Saturday, June 5, 2010

Saturday Musings, 05 June 2010

Good morning,

The rough pavement of my sidewalk chafed against my bare feet as I trundled down to the curb to toss the last little bag of trash on the pile made by my son in last night's gloom. A slow-moving car, its driver oblivious to my flowered pajamas and the cat padding behind me, gradually made its way to the intersection south of me and executed a careful turn around parked cars. I watched its progress, then retraced my steps, back onto the porch, leaving the freshness of the morning to step into the mustiness of my living room.

The week has given me a muddle of emotions. On Tuesday, I packed everything in the office that I had occupied for the last four years and moved two floors down to a newly remodeled suite. I do not like to move; I have been heard to foreswear ever vacating my Brookside bungalow. I am a homebody; a nester; a creature of immutable habit. Each framed photograph testified to my stationary self, leaving behind lines on shelves in the accumulation of dust. The bi-fold display of Patrick as a baby being held by his uncle Alan, flanked with a similar shot of my little bungled-in nestled in the arms of a friend in Arkansas whose name I have forgotten, had been in the exact. same spot for the four years of my tenancy; the lamp made by Alan had rested on the right end of the window sill since I placed it there when I unpacked it in 2006. I do not like change. I do not like my environment to be disturbed.

And yet, I have embraced this move. With newly built walls, and fresh paint, and a smattering of newly acquired furniture including a long-wanted oak writing table, the place invites progress and prosperity. My overhead has doubled, though the names on the bottom line have also. I share this venture with my significant other, and we are acquiring co-tenants, including Donna Coke of this list-serve, who, as a wills, estates and trusts lawyer, will doubtless provide the potential for services that my own clients often need. My decision to office with the man whom I am dating has raised eyebrows, but I have examples of similar and successful arrangements to encourage me -- Sherry DeJanes and Gerry Donovan; Loren and Judy Rea; Lance Weber and Rachel Peper. All lawyer-couples; all office mates or partners; and all still married despite their professional liaisons. I am hopeful. I have swallowed a very large measure of pride and let him pick the phone equipment and service provider, and later today, I suspect that I will let him pick the reception room furniture. I do, after all, have the corner, windowed office, so I can afford to be magnanimous.

As I unpacked the bric-a-brac, foraging for my stapler, grousing in barely audible tones about the inconvenience of not being able to find my favorite pen, I could not hold back the ghosts of other moves. Most notably, most memorably, in June of 1980, I boxed everything I thought to be important to me at the time, and moved from the south side of St. Louis to 38th and Warwick, to start my life in Kansas City. Everything I owned fit into the smallest available U-haul trailer, hitched to the back of my maroon 1970 Chevy Nova. The man whom I was then dating drove my car, and a friend of his followed in the vehicle that would take them both back to St. Louis. I was 25 years old. I had completed two years of a non-Master's track Ph.D. program before it lost its funding and forced me to make another career choice. I was scheduled to start a job at Impact Development, a not-for-profit run by Freedom Inc., on the Monday following my Friday move to Kansas City. I had applied to law school for the sole purpose of delaying the commencement of my repayment obligation for the student loans which had paid for the graduate studies. I did not want to be a lawyer. I just wanted a soft landing.

If you lived in Kansas City in the 1980s, you will remember that Warwick was the favorite street for the plying of the world's oldest profession in those days. I could sometimes see the ladies from my window, on those endless, stifling summer nights. They mostly loitered one block down at 39th Street, occasionally straying in my direction, following a lingering, hesitant customer. The bravest of them coaxed through the lowered glass on the driver's side, leaning against the door, letting their curves tantalize the unsure. I came to recognize the regulars during the weeks before I started school, and they greeted me as I drove past them towards the Plaza. I did not fear them. I found them fascinating, much as the good twin is often secretly jealous of her wilder sister.

The summer of 1980 gave me a brief respite from the failure of my prior three years, before I launched with crazed ignorance into the trifecta that would change me from a writer-wannabe to an attorney. In my hot apartment, behind the louvered doors that opened onto the hallway, in the heavy, unconditioned air, I hibernated. I moved with vague indifference in the overbearing heat, and very little made an impression on me. To say that youth is wasted on the young rings true with me. I realize now, as I stretch my aging muscles and creak my aching bones; as I bend to pull my socks over my arthritic feet, that every day of my past that I did not spend in giddy exhilaration dropped into a bottomless pit like wasted coins down a wishing well.

I hoard those coins now. I sleep as little as possible so that I see as many dawns as I can. I am reminded, in the final analysis, of something that someone used to tell me often, and in bitterness, though sometimes with a twinge of hope: Time is our most precious commodity.

Last evening, I had the honor of assisting an elderly lady, a woman most dear to one whom I hold dear, in her frailness and need. As I gently bathed her face, and brushed her hair, and slipped a fresh gown over her head, I saw again my own mother in her last illness. The days and weeks of her final year rose in my mind, claiming me with breathtaking power. And then I realized that June marks another anniversary -- my brother's death, and only the need to guide my friend's mother in the last few steps of her evening distracted me from sinking into a sobering depression.

Something must come before this corporeal existence; something must surely follow. But the ragtag collection of minerals which I occupy with greater or lesser ease will fail me one day, as it has failed those whom I loved, and some whom I resisted loving. I suspect that my propensity for hunkering down might have more to do with my instinctive reach for an anchor, to hold me against the last call, than any genuine fondness for stagnation.

My coffee has grown cold, and the morning has slipped from me. The paper has yet to be read; groceries need to be purchased; and I can no longer ignore the burgeoning tower of laundry. I must rise from this chair, and go on living. I shake the ghosts from my mind, and the cobwebs from my eyes, and pour another copy of coffee. I heard the gentle strains of my son learning Hotel California far into the night, so I know he will sleep a bit longer, and there is still time for some pleasant moments on the prettiest porch in Brookside, with the last few pages of the book I am reading, and the white cat beside me.

Mugwumpishly tendered,

Corinne Corley

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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.