Saturday, October 20, 2012

Saturday Musings, 20 October 2012

Good morning,

It's dark, darker than a Saturday should be, the kind of creeping darkness that holds the threat of chill, and dampness. I have awakened early because I have a journey planned, and a few last minute chores await.

Nothing much happened on Friday. I loitered at home until my husband and our daughter had left for their respective obligations, using the ostensible need to launder towels as my excuse. Once the house settled into weekday lassitude, I took a long, hot shower and conditioned my hair, then puttered around, pretending to be occupied, just for the pleasure of being home alone.

I got little done at the office, enjoyed lunch with my father-in-law, and sent out October billing a week or two early; in some cases, September billing, a week or two late. Around 4:30, having had enough of being responsible for the live of people with whom I have only a contractual connection, I abdicated. Throwing my bag on the back seat to join the clutter of two weeks' worth of court jackets dangling from hangers, I started south, to Brookside.

A text message from my son distracted me. It said something about money, one of the few subjects that can startle me into instant action. I clicked the button that rings his cell phone, which no doubt rested in the change well of his Blazer as he traveled from St. Paul to Greencastle by way of a toll road. I drew from his reluctant voice, the fact that nowhere between Indiana and Minnesota, had he found a Bank of America, so his paychecks still had not been deposited. I levied a few salty measures of motherly castigation on his head, before agreeing to transfer some funds from my account to his. He endured my admonishments for longer than I expected, then suddenly, tellingly, with artificial urgency, spoke a familiar phrase: I'm going through a tunnel, Mom; I'll have to call you back.

My car continued its descent to the Plaza, towards Brush Creek, our local storm sewer with its odd concrete walkways. But my mind drifted back to another phone call, in 1977, when a younger version of Patrick's mother stood in the kitchen, talking to her own parental unit. I had paced back and forth in the galley kitchen of my shotgun apartment, holding the receiver with its long spiral cord, wedged between my shoulder and my ear. Uh huh, I muttered, time and again. Yeah, yeah Mom, I will. Yeah, Mom, I know.

Suddenly, I looked down at the floor. Oh, Mom, I gotta go; the cat's on the telephone wire. I hung up the phone, scooped my little kitten into the crooked of my arm, and went out onto the porch. A few minutes later, the phone rang. What was that supposed to mean, my mother snapped. Really, Mary? "The cat's on the wire?" I laughed nervously, but the silence at the other end of the phone signaled that apology, not laughter, should be forthcoming. I'm sorry. . .really. . .I'm sorry.

She forgave me, of course; and for the next eight years, until her death, when either of us had grown tired of a conversation, we would trill: Oh, sorry! Gotta go! The cat's on the wire! She would chuckle, deep, resonate, and I would answer with my higher voice, more of a giggle. We would say our goodbyes until the next time. Oh, sorry! Cat's on the wire! and neither of us harbored any resentment.

I vividly recall my mother's telephone voice. I could lift a receiver right now, dial her number, and expect to hear the same cadence. And I have replayed, over, and over, and over, the last telephone call I had with her: Oh, Mary, the X-Ray technician broke my arm. Can you please come home? And I did. I couldn't do much for her; drive to St. Louis every weekend to spell my sister and my brothers; sit by her side, endlessly playing Willie Nelson albums and the New World Symphony, while I read from her favorite novels or the Book of Ruth.

One afternoon, she turned her head towards me, and focused her liquid brown eyes on my face. She might have been searching for something; she might have been wondering where she could find herself in my pale Irish skin and my own blue-grey eyes. But maybe not: for she whispered, with a ghost of a smile, The cat's on the wire, just before she fell into a sweet, simple sleep.

I watched her for a while, the rise and fall of her thin chest. Then I pulled her bed jacket closer around her shoulders, and just sat, whatever book I had been reading falling idle to the side of the bed. And the room quieted down around us, around my mother and me.

I don't remember when Patrick started using the oncoming tunnel dodge to terminate a call of which he has grown weary. But this time, this Friday, at the end of a strange week filled with missed cues, anxious clients, and impatient judges, I felt the warmth of a mother's peace settle on my face as I laughed, telling him to drive carefully through that tunnel, and to call me when he reaches the other side.

I'm going to Arkansas. Some friends from my Fayetteville days have invited me down. Last night, I finished washing the towels, took our daughter out to a comfortable restaurant, and bought a new coat. There's nothing to keep me from this journey. I'm going alone, down 71, to the place where my child was born. I haven't been there in fifteen years. As I glide into town, with the gentle slope of the Ozarks on my left, I am sure that the changes will astound me. I don't think there are any tunnels, though you never know. I am keeping the phone fully charged, just in case.

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.