Saturday, December 18, 2010

Saturday Musings, 18 December 2010

Good morning,

I have been relegated to the scarred oak table in the dining room, for the old Formica-top modified Singer sewing table on which I generally write when the weather forces me inside has been rolled on ancient casters into the spot in my son's bedroom where his little desk would be, had it not been hauled five hundred miles to the east to nestle under a drafty window in the SAE house. My tousle-headed boy strolled off an airplane an hour late on Friday afternoon, rounding the corner to exit the gate with his usual nonchalance, catching me by surprise once again. That head now rests on a plump pillow, weary from working all night on his last take-home final. God's in his heaven; all's right with the world.

I'm slightly battered today. An inconsiderate delivery person from Holmes Drywall co-opted the handicapped parking space in front of my building yesterday, forcing me to choose a more distant parking space, and I struggled too far down the sidewalk carrying clothes gathered by a friend for one of my clients who has children in need of them. I over-estimated my ability to stagger carrying bulky bags and tumbled onto the pavement, wrenching my artificial knee. I swear, had I known how much trouble joints made of metal can be, I would have declined the operation. Concrete rises to ram itself against the very spot where the surgeon's knife has three times been inserted, judging by the long angry scars. Acchh. Yesterday, in my wrath, I summoned the gendarmes, who reluctantly arrived and only upon my insistence cited the driver. Two pairs of masculine eyes companionably rolled at each other when they thought I did not see, causing me to tip another domino and write to the city prosecutor's office, pre-emptively voicing my objection to dismissal. And the knee swelled, and the temper simmered.

On my way to the airport, I listened to Science Friday on NPR. The guest scientist spoke of the upcoming total eclipse of the moon. Excitedly, I telephoned a friend who has eagerly joined Patrick and me in other crazy expeditions, suggesting a late-night visit to the Powell Observatory in Louisburg, Kansas. Tossing the cell phone back into its little cubby, I accelerated into the curve where 169 meets 29, happy, eager. God's in his heaven, and the moon smiles upon him.

The expert reminded us that we may gaze upon the lunar eclipse without concern for our eyes. Imagine you and your friends are in a movie theatre, waiting for the film to be projected onto the white screen. The casting of the earth's shadow on the moon resembles the projection of the movie onto the fabric of the screen, the expert's eager voice tells me. I am thrilled. Road trip to Louisburg! Never mind that it will occur many hours after my customary bedtim -- in fact, closer to my customary time of waking.

I enter a long stretch of 29 with which I am sufficiently familiar to allow my mind to wander with a corner or two of its capacity. I stand in the front yard of my youth, which sat on McLaran Avenue in Jennings, Missouri. Two old, tall trees graced our yard, obscuring our view to the sky, so at night, to find the Big Dipper, we ventured out to the middle of the street, gazing upward. Around me, a pleasant, playful wind moves, rising to toss the heavy branches of the oak trees. My little brothers grab at the shoe box at the bottom of which my mother has pricked a tiny hole. She shushes them, soothingly, for a couple of more are forthcoming. We situate ourselves, faces covered, gazing upward from the highest point in the yard, straddling the tar-painted curb. Mother signals, and the cluster of gathered children raise their make-shift viewers, and gaze in wonder as the moon passes in front of the sun.

With alarming accuracy, one of my brothers jostles me at the height of the eclipse, and my legs, not strong, not steady, stagger. My box falls from my hand as I land on the concrete pad at the top of the stairs which lead down to the sidewalk spanning our yard. With a cruel, innate instinct, my eyes dart around to find a handhold, and for just the briefest of seconds, I glance upward, and gaze upon the sun with no protection. Just as quickly, I wrench my face downward, and breathe, waiting for blindness to overtake me.

It does not, of course. I sit on the top step, and the voices of my brothers swirl around me, proclaiming the coolness of what they see through the home-made goggles and, maybe, the coolness of our mother for having fabricated them. I venture a glance toward the front porch, and see my mother watching me. She never rushed to pull me off the ground, not once in the thousands of times that my spastic legs failed me. She waited, allowing me to struggle to my feet or call out, as I chose. I meet her gaze, wondering if she will punish me for looking at the sun without protection; wondering if she realizes that I did. I become vaguely cognizant of a stinging sensation, and look down at my bony knees. I am not startled to see a riff of blood along the jagged line of a scrape. I had grown accustomed to such occurrences.

I sweep one long pigtail back behind my shoulder, and settle more comfortably on the stairs. The voices of my four brothers -- two older, two younger -- recede into the background as I focus on remembering what I had seen: A stark, solid circle of black, surrounded by a fierce, bright ring of light. With the sight of a rapid shooting star, and the feel of water on my legs as it streams down the ancient boulders in Elephant Rock State Park, that eclipse, viewed without the impediment of a home-made protective apparatus, burned itself into my mind's eye even if it did not do likewise to my retina.

After a fashion, the boys tire of the sport as boys will do. The shoe-boxes become receptacles for rocks gathered along the road, and they take to pitching hunks of broken asphalt at the stop sign, My mother intervenes, then, not with admonishment but with the offer of lemonade, and their noise moves away from me, as they sink onto the chairs flanking the front door on the wide, brick porch of our home.

I am drawn back to the present by a crunching sound from the TV room, the noisy eating of our old cat, who has been yowling. The house has filled with the acrid smell of coffee simmering too long on an old burner. In her grubby old bed, the little dog sleeps, emitting a soft pleasant snore as she dreams, perhaps recalling her unbridled joy at last night's return of the prodigal son.

God is, indeed, in his heaven, and all is right with my world.

Mugwumpishly tendered,

Corinne Corley
Proud birth-giver of Patrick Corley,
DPU Class of 2013

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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.