.
I chose a third party candidate, one occupying the outermost fringe of the landscape.

Post election, the uproar about those of us who chose to do so was almost violent. An entire army of party driven players since declared, some using allegedly mathematical calculation, that we who chose a third were the single, collective entity which decided the outcome of the election. And said party, convinced in their own minds that said outcome was absolutely vital to the survival of the species, deigned to pronounce the most condescending of judgments upon us.

No challenge to either the reasoning or the relative value of any voter’s decision is relevant, here. By applying a tiny percentage of votes not cast for one candidate to a total outcome, and discounting the massive percentage which weighted the lion’s share for the other candidate, those who do so only make themselves out to be Draconian imperialists, runt Napoleons pretending to fight Goliath with a jelly bean.

Being reactionary serves no one. Indulging in melodrama inhibits constructive solution. The third party may have wielded a mighty little exponent; but, each majority on either side of the equation still bears the responsibility of solving for x.

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo  11/10/16     All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Thank you for your respect. I Voted. Pardon Julian Assange.

littlebarefeetblog.com

The Brother Girls.[final edit]

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You’ll find us, easily.  We stand out, in a crowd, even when we’re sitting down.

We’re the girls who are seen out with one guy, who isn’t our boyfriend, for dinner.

Or, drinks. Or, in meetings. Or, in church. Or, at the concert, or the game, or wherever people spend any time at all together.

We’re the lone ladies who come from a family of boys. We’re the Brother Girls.

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I grew up in a brother “sandwich”: one older; one younger. They were quite far apart in age, but the younger was born only two years after me and, because our family was poor without realizing it (thanks to Mum), my little brother and I shared a bedroom until I was 10 years old.

Yes. We talked in the dark, across the room. We heard each other’s secrets, longings, and troubles – just like two sisters. (This, I found out from my girl cousins, a couple of whom lived around the corner and across the street.)

He and I would observe our elder brother, from the distance of age and experience, his activities and escapades filling us with wonder and admiration. I became aware of my little brother’s feelings toward our elder brother, and how they differed from those of my own as sister to each of them.

I learned the art of the boy.

But, as we grew, and encountered puberty, what made us distinct became both more apparent and less amenable to such closeness in proximity. Nevertheless, our emotional dynamics, and the patterns which would shape them, would be set forever.

I believe that women who grow up surrounded only by brothers have a perspective on human relationship specific to the needs of the opposite sex which may elude families of sisters. To many girls, their fathers are their model for the role men will play in their lives; to those with brothers, the models are as varied as the number of boys in the house.

Furthermore, in the absence of other girls, the sister to brothers has a relationship with their mother which is distinguishable from that of the brothers with the same mother. More on that, in a bit.

Brother Girls. We are, first and foremost, comfortable around men. We relax when they enter the room. Generally, they make us feel “at home.” We tend to treat them as familiar to us, even when we haven’t been formally introduced. To others, women with sisters, men without sisters, this behavior might seem forward, or driven by a need to dominate. It isn’t; it’s just our habit.

Men without sisters, for whom girls have played a more distant role ( not having been a part of their family’s ethos) prefer to idolize women. They place a set of expectations upon them, based in the model of their mothers, which are often subjected to disillusion. But, women who crave feeling special, in this way, perhaps due to neglect or trauma, seem nearly perfect for such men.

A brother girl, however, may squirm under the gaze of adoration. Such body language may even provoke from us an amused chuckle. We are far too wise about ourselves, and them, to buy into this brand of fawning. Burping and farting are far more easily tolerated than milky eyeballing and flattery.

(Important to include, here, would be those whose mothers have had a negative affect on men’s lives. In this case, and sadly, misogyny rules the roost.)

Brothers who had one sister may always need to be close to women. Additionally, upon marrying they may confuse the role of wife with that of mother, and continue to seek out the company of other women in search of their newly absent sister.

Why?

The lone sister plays the role of confidante in the lives of her brothers. She learns that their needs are both deep, sometimes confounding, and often persistently unmet. In turn, she learns that mutual revelations are bonding, and is more than ready to forge these. I will not reveal in this forum what I have both been told by my brothers, nor what I have disclosed to them, but I can say that no topic has either been off limits or alarming. It’s as if the brother and sister can confront anything, and that fearlessly.

Now, girls with sisters who are reading this piece might be reaching peak saturation annoyance. They may be thinking: “I have the very same relationship with my sister as you do with your brother.”   Right. Of course. Who’s arguing?

I might. I might suggest that, while similar, they are not parallel. Men and women, countless studies keep implying, do not think the same way. They view neither themselves nor the world identically, either. After all, society’s constructs dictate much of their response, and the history of gender bias in the workplace speaks for itself. No. Brothers need sisters not only to make sense of their feelings; they need them to make sense of their role in the lives of women.

In truth, every permutation of gender in any family dynamic has its pros and cons. In addition, the role of negative and positive influence cannot be ignored. But, I offer this piece from an informed perspective; how I view men is directly the result of my experience with those who lived in my family.

But, what of girls without brothers? Here, I can only speculate. Perhaps a lone girl without a brother forever subjects herself to men, either with joy due to having had a loving father, or with reluctance and fear for the opposite reason. However, in families of many sisters, the league of women may rise and overtake the father’s role, leading to future relationships between such sisters and their husbands marked by female domination of such total affect so as to render the men, at least at home, virtually subservient. I know this, because my mother was one of four sisters.

Now, I would be remiss were I to end this piece without addressing the dynamic between brother girls and other women.

Sister siblings, and brother girls, in the spirit of compatibility, are the least congruous. They have completely different views of men, and play equally distinct roles in the lives of men. Furthermore, because of their blind spot with regard to relating to each other’s experience, they tend to judge one another – and, somewhat harshly.

Brother girls tend to view sister siblings’ relationships with men as immature, lacking in insight or empathy. And, sister women likely see brother girls as a threat to the security of their own culture of female dominance. To them, brother girls don’t care enough about people, or children, nor do they possess any social finesse. And, the fact that their husbands disagree with them about such women is a source of contention and strife.

It may be true that brother girls appear to care more about men than women. But, this may be nourished by a cocktail of familiarity and experience; we are, after all, what we know and, increasingly, who we know. I, for one, have had a lifelong problem trusting women; yet, perhaps it is only sister siblings to whom I am reacting in this way.

I do know that I adore men, men of every type and persuasion. From the vantage point within my brother sandwich, I learned to value their dry wit, fierce intellect, brute strength, and inventive resourcefulness. From my father, I learned to desire creative genius and musical gift. And, from our mother, I learned that a woman should never be either subject or ruler.

So, brother girls, unite; we are, after all, in league with the canines. We are man’s best friend.

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo  10/27/16    *inspired by Margaret Andraso, who takes credit for the title. All other rights those of the author, whose story it is, and whose name appears above these two lines.  Thank you, boys.  ❤

littlebarefeetblog.com