Friday, September 9, 2016

Fall Session Writing Lab - Week #1 - Connections

Engaging the Active Imagination: Writing as Activism (Fall Session)

Writing prompt
  • Describe a profound connection you've made with someone or something, recent or historical

"How do you spell that?" I asked.
"R-A-G-A-Z-Z-I. You can look me up," she said, "I'm the only Ragazzi in the phone box and have been for as long as I can remember."
I first met Deborah Ragazzi in her neighbor's front yard next to the second-hand shirts, plants, blouses, and skirts  strung up on the rusted wire clotheslines, beside the tin trinkets of past holidays and other occasions. I had just finished a meal on the St. Mary's strip near Trinitiy University along the outreaches of the Monte Vista neighborhood. I decided to go for a walk and found myself meandering down Mistletoe Avenue. The sign read YARD SALE. It was fall and she was wearing strapped open-toed sandals with faded black capri pants and a floral printed three-quarter sleeve v-neck shirt. Her whispy salt-and-pepper hair strayed stiffly from a black felt summer hat she wore so low you couldn't see the expresson on her face, at least not from my height. "What do you want?" and "What are you looking for?" was all you could get from a weathered, raspy smokers' voice until you stepped closer to engage her. I was surprised the sale was still going, I said as I walked up to the table of used wares.
"Oh, yeah we made a whole thing out of it," she said, "Food, music, but not too loud."
There were the typical big box television sets from the '90s, checkered tablecloths, wooden chairs with legs missing, children's clothes, bibs, and play things.
"Anything in particular?" She asked.
"No, not really," I said.
Remember, this was evening in the fall when the sun sets sooner and we found ourselves in what photographers call the "golden hour". Everything had been set aglow by six o' clock, casting a spell of enchantment over the entire residence. In fact, the reason I walked over to the sale was for a friend I kept in mind who found the greatest joy in rummaging through the antique shops and thrift stores. "Antiquing", she called it. Performing a cost-benefit analysis of the resale value of this kind of stuff was the furthest thing from my mind and so I continued to turn things upside down, inside out and all around.  And that's when they appeared: The little things.
"Oh, your friend's a miniature collector," Deborah said.
"A what?" I asked.
"Miniatures," she said, "the little things. That's what the little things are called."
Indeed there were tiny train cabooses and a hand made ceramic jug to fit in the size of my palm and other figures scattered about the maroon sateen table cloth.
"How much do you wante for them?" I asked, thinking small size - low cost to myself. This pleased Deborah greatly.
"Oh, are you kidding me? Everything's got to go today. Here," she said as she placed the items in my hand and folded my fingers to secure a fist, "I'll give them to you, instead."
And there was the connection.
"What else have I overlooked?" I asked with a sly smile.
She began to pull other collectables hidden in plain sight from underneath the table cloth: A painting from a student taught by her ex-husband, an artist.
"...there's this shirt (pointing), and here's the feet," she said. "And he drew the same thing over and over and over again."
She spoke highly of her ex-husband: "He was an amazing artist."
She spoke lowly of her ex-husband: "But a starving artist, you know."
I felt there was something special about Deborah Ragazzi and mabye she felt something from me as she began to open up and share her story with me.
She's lived in San Antonio, Texas her entire life. Ragazzi was her married name. Her ancestors crafted all the stained glass windows inside Temple Beth-El on the corner of Ashby and Lewis next to San Antonio college in the Laurel Heights neighborhood. Sternwirth? Stern-something. I can't recall so I'll ahve to make a trip to the temple to see for myself. (to be continued...)