April 13, 2019

Chapter 05 - Another Cannata?

Another Cannata?

     I learned early in life that when someone asked me if I was a Cannata it was never a good thing to answer too quickly. "Are you a Cannata?" was a question I asked almost everyone that I met in my house while growing up and never considered it a dangerous exercise. I liked almost all the Cannatas I met in my house and, since there were so many, once I started to go out into the neighborhood I naturally assumed I would meet even more. Cannatas were everywhere as far as I knew and, so far, every one of them was related to me.

     However, I discovered in a not so pleasant way that not everyone felt the same way about Cannatas as I did. The first time I recall being asked by someone I didn't know if I was a Cannata and saying "Yes!" excited at the prospect of meting a new relation, I promptly received my very first punch in the nose. That punch resulted in my very first bloody nose as well. It also resulted in my learning a very important lesson in life. Whenever asked, you should always find out why someone wants to know if you're a Cannata before answering.

     It was the first time I met someone that I had never met before who clearly didn't like me at all. I had no idea who he was but, being a very bright child, I figured out right away that he was most likely NOT a Cannata! I had no idea why he punched me with such enthusiasm either until he explained.

     It was an explanation that, while uttered in different ways and with different words by many different people throughout the years, basically summed up the dilemma I would be up against all my life. Put in its simplest terms, it essentially explained all the animosity I was to encounter in my life growing up.

     "My brothers don't like your brothers!" my assailant explained, "Cannatas suck!"

     I soon learned that he was not the only person of the opinion that "Cannatas Suck" either. My brothers and sisters it seemed had set an example in the past that I was to be held accountable to in the future. The neighborhood rivalries, the various families and their warring factions had deep roots that went back long before the New Year's Eve I was conceived.

     Like the Hatfield and McCoy families, the feuding had started long before I was born. Unfortunately,it seemed I was born on the losing side. In my house I was Michael. It got too confusing if we all called each other just Cannata. But I wasn't Michael when it came to the way I was identified by those outside my house. To everyone else on my street I was part of a larger brood of miscreants. I wasn't an individual; I was one of them!

     I was "Another Cannata"

     For many years I thought the word "Another" was in someway a part of my family surname. And nowhere was being "Another Cannata" and the burden that came with the title more obvious than school. It was when I started to go to school that being a Cannata also became something akin to a disability.

     I went to school before school integration triggered neighborhood disintegration. Unless you went to private or "Catholic" schools, every kid in the neighborhood went to the same local school. In those early days the elementary grade teachers were usually well established, long serving, older women who had many years at the same school under their belt. They always knew your older brother or sister, if you had one, because they had been their teacher as well. They seemed to know every student's parents by name and had a good grasp of the local families' neighborhood history and social standing.

     Each year in school, starting a new grade, with new classmates and a new teacher, the first roll call would kick off the new school year. It was the time I hated the most about school. The teacher would read the names alphabetically and, as was usual, the student would respond.

     "Adams", she would say. "Here," would come the reply.

     "Baker"… "Here"… "Brennan"… "Here"… and so on until the she hit the "C's"

     Without fail, every year, when the teacher reached my name the same startled and confused look would cross her face. She would check it once or twice, muttering to herself something along the lines of "really?" or "this can't be right." Once sure of what she was seeing it would come out, sounding very much like a question, an exclamation and a curse uttered as a single statement; "Another Cannata!?"

     She then of course would stare directly at me and her stark attention would result in the rest of the class doing the same. The result was, every year, I would start the first day of school the same way. I would be identified, classified and, usually in less than an hour, I would wind up being stared at like some exotic new exhibit at the Planet Earth Zoo.

     It was where I started to develop my flair for quick and clever responses to obvious statements and uncomfortable situations.

     "Another Cannata?" the teacher would say.

     "Where"? I would yell and start looking around the room like the rest of the class pointing at other kids and saying "Who, you?" Sometimes it would be something like, "Omigod, another teacher?" or "and there's more where I came from, too!" or "God save us all!" and then run screaming from the classroom.

     Once they recovered from the shock, depending on the teachers past experience they would begin the process of trying to relate to me and establish the base for our future student/teacher relationship. Some Cannatas it seemed were not so bad while others had left some serious emotional scars on the teacher.

     If the experience was a pleasant one it would usually be my brother, Jimmy, or my sister, Toni, who was responsible for the favorable impression..

     "I had your brother, Jimmy, in my class. I hope you're going to be as good as he was," She would say. Or, "Your sister, Toni, was always an excellent student. I hope you will be too."

     If it was a not so good experience it was almost always my sister, Rose, who got the credit or blame depending on how you looked at it.

     "You're not going to behave like your sister, Rose, now are you?" would be stated in a way that almost sounded like a plea for mercy.

     Other teachers were more pointed in their opinion.

     "Oh no… no way! I have had just about enough of you Cannatas in my career! I had to deal with your sister, Rose. Never again!"

      Remarks like that were usually followed by a transfer to another teacher's homeroom.

     I loved my sister Rose!

     While school had its problems, being a Cannata affected the way I was regarded and how I interacted with almost every family in my neighborhood on a daily basis. As I got to know the people on Forbes St, I learned a lot about life, people and the prejudices we all harbor when it comes to how we judge others. I learned it was more important to be who you are than to try to be what others want you to be.

     I learned quickly how to recognize the kind of people that base their opinions on what they are told as opposed to what they know. These were the kind of people that were not worthy of my attention. The people who saw me as a Cannata never saw me at all. They're the kind of people who are examples of the lesson learned when you judge a book by its cover. Their review was meaningless when it came to them telling you what the book is about. Thus their opinion of me was the same… meaningless.

     One experience that I can laugh at today, taught me more than most children should have learn about how subtle hate can be. It hurt me enough then to still be a sad memory. More importantly, it gave me a perspective that helped strengthen me when it came to judging my own self-worth.

     I had made a new friend in school. I regret to say I don't recall his name. I think it was Timmy or Tommy. He was as young as I and had not yet learned what a Cannata was. He lived on a different street. We liked each other and were pals at school. He invited me and another friend, I'll call him Joey, to his yard to play after school. 

     When the three of us arrived his mother came out and he happily introduced us. When he told his mother my name a look came across her face that I had seen before.

     "I'm sorry," she said to her son, "Joey can come in to play but no Cannatas are allowed in our yard." 

     I had heard it before, but somehow it seemed even sadder when she said it. Her son, my friend, looked confused and looked at me as though I had suddenly done something bad. He was too young to question his mom and I was too angry. We never played together after that day.

     When I got home I didn't tell my mother or anyone what had happened. I just went to my room and thought about it. I thought to myself, "What did I do? Why does she hate me?" Then, trying to put the hurt aside I thought, "what does she know?" It was then I suddenly realized the truth of what happened.

     The truth about it was that she didn't know me. She didn't know anything about me. She just knew I was a Cannata. She never saw the six year old friend her son had brought home, she just saw "Another Cannata". It wasn't me that had the problem, it was her.

     She knew what a Cannata was even if she had never met one. She had her opinion formed by events I would never be able to control. If I was going to get hurt by people like her I was in for a whole pile of pain for the rest of my life.

     Instinctively I knew, it was the kind of pain that only hurt if you let it. The kind of hurt we inflict on ourselves when we care about what people, people who don't care about us, think about us. His mother didn't know anything about me and cared even less. The first words she said described her completely. She was sorry.

     I had a pile of brothers and sisters who loved me. My parents loved me too. "I love you" wasn't something I ever really recall being told by my parents. It was always something I knew and felt though. It was never something I doubted. Just something I never recognized until I learned what hate was and how much of it was around. 

     It was then that I realized how much love I had. As a family we all fought and got angry at times but I never hated anyone in my family for a minute. I didn't really know how to hate. There was never any hate in my house. It took my friends mother to help me see hate for what it was... a waste of life, time and energy.

     I stopped worrying anymore about what people thought or said from that point on. I just focused on being as good to people as they were to me and trying to be as honest and trustworthy a friend as possible. I even learned to feel sorry for people who gave me the Cannata brush-off because I was a good kid who could be a good friend if they bothered to get to know me.

     Eventually, plenty did. I'm lucky enough to have many of my childhood friends still close to me today. Friends who over 50 years serve to re-enforce the lesson I learned that day.

     I'm may be a Cannata but that ain't a bad thing all the time. I may be "Another Cannata" when you meet me, but I become, Michael, once you know me. Anyone who doesn't like me doesn't know me. 

     I try to give everyone a chance when it comes to being friends… even those who don't make it easy. Once I am your friend, I never quit on that commitment. At least I haven't had to yet.

     I don't believe in closing doors. I don't believe you can hold on to people if they want to leave. I have always believed in the phrase, "People come… people go." It's just the way life works. I don't leave anyone. If someone doesn't want me as their friend it's their loss, not mine.

     To make up for not telling my parents, my siblings and friends how much I loved them earlier in life I do it often today. Even though it embarrasses my buddies and they call me gay names. I'm strong enough in my masculinity to be in touch with my feminine side and get a little mushy with the old boys. And believe me; they ain't pretty so it ain't easy hugging them when they need it. But I do.

Besides, I get a kick out of the way it makes them squirm. Nobody wants to be hugged by a Cannata!

1 comment:

farickavaill said...

Grand Mondial | Casino and Table Games - Mapyro
Grand Mondial 양산 출장샵 is a 당진 출장샵 casino and table games table game, located in Las 나주 출장마사지 Vegas. Players can also enjoy 진주 출장샵 the selection of table games, including blackjack, 이천 출장샵