Tag Archives: mothers and daughters

The Present Mind.


It’s not that I never saw what Mum saw.

It’s that I never saw as she did.

My view of Mum was always from behind. Her back ever turned, either standing at the kitchen sink or seated at the sewing machine, this was a mother intent upon managing the household. And, fulfilling this charge was the daily commitment – task by utilitarian task. Born likely of deferred dreams, to her the home was more about its daily upkeep and less about the living beings who occupied the space.

But, occupy I did.

Whether sprawled across the davenport, face embedded in the corner behind the pillow, or planted at the piano, or poured into a novel……I was there. And, what I saw while known to be was driven by the images which first appeared in my mind. Pictures; stories, entire narratives, from a single seed of thought. Though my body lived in her house, I dwelt well outside of it — inside my head.

But, to Mum, whose immediate purpose was home maintenance, anything worth vision was populated by that which dictated the next, practical move. Dishes, crusted with drying food, waiting by the sink. Dust, coating the coffee table. Cluttered magazines, sleeping with newspaper. Dirty clothes, lounging about. These, she clearly saw, every day of the week and Saturday, too.

On the unavoidable occasion which brought us both into the same room, her raised voice would sometimes penetrate the air around me. In tones of exasperation:

“Are you just going to sit there, all day?!”

There was “work” to be done. Didn’t I see it??

No. I did not.

Oh, I saw the coffee table. I saw the sink. I saw the magazines, and the newspaper, too. These were all props, in a delectable scenario which morphed every time my eyes rolled back and to the left, never requiring my interaction. But, if they captured my fancy, I might consider the contour of the sofa pillow, or the crisp leaves of paper, or the outline of the scalloped table’s edge. Perhaps I would grab the sketchbook, and draw them into the still life of a given afternoon.

But — clean them? Straighten them into regimented rows? Why spoil a good lay out? Why wreck the whole picture?

Some fifty years have passed, since Mum moved about around me in the house we called home. Now, the novel coronavirus has been upon the planet for at least eight weeks of our current lives. None of us, whether absent or present of mind, can see it in any form. All we know is its power to manifest, in potentially life threatening proportions. And, because we are nearly defenseless against such invisible, yet diabolical, intent, we must gather our senses as if to battle. We shield our noses and mouths, attacking only that which must afterwards be thoroughly washed. We count the number of steps between our feet and those of the person approaching us on the sidewalk. We stare through the windows, instead of going outside at all.

And, as we look, we are called upon to see our surroundings as our mothers did, as they appear before us demanding our command. The layout of our lives has changed, fundamentally, for as far into the foreseeable as we are able to imagine. We exist framed in an entirely new panorama, one to which we must be accountable nearly every minute. With each blink of our eye we must be present of mind, lest we be found absent, forever.





© 5/14/2020    Ruth Ann Scanzillo      All rights those of the author, whose perspective it is, and whose name appears above this line, literally.  Thank you for respecting original material.









The Missing Earring.

It happened so fast.

One final page flip, at the piano, in the midst of the soprano duo. Up went the right hand, catching the hoop and flicking it out of the piercing in my earlobe.

At a momentary break in the service, I stepped over to my pew and set the earring in my gig bag. Two Sundays and a Tuesday hence, I searched for the pair to complete a casual outfit. Only one hoop appeared.

Yesterday, the purge began.

I’d been keeping a whole lifetime of outfits, with matching accessories, for years. Probably a symptom of a life deferred. How was the daughter of strict fundamentalists to know that a career scrambled after would render an artificial social milieu which would leave her starving for the nourishment which living out her true identity would have provided? She could only manifest this subconscious realization by regularly purchasing clothes and jewelry from mail order catalogs, like shut ins who live in the country. Her world, perpetually professional, draped in black, would rarely afford her the creative pleasure of wearing any of it.

So, now seemed to be the time to dig through all the jewelry. Two hours in, and my bedsheet was gritty with dust and residue from any number of bracelets, rings, necklaces, pins and earrings.

The last wrangle of particularly intractable chains was the most resistant. A rhinestone bordered cut out heart, silver mounted, reminded me of its original owner. My first sister in law would last 13 years as a member of our family, but bequeathing to her skinny pre-adolescent equivalent this piece. I remembered wearing it, every summer at the annual Bible conference and its subsequent winter retreats, through any number of hopeful crushes and handholding in the dark. The tiny silver “R”, on its even more delicate chain, was a throwback to the lumpy fonts of the 1970s.

But, the shiny heart locket, gold in color. What was this?

I opened the heart.

Inside, a tiny photo of mum, smiling into the sun she loved so much. Given to me, only now recalling, by my cousin’s wife ( the daughter of mum’s first crush ) at the time of mum’s death.

Stroking the miniature photo with my thumb, I sat, its context returning. The locket, back then in 1995, had seemed gaudy, shiny next to my usual wardrobe. I’d been teaching elementary music, dressing most days in full theatrical costume to illustrate concepts as a human object lesson, a tactic keen student observers would take back to their methods college classes and hand off to their instructor’s eager doctoral candidate’s thesis. When out of such get up, I dressed for comfort; sweats, and flat shoes, were the order of my hopelessly nocturnal brain and interrupted sleep each morning. The locket had been relegated, with mum’s watch and the opals inherited from her Aunt Mary.

Now, twenty three years hence I sat, and remembered only my mother.

Our singular Mum, speaking to me yet again, and always during a cleaning run. Mum, always sorting everything, keeping busy, pushing down all the unrealized dreams by organizing the small but vital world over which she had domain. Mum, always with me whenever I’d “finally get around to it.” I closed the locket, and wrapped its chain around my throat, attaching the clasp.

The lost earring would take its place among the sundry and unimportant. Better to get busy and spend my remaining energy in the joy of living authentically.





© 9/12/18  Ruth Ann Scanzillo   All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Please respect the original stories of their narrators. Thank you.