Saturday, April 23, 2011

Saturday Musings, 23 April 2011

Good morning,

A wave of color catches my attention each time I turn my head. I recently acquired a temporary prism on my right glasses lens, which raised the number of corrective prisms from 3 to 9. As a consequence, I feel as though I have consumed just enough intoxicating beverages to be tipsy, feeling faintly nauseous; and the world shimmies.

Growing old might well surpass the alternative in desirability, but not because of how easy I find it. Ah, life.

Spring surrounds me, with its nippy air, and the bright, verdant expanse of lawn. The Japanese maple raises its delicate tendrils towards the pale stretch of the clean sky. My world shakes itself, rising from the fog of hibernation.

In recent conversations, I have had to confront the coming religious holiday and this morning, as it looms, I discover that I have fewer ties to Christianity than I thought possible. In the past, I have been able to ignore the religious celebrations and focus on honoring the turning of the seasons and our commitment to a fresh start. But now, I have married into the Episcopal faith, and although my husband goes to church only for the big days -- Christmas, Easter -- and when he appears on the usher schedule, still, the inevitable confrontation occurs. I am not a Christian, I remind him, not as gently as I might have. He blames Catholicism for my corruption,and he might be right. Still, re-conversion is unlikely. It troubles him, I think; nonetheless, I shudder at the thought of embracing his faith with the overtones of hypocrisy. To keep the peace, I will sit in church beside his mother, and browse through the Book of Common Prayer, and quietly talk to God, but the rituals will not affect me. It cannot be helped; so I will make the most of it, and allow myself the luxury of an hour in quiet mediation.

I think about my mother's last Easter. Cold gripped St. Louis. Her backyard still looked barren, with only a few brave flowers nudging themselves above the frost line. She had lost her hair to chemotherapy, and wore a tri-corner scarf over the smoothness of her skull, perhaps to keep out the cold, perhaps to save her grandchildren from the fright of her grim appearance. She sat on a park bench and watched the children hunt for eggs -- Lisa, Rick and Cate, in their church clothes, with serious looks as they concentrated on the search. I sat beside my mother and held her hand from time to time. I caught her glancing sideways with annoyance, and let her fingers slip from my grasp.

Later that day, after my siblings had helped to wash the dishes, and my mother and I sat at the breakfast room table in the quiet of the empty house, my mother searched my face with her warm brown eyes. Not finding an answer, she inquired, in gentle tones, if anything was wrong. Oh, not much, I replied. Only that my mother is dying, that's no big deal. I pushed back my chair and snatched at our tea cups, moving without grace into the kitchen while she sat, alone, in the darkening room. I might as well have slapped her face.

I came back and lowered myself into the chair, and looked down at her worn hands, resting on the surface of the wooden table. She moved, slightly, slowly until one of her fingers rested on my arm. The weight of her illness hung in the chilly air of the evening, in the silence which surrounded us. I fidgeted beneath her gaze, resisting the comfort that she wanted me to take from her own acceptance of her fate. Easter Sunday, 1985, and I was not quite 30. My mother would not see her next birthday, and my boyfriend and I would end our relationship a few days after her funeral. He only stayed for my sake, to help me through; and by Christmas, my grandfather would have died, and I would have slipped into a pattern of drinking, carousing, and forgetting to go to work.

I don't know if she foresaw my decline in that moment. She reached further over, to place her hand on my shoulder. It's going to be okay, she told me, in the soft tones that only a mother can use. But I did not believe her, and I slumped against the chair, falling into my misery, while the sun set outside my childhood home, and my father watched television in the living room.

The house around me has grown quiet. My stepson trundled off to work, and his father, just behind him, to his weekly tennis game. In a little while, I will start to clean the house. I will send the dog out into the yard, where clumps of grass surround the wild violets. I've bought good chocolate, and I have chosen a dress to wear to church tomorrow. There is a slight chill in the air, but spring has taken hold, with a stubborn, cheerful insistence that I might do well to emulate.

Mugwumpishly tendered,

Corinne Corley

No comments:

Post a Comment

The Missouri Mugwump™

My photo
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.