Saturday, April 16, 2011

Saturday Musings, 16 April 2011

Good morning,

Beside me at the window stands an antique rocker, draped with the scarves and shawls with which I often warm myself when sitting, peacefully, on the pillow that pads its worn seat. The shock of silver, mauve and gold fabric mingles and shimmers in the pale, determined light of a sun that refuses to concede to the cold of the rain's greater force. I see the overgrown hedges on the back fence of my neighbor's yard dancing against the wind's breath. Spring struggles to assert itself. Cold lingers.

I've spent the last two days in trial in a juvenile court matter involving my client's grandsons and their drug-addicted parents. She has no explanation for how the little ones came to test positive while in her custody but visiting their parents under the auspices of the state's workers. The juvenile officer wants to apply a res ipsa loquitor reasoning to circumvent her "clear, cogent and convincing" burden. Meanwhile, the guardian ad litem, whose appalling lack of effort would have gotten me removed, draws a county paycheck and takes cheap potshots at the defense lawyers, mainly me. Two days of being fodder for his snickering degenerated into my taking an uncharacteristic jab at the social worker's lawyer, when he rehabilitated her by feeding her leading questions that directly contradicted her earlier responses, to which pablum she responded with automatic affirmative answers, without thought, wanting only to please. The charade prompted me to snap, and I said, loud enough to be heard across the room but not, thankfully, on the bench: Uh, oh, she left the reservation to tell the truth, and he's got to rein her back in.

Not nice, I knew. But when I later apologized to the Court, I owned the faux paus, though stating, on the record, that though lamentable and discourteous, the sentiment was sincerely felt when said. The judge, with whom I have no prior personal relationship, forgave me and admonished all counsel to stop their sniping.

I rushed out of the unexpected second day of trial to dinner at my in-laws, though I wished that I could have taken a long, hot shower first, to cleanse myself of the detritus of Juvenile Court. At the start of yesterday's proceedings, when only I and the first witness, a scientist returning to conclude his testimony, sat in the courtroom, I mused out loud that the day had promise since I had awakened on the right of the grass. Really, I continued, any day I wake up is a good day in the making. And every time I come to Juvenile Court, I remind myself that I managed to navigate my son's childhood without having to appear as a litigant here instead of an attorney.

A glance at the calendar reminds me that it is my sister's birthday. I dial her cell phone, and sing the birthday song into her voice mail in flat but lusty tones. She turns 61 today. I've told her, every year since I can remember with increasing glee, that she will always be five years older than I am. This obvious truth delights me more and more as we age. I am not yet sixty; she will never be less. I am still young; she is middle-aged. As I acknowledge middle-age, she concedes to growing old. I will always be Lucille and Richard's baby girl, and she will always be the sophisticated one who wore make-up long before I did and taught me how to shave my legs. She will forever be the big sister who shared her pretty rock with me, the one embedded in the newly poured concrete of our driveway that glistened after a rainstorm. When we move beyond the counting, beyond caring about the numbers, I will still be younger, and we will both still giggle when I remind her of it.

Meanwhile, the oldest daughter in my family-by-choice celebrates her second child's fifth birthday today, and my new husband and I plan to be in attendance. The pages of my calendar flutter; the stack of keeping days grows tall and heavy. I close my eyes to summon memories of my own childhood. Did I ever have a birthday party? I recall a cake after supper,with ice cream and presents, while my siblings clustered around me. I don't remember anything more; nor do I remember that it felt deficient at the time. The effort to recall signifies that I have forgiven my parents any failings that might have scarred me, and that the scars, which long festered, have finally healed.

As I sat at counsel table these last two days, I realized that my own family would have been hauled into juvenile court had such things existed in their present configuration five decades ago. I've wasted too many otherwise decent paragraphs describing the events which would have marked us as children in need of care, and too few remembering the drives to the Johnson Shut-Ins, the bunny-shaped Easter cakes, and the magic glistening of our tinsel-covered Christmas trees. The trials of the past fade. I am left to savor the endless antics of the eight Corleys, and the deep, unassailable warmth that I felt when my sister Joyce came home from her dates, and sat on a twelve-year-old's bed, speaking in delightful whispers about the unfathomable world of boys, which I could not wait to enter.

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.