Saturday, October 22, 2016

Saturday Musings, 22 October 2016

Good morning,

On my walk to the car yesterday, I noticed the mock Rose of Sharon  still bore wild lovely blooms pushing towards the sky.  Untamed, untrimmed, it covers the bathroom window and rises towards the roofline.  I stopped to admire its resilience.  Usually, someone has hacked it to the ground by now.  I know that I need to get the bush pruned, but for another day or two at least, I'll let it be.

As I continued to the end of the driveway, I found myself thinking about the mulberry bushes on Pick-A-Chick, down McLaran Avenue and up Avis Avenue to the deadend.

I couldn't be more than five or six.  Joyce walks ahead, carrying a pail.  I've got a bowl.  I'm wearing an old shirt of my father's, buttoned over my shorts and T-shirt.  The bowl thumps against my legs as I scurry to keep pace with my sister.  She's five years older than I am and walks fast, intent, determined to get to Pick-A-Chick before the birds eat all the mulberries.

When we crest the hill she runs forward, shouting, and a flock of crows rises into the summer sky.  We move into the grove of volunteer bushes.  It sits in a patch of ground which breaks the course of the street.  On the other side, the abandoned truck with pictures of chicks stands at one angle.  Or stood.  It disappeared at some point but in my mind, rusted there forever, giving the spot its nickname.

Soon Joyce has filled her bucket halfway.  I move more slowly, picking one small berry at a time.  My fingers grow stained with the purple juice of the ripe mulberries.  I sneak a few into my mouth til my teeth take on a red tinge and my lips look painted.  The front of my father's shirt has smears of berry.  Joyce half-heartedly scolds me for eating instead of filling my bowl.  She shakes her head.   She knows who will bring home the bulk of our haul.  

And she does.  An hour later I start to whine.  Joyce relents and we begin the walk home, three long blocks carrying our harvest.  When we get to the kitchen, we rinse the berries and store them in a clean bowl in the refrigerator.

Later my mother takes them out and folds them into a batter for muffins.  I stand on the little bench to stir for her, careful not to break the berries.  We put them in cupcake papers in the muffin tins, then Mother holds the door of the oven and slides the pans into the warm cavern.  I bend over and look through the window.  We'll eat the muffins for breakfast after church on Sunday, with fried eggs and bacon.  Mother will take only half of hers, cutting it clean and spreading margarine with care.  She'll eat slowly, and pick up the moist crumbs with the end of her finger.  One of the boys will gobble the other half,  which I know without asking that my mother really does want.  But boys must be fed.

I close my eyes when I take the first bite of mulberry muffin.  It tastes like heaven.  I push away the memory of my friend Sharon taunting me.  "Mulberries are for poor people!"  I don't know why she said that.  I think they are divine.

A lifetime later, I still wonder at the thought that the delicious berries would somehow be worthy of a little girl's contempt.  I suppose her mother had told her that only those poor Corleys had to gather wild mulberries.  I can picture the conversation in their kitchen, Sharon asking if she can go to Pick-A-Chick with Joyce and me, and her mother replying, "We don't need to pick  mulberries on someone else's property, we can afford to buy blackberries at the store."  I can buy berries now, too; but I would give anything to walk back to Avis Avenue, and scramble on the dead-end picking mulberries with my sister, while the crows cawed above us, waiting their turn at the delicious feast.

Mugwumpishly tendered,

Corinne Corley

Here is the Google Map picture of my childhood home.  This was probably taken a while ago, and even so, it's changed from when I lived there.  But seeing it still makes me smile.
I love you, J-Bear.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Saturday Musings, 15 October 2016

Good morning,

Another Friday evening saw me at dinner with one of my friends who keep me young, a sister-from-another-Mother who shares so much of what I believe:  Passion for helping; liberal politics; independence; fierceness in her loyalty and  her dedication.  Patricia Scaglia has pursued her life in ways that I would have done, had I not taken a couple of unexpected turns. So dinner with Tricia livens my week, but she's a couple of decades younger than I am.  I come home later than this middle-aged woman probably ought to do, and sleep far beyond my usual hour of rising.

This morning as I stand dismayed at the front door, beholding the determined rise of the sun over the neighborhood, I spy a postcard peeking from a pocket of my purse.  I slide it from the zippered compartment and stand holding it, looking at the front, reading what it says on the back.  I lower myself into the chair by the secretary, take a sip of coffee from my crystal mug, and let myself drift back to the day that the postcard evokes.

I won't tell the whole story.  I've written of it before today.  A new job; a drive to Westport to celebrate; a step onto the street in my new suede pumps; a driver blinded by the setting sun.  Crash -- body flying into the air -- angel in the heavens saying, It's not your time. Law Student Run Over By Iranian, Film at ten, ooh, aaaah, ah.  But the days afterwards, I rarely think of them.

My first bed at Menorah that evening flanked three others in a six-bed triage area at the old Menorah Hospital in the city.  I lay beneath a thin sheet with my right leg cradled in a humongous contraption to stabilize the 32 breaks, splinters, really, you know? and the crushed patella plateau.  I could barely see without the contact lenses which had popped from my eyes as I flew through the sky, with no one to break into my apartment to get my glasses.   I lay in misery, at once furious and forlorn.  Nurses and aides fussed around me.  A doctor stood over me, explaining that swelling prohibited surgery.  A police officer leaned down, telling me something. I could not discern his words.  Somebody muttered over and over and over: Hail Mary full of grace.  Hail Mary full of grace.  Hail Mary.  Hail Mary.  It took me a half hour to realize that my cradle Catholicism had arisen but had been dormant so long that I could not remember the next line of the prayer.

A figure loomed, holding a piece of paper and a Bic pen.  Sign here, sign here, said the voice, with an accent so heavy that it barely penetrated the fog of pain.  Just then, one of the ambulance guys snatched the paper from the man's hands, and a scuffle ensued.  When the commotion quieted, the paramedic who had peeled me from the asphalt sat beside me in a folding chair.  He told me that the driver had been arrested, that he had been there trying to get me to sign a paper saying I had not been hurt.  Hospital security had escorted him from the premises.  A guard would watch over me through the night.   He held my hand as the nurse administered a redeeming shot and I slipped into darkness.

By morning, my parents had come and persuaded my landlords to let them into my apartment.  They brought my glasses, a nightgown, a book of Walt Whitman poetry, and the engulfing comfort of their love.  Visitors began to troop into my room.  Law professors, classmates, my landlady, a handful of the happy hour partiers who had comforted me until the ambulance came.  Summer Shipp, who had seen me fly past her window from her office on the second floor, sat by my bedside for hours that first day.  She told me about calling the police because she had seen my body on the way down and thought I had jumped from the roof of her building.  Law student commits suicide, Film at ten, ooh ahhh ah.  But I had not jumped.  I had been catapulted with such force that I flew more than two stories towards the heavens.

The man whose sunset-blindedness had caused him to hit me did not come back.  Maher Altalathina, his name.  He had told the officer that he came from Persia and had no insurance.  Persia.  I pictured his olive complection as I lay in my bed.  His dark hair, his stocky body, his urgency as he tried to get me to sign a hand-written release.  My Syrian grandfather raged against the fellow when he heard about it.  What kind of man won't accept the consequences of his actions, he asked my mother.  He gave her money to help with my bills while I couldn't work.  He called me from his home in Springfield and told me he loved me. He told me to let him know if I needed anything else.

Summer Shipp continued to visit.  She told me that she and other business owners had petitioned the city for some kind of traffic controls at the intersection near where I had been struck.  They've put up a flashing yellow light, she assured me.  They're dong a study.  We're going to get a real traffic light, we hope.  I don't remind her that I had crossed between corners; I had jaywalked.  I had parked at the curb halfway between Broadway and Pennsylvania on the north side of Westport Road, and stepped into the street.  Her exuberance stayed my words.  I had become the symbol of her crusade.

I spent the next couple of months being moved from one room to another in the hospital as we waited for the swelling to abate enough for restorative surgery.  My friend David Frye brought my textbooks and tapes of our classes.  Other friends gleefully invaded with contraband -- bottles of wine, slabs of cake, steaming hot pizza.  Roommates came and went as I enjoyed a respite from whatever my life had become that I could not handle.    I never wanted for company.  In some weird way, those two months did more for my self-esteem than the two preceding decades.

As spring approach, Summer Shipp continued to visit me.  One day she brought me the letter from the city advising that the traffic signals had been approved.  She sat by my bed and told me that nobody would ever have to go through what I experienced.  There would be a proper walk signal.  Her flushed and gleaming face conveyed her sense of justice having been served with me as its poster child.

I left Menorah Hospital in a cast from ankle to crotch, a bottle of narcotics, and a flutter of worried admonishments from the hospital social worker.  She thrust a list of phone numbers at me, placating her own instincts which cautioned that releasing me to my fourth-floor apartment could be a mistake.  My parents drove me home and stood behind me as I crutch-walked all the way to my door.  I fell asleep in the green recliner while my father unpacked groceries and my mother put clean sheets on my bed.

The weird thing about being disabled most of your life is that when you're made more disabled, it almost seems like just desserts.  From that time in 1982, my right leg slowly degenerated.  Twenty years after the accident, an orthopoedic surgeon removed my knee and replaced it with the last of the old-styled artificial knees.  Another fifteen years have gone by; that mess of metal and plastic has not worked right for years, and the leg which we once laughingly called "my good leg" struggles to keep pace with its weaker mate.  But since the function of my artificial joint sits far down on the list of things that plague me, I hoist it when it locks and rub it when its phantom ache rages.

Sometimes I use that accident to explain the way I walk.  What happened to you, lady? children will say, in Target, in the grocery store, on the corner downtown when I'm struggling into court.  I didn't look both ways when I crossed the street, I say, in a serious voice.  I didn't cross in the crosswalk, like we're doing now.  I didn't hold my mother's hand.  With wide eyes, they tighten their grip on the fingers of their harried parent.  That won't happen to me, they say, and hurry away.

Now the city has decided that the traffic signal at Westport Road and Pennsylvania "does not benefit traffic flow or pubic safety".  Thus, they "have determined that the traffic signal should be removed".  I can hear Summer Shipp spinning in her terrible grave.  The angels above Westport are preparing for double-duty.  They're standing by, waiting, to separate those whose time has come from those who must stay, here on earth, for at least one more day.

Mugwumpishly tendered,

Corinne Corley

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Saturday Musings, 08 October 2016

Good morning,

Yesterday I sat with my head slightly bowed, hands held still in my lap.  My eyelids lowered, not with the burden of my fatigue but with resolve.  I felt my body strain, fury rising from my belly.  A quiver ran through me, hard and fierce.  The shudder subsided and I listened to the drone of my opponent.

Later, after the judge had pronounced her reluctant ruling in my favor, I trudged to the car pulling my trial bag behind me and remembered a late night in Brookfield, Missouri, when I argued jury instructions, sweaty in my blouse and wrinkled suit.  The judge had long since shed his robe and loosened his tie.  Each side had commandeered a different private room.

My boss and law clerk waited in the county law library as I ran back and forth to the courtroom.  Piles of law books toppled with each careless slam of the heavy old door against its frame.  I kicked my silly girl shoes from my feet as soon as our cadre hid behind the oak to grumble about the judge's complaints.  Wording, sentence structure, whatever we did, the man criticized us while the defendant's lawyers, smooth and serene, let the judge do their work for them.

John Arens, the head of my law firm, seemed unaffected by the activity.  He jiggled a stack of Susan B. Anthony coins from hand to hand.  The coins had become a symbol of the farmers whom he represented.  In those days, family farmers hoarded those coins, even as they struggled to keep their land, devastated by drought and the burden of borrowing when cash flowed free in the 1970s. Banks and the Federal agricultural lenders, the Federal Land Bank and Production Credit Association, pushed foreclosures and litigation to collect deficiencies from defaulting borrowers.  Our firm and a handful of other legal teams around the country specialized in representing the families desperate to keep their old homesteads.  Farmers across the Midwest huddled in their farmhouses, angry at the government, predicting the collapse of the economy and the sudden devaluing of paper money.  They buried cans of coins in the yards as insurance for the post-apocalyptic tyranny.

As we fought to defend one of those farmers, night closed around the courthouse.  Exhaustion overcame me.  Sweat ran from my law clerk's brow.  Ron, over-weight and puffing from exertion, pushed the nearest pile of law reporters aside so I could sit.  We  looked at each other, and at our boss standing unfazed at the other end of the room, smiling, calm.  At issue was the fate of our client's family farm, which his family had held for three generations.  Did the bank promise not to call his note on the default which followed the over-extending of his finances?  An exhibit which Ron and I had enlarged for the jury showed a faint erasure, the outlines of which John had quietly, calmly, shown a witness as the man sat humble in the box.  Yes, the banker admitted.  That is my handwriting.  I did change those figures.  I did alter that document.

We thought we had him.  We thought we'd proved that the man had fiddled with our client's application in ways that made the bank liable.  But if the judge did not approve the instructions we wanted, and let us submit the case for deliberation, that stunning revelation would be meaningless.  The painted farmhouse, the tidy kitchen, the stacks of split wood, the beds with their worn quilts -- all would be lost to the auctioneer's gavel with the rusty tractor, the bales of hay and the cattle which that hay was meant to feed.

Long glances passed between the members of our team as the bailiff rapped on the door and bid us to come back to the courtroom for the judge's last pronouncement of what claims he would let stand.  I drew my jacket over my rumpled blouse.  Ron pulled his tie over his head and straightened the knot.  John looked as freshly shaved as he had twelve hours earlier when we first came into the Courthouse.  His short grey hair lay perfectly combed across the crown of his head.  The starch of his shirt had held through the heavy heat of the old building.  He led the way, with squared shoulders and an easy bearing.

The  judge sat over us, on his bench.  He had not taken up his robe but had assumed his jacket.  I felt his gaze linger on the sagging contours of my face before moving to the quiet features of my boss.  Mr. Arens, said the judge, addressing the man who had forged the way through the law's murky waters to this moment.  You seem remarkably unconcerned about these jury instructions.

John smiled, an act which triggered a ripple of concern deep in my gut. I knew that look.  He set the stack of coins on our table and spread his hands.  Your honor, he replied.  I already know what I am going to say to the jury.  It doesn't matter to me what you decide to tell them.

In thirty-three years of practicing law, I have never seen a more shocked look from the bench, not in any courtroom, state or federal.  The next morning, when that judge read the  very limited set of instructions to the jury, the weight of his revenge fell heavy on our client's shoulders.  He had gutted our case, taken all of the claims which could have garnered punitive damages and reduced the matter to a simple breach of contract.  We got the jury but not the verdict that would have paid our bill and made the client more than whole.

We saved our client's  farm.  The jury gave us enough for me to go into the courthouse conference room with my pens and paper, and negotiate a debt write-down.  My boss never lost his placid smile.  Afterwards, when we had gone across the square to the bank and signed the papers, when we had driven out to the client's farm and eaten lunch at his mother's table,  Ron and I excused ourselves to walk around the yard and feign interest  in the vegetable garden.  Inside, John closed the case by negotiating his percentage.  Ten percent?  Twenty?  We did not know, and did not want to know.  Thirty percent of nothing should be nothing but somehow, it would morph into something hefty that filled sackcloths in the hold of our private airplane.

In yesterday's courtroom I had no trouble holding my face inscrutable as the judge ruled in my favor.  My opponent had reckoned without the legal holdings which supported what I wanted.  She thought she had struck some crude alliance with the court, that I stood on the outside of their circle with my client while she and hers dwelt in the inner sanctum.  She calculated badly, but I did not gloat.

I thanked the judge, gathered my papers, and took myself home.  I've learned my lessons.  Indeed, right can make might.  But it can also become fodder for revenge, and so I step carefully in every patch of grass as I make my way across the farm yard at the end of the day. My clients do not pay me in huge piles of coins, in crumpled bills bagged and stashed in a cargo hold.  But I learned from someone who made his living like that, and I learned my lessons well.

Mugwumpishly tendered,

Corinne Corley


Saturday, October 1, 2016

Saturday Musings, 01 October 2016

Good morning,

The roller coaster month of September glided to an uneventful stop last night and I stumbled from the car, hands grimy from clutching the bar, stomach lurching, hair whipped into a mass of tangles from the ferocity of the wind as the car plunged and climbed.  I staggered to a corner and collapsed, bruised and battered from the ride but exhilarated.  I celebrated with a warmed-over gluten-free pasta and a half-cup of Talenti Sea Salt Caramel ice cream, both consumed amid the bedraggled, neglected plants on my porch with murmured promises of dead-heading, watering, and re-potting this weekend.

I think of my son's childhood in October.  I see him and his friends dressed in Batman costumes, Power Ranger uniforms, as creepy ghouls with painted beards.  Slinging bags for candy, they would set out down the sidewalk, first in our neighborhood, then in south Kansas City or Roeland Park.  An adult would straggle behind them.  Occasionally we'd trick or treat for UNICEF.  As they grew older, we'd let them go out alone.  We would watch them depart, standing on our haunted porch, cobwebs hanging down around us, Irish coffees at hand.

The worst Halloween was 1998, the year of the Brutal Diagnosis.  In February I had been told that I had six months left, maybe a year.  I had grown pale and weak with an undiagnosed ailment.  I struggled to keep myself and my son afloat, surrounded by friends, the new man in my life at the time whom I would eventually marry, and a host of doctors leaving instructions at the Emergency Room to admit me if I came within five feet of its automatic doors.

That Halloween, nurses brought buckets of candy around to each room.  Any occupant awake enough to converse received a stash for dispensing to visitors.  I committed to letting other patients' children bother me.  An aide helped me wash and struggle into street clothes.  We pulled the curtain clear across the sleeping form in the next bed, an old woman who hollered throughout my sleepless nights.

Mona brought the boys to see me, Patrick and Maher, my son and hers.  Seven and eight, still too young to really understand my countless trips to the hospital.  I barely understood them myself and I'm fairly certain the doctors didn't either.  The boys came into my room with slow steps and timid faces behind their Halloween masks.  They held out their pillow-cases for the candy which I dropped by handfuls.  Maher scampered out again, but my son moved closer to me and offered a piece of chocolate.  I took it with the same seriousness, thanking him in a voice pitched low to match his.

You unwrap it for me, I said, and he did, carefully, folding the paper and setting it on the bedside table.  I broke it in half and offered one piece to him.  I scooted over and let him sit on the edge of the bed, his small body barely disturbing the thin mattress.  We chewed without breaking the stillness of the nearly dark room, while the woman in the far corner slept beneath a mound of covers in her bed by the darkened window.

Patrick finally spoke, clearing his small throat, aiming for a stage whisper.  Are you coming home tomorrow, he asked.  He pushed his Red Ranger mask to the top of his head.  I could see his eyes, wary, sad.  I had no answer but I lied.  I'm sure of it, I answered.  The doctors say I'm already better.  They had said no such thing.  They didn't even know what was wrong with me and weren't the ones who would eventually figure it out.  But this was my son whom I had left alone with a man he'd known for a handful of months, who had moved into our home just two weeks earlier.  How could I tell him that for all I knew, he'd be living permanently with Auntie Mona by Christmas?

My deceit soothed him, I supposed, for he slid from the bed and moved towards the door, re-positioning his mask.  As he went out to join Maher in his Trick-or-Treating at the Nurse's Station, my son briefly turned towards me.  I'm being really good, he told me, the words falling in trembles.  I strained towards him but he did not see as he scampered into the hallway.  I let my hand fall, and closed my eyes, while the gloom gathered around me and my neighbor's gentle snores filled the room.

Eighteen years later, the crimson leaves have begun to float from the umbrella maple to settle on the front lawn of the house in which my son spent so many troubled days and nights.  All of those faces have gone from this  place now, leaving only their ghosts to keep me company.   The autumn unfolds and the days of the year grow short.  I pull my shawl close around my shoulders, pour another cup of coffee, and stand on the porch, watching those ghosts cross the lawn, smiling in the chilly air of a perfect morning.

Mugwumpishly tendered,

Corinne Corley

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Saturday Musings, 24 September 2016

Good morning,

In a few hours, I will turn the Prius eastward to St. Louis, abandoning the dog and house to the best house-sitter ever, a woman whom the neighbors have hinted should adopt our little old Beagle-Lab mix since she renders far superior care.  I've been mumbling about taking the dog to the groomer; Catherine actually took her and did not even ask me for repayment.  The dog stands in the hallway mooning towards the guest bedroom as she usually does after my son has visited.  I'm obviously more suited to the disdain of cats.

The madness of mid-September has abated. Stillness descends on the waning days of summer.  The umbrella maple in the front yard bears tinges of auburn in her crowning glory; the monkey grass has bloomed and the black-eyed Susans have dropped their petals.  Soon I will shake the mustiness from the woolen quilt and bring my coats out of the cedar closet.  Winter looms.

Last evening I drove thirty minutes to walk through an art gallery at which an old acquaintance had a display of her hand-made jewelry.  I don't usually venture to the hinterlands but this display needed my attention.  The woman suffers from advanced cancer and needs money to pay for her treatment.  I don't know her well and have not seen her for years, but the strength of my affection does not dictate the degree of my compassion.  Besides:  I can always use a source of gifts. So off I went.

The rush-hour traffic demanded most of my attention but in the space between lane-changes and slowing for semis, my mother's face rose to claim brief contemplation.  Her wispy hair, fallen to the chemo; her olive skin stretched across sharp bones.  But even in her waning days, at least until the cancer claimed her mind, the warm eyes danced and the familiar curve of her smile greeted me.  I'd drop my bags in the living room and walk through the doorway to the bedroom where she rested.  Sinking to my knees, I'd wrap my arms around her neck and breathe her fragrance, a mixture of tea and powder.  Then she'd speak in her low throaty voice, uttering the familiar cadence of my name, and I'd stand and start to do her bidding.  Lucy's word had become law.

I spent so many Friday evenings, Saturday mornings sitting in her garden or by her bedside, depending on her strength.  I would babble about my little life, the life in Kansas City without cancer.  I didn't talk about the arguments with my boyfriend or the hours hunched over a bar top.  I avoided the lameness of my limited role as a city prosecutor and the sparse work in my private practice.  Instead I talked about the walks around the lake in Loose Park and my attempts to take yoga classes.  She listened carefully, no doubt hearing between the lines, but nodding, patting my hand, and asking for another glass of water or bidding me to play the New World Symphony one more time.

When I stepped into the Gallery last evening, the woman whose work I had come to see had not yet arrived.  I stood in front of the display, fingering the fresh water pearls and the hammered metal.  When I had known her, this gentle creativity had been as yet unseen.  I knew nothing of her story since we'd parted.  I knew only of the grief through which I had once tried to navigate her; and the grimness that sharpened her anger in those days.

As I stood at the counter contemplating which earrings to buy for my sister, the door opened and Ruth walked into the room.  I saw at once that she bore the stamp of a difficult disease but gamely.  She had clipped her hair, let it go its natural grey, and lightly applied a layer of make-up.  Her shoulders squared above her spare frame, and only a slight pinch of her brow testified to pain.  We embraced; and we walked around the large open room, while she told me about the cancer and the abyss into which she nearly tumbled before a miracle treatment had been found.

I'm a super-responder, she told me, her voice tinged with the wonder that must never abate.  A year ago, I sat in a wheel chair and now, look at me.  I did; I looked so closely that she must have thought me odd.  I saw a woman game to try, to push, to stand and move.  She greeted others who had come to support her efforts or who had wandered in from the Oktoberfest outside.  She talked with the gallery director and the artists whose work graced the walls.  I watched, not speaking, until her circuit brought her back in my direction.

Then we stood together at the counter talking about her jewelry.  While I picked a few items to buy,  I felt my mother's spirit in the room, just briefly, just a whisper, so faint that it could have been that a momentary madness had overcome me.

I completed my purchase, and we sat talking on a metal bench.  Suddenly, Ruth turned to embrace me and I leaned closer to her, breathing in the fragrance of her fragile body.  After a few moments we parted and I said goodbye.  I went into the night and drove home, with something close to love settling lightly on the barren contours of my heart.

Mugwumpishly tendered,

Corinne Corley

Visit Ruth Roberts' FACEBOOK STORE.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Saturday Musings Delayed


I am preparing for our annual benefit which is held this evening at 7:00 p.m. at my professional suite, 4010 Washington, Suite 100, KC MO.

Therefore, I will not be writing a musing today.

If you are in KC, please join us for an evening of food, fun, music, art, and raising funds and awareness for two local KC shelters for those experiencing family violence and needing help to survive and thrive.

Thank you.

Mugwumpishly yours,

Corinne Corley

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Saturday Musings, 10 September 2016

Good morning,

From an AirBnB in San Rafael, I search for pictures of my Mother to share on this, the ninetieth anniversary of her birth.  I have few.  I've scanned some; taken snapshots of others; and snagged a few from my sister Adrienne's Facebook page.  Someone might have more but all I have sit in space somewhere, grainy and awkward.

But she cannot fade from my memory.  Recently one of my siblings reminded me that Mom had her flaws -- and she did; we all do.  She allowed our father to commit atrocities on us which had no name then but today would be considered felonies.  While I understand what happened to her, and why she felt powerless to fight him, still, there it is -- leaving us scarred, damaged, different, disillusioned.  Some of us rose above what we felt and saw; some of us sank below the muck and mire.  None of us emerged from our childhood without a profound burden, however easily or awkwardly each of us learned to carry it.

However, my mother had magnificent qualities.  She gave me many of them.  She steadfastly endured, and I have leaned on her example through my own travails.  Mother could skip one moment and hold a troubled child the next.  Possibly this mercurial quality would be seen today as manic-depression, but I just thought of it as adaptability.  She had little tolerance for inanity, or cruelty, or illogic.  She protected her babies with an unparalleled ferocity in most realms, though at home, only by standing in the way of many of my father's blows.

At least, I remember her this way.  Others might have their own images, their own memories, their own opinions.  But I persist in my assessment.  Lucille Johanna Lyons Corley stands tall in my mind.  Not perfect, certainly.  Irreverent, often.  Tired -- most assuredly.  But present -- ever present, and unwavering.

It took me nearly 37 years to successfully bear a child.  My mother died six years before my son's birth.  I mourn the fact that he never got to meet her.  They would have had fabulous talks, Patrick and Lucille.  They have much in common, including an inner gentleness that happily came out in his genes though they skipped mine.

My first pregnancy ended in a bloody mess on the floor of my mother's bathroom in late winter, 1977.  At twenty-one, aimless and undirected, I would have been a terrible parent.  But I had known the child inside for a month or so, and desperately wanted the baby even if I had no earthly clue what to do with it.  I stood helplessly clutching the sink, pressing a wash cloth to my mouth to stifle the sobs.  My mother knocked on the door.  Mary, let me in, she commanded.  When she saw my face, she folded me in her arms.  She did not require a confession.  She led me from the room, stripped me, found a nightgown, and settled me in my old bedroom without making me answer for my actions.  I fell asleep with a cup of half-drunk tea cooling on a tray beside me.  Though I went back to my apartment the next day, my mother's love followed me.  I slept for days under my great-grandmother's quilt which Mother sent with me that morning.  It carried the heavy fragrance of home:  Mother's perfume, over-cooked coffee, and a curious blend of Pine-Sol and talcum powder.

In one of my many wooden boxes at home, I have my mother's defense medals, the bracelet she made from the baby beads of her first four children, and some pin that could be a Boy Scout den mother award.  I have little else of hers.  But every fiber of my being carries her stamp.  I would not be sixty-one and still relentless if I were not my mother's daughter.

In a little while, I will go to see the garden of a gentleman whom I met on my travels.  I will stand among the flowers in this temperate climate, remembering another garden, in Jennings, which bloomed beneath the tender care of a half-Austrian, half-Syrian, girl from Gillespie.  I will think of how much my mother loved her flowers, and her vegetables, and her children.  I will  not cry.  She would much prefer that her memory linger in my smile.

Mugwumpishly tendered,

Corinne Corley

In Loving Memory:
Lucille Johanna Lyons Corley
10 Sept 26 - 21 August 85


The Missouri Mugwump™

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I've been many things in my life: A child, a daughter, a friend; a wife, a mother, a lawyer and a pet-owner. I've given my best to many things and my worst to a few. I live in Brookside, in an airplane bungalow. I'm an eternal optimist and a sometime-poet. If I ever got a poem published in The New Yorker, I would die a happy woman. I'm a proud supporter of the Arts in Kansas City. I vote Democrat, fly the American flag, cry at Hallmark commercials, and recycle.