Saturday, January 19, 2013
Saturday Musings, 19 January 2013
A wide expanse of grey smoked glass signifies that I sit at a strange desk, in a town far from my home, a four-hour jaunt away from Brookside and our weekend responsibilities. Small noises behind me alert me to the kind presence of our weekend host, his spouse and mine still sleeping, a small black cat sniffing at the bedroom door, wanting to curl beside her sleeping mistress. Grand Lake, Oklahoma. We've come to a place where I sleep the sleep of the welcome guest, with nothing more demanding to do than choose between coffee and tea for breakfast.
Dawn begins to filter through the tall, leafless trees outside the window, the sweet light of a morning that promises to be unseasonably warm even for the southwest. I feel only slightly creaky today. The face in the mirror of the guest bedroom, with its greying eyebrows and its myriad of fine wrinkles, appears slightly less tense than my winter morning face typically does. What shall we do today, we've been asked, after a delicious dinner served by the same smiling waitress who cheerfully invented lunch for a non-meat eater during our last visit here. We shrugged, Jim with his legs stretched on a large soft hassock bigger than most of my living room chairs. A tour of the small plant that our hostess manages; a lazy trip to a Civil War battlefield; an hour in the hot tub. Who cares? We're on vacation.
At home, the Christmas decorations rest in their plastic bins, on a dusty shelf in our basement. I've weathered the holiday season with only a small amount of angst. Our nest has emptied again, the visiting boys and the relocating daughter all journeyed out a spider web's path to the berths of their own new years. I see a pinch of worry at the corner of my husband's eyes. He briefly concedes that he misses his children. My own boy, the boy born to me rather than the one acquired with my nuptial vows, has gotten past the stage when calling his mother prompts him to feel clingy. I get a text or an email, a picture, a link to a poem he thinks I will like, almost every day. Thank God. The parent-shame phase lasted overlong.
That face in the mirror drifts before me as I wait for the coffee to finish brewing, the sound of it calling me to the smooth granite counters. Except for the blue eyes, that face might be my own mother, gazing at me from wherever she rests in eternity. In an instant, I sit again at her breakfast room table, trying to explain why my boss has required me to write a letter of apology to a co-worker. I didn't do anything wrong ,I whine. She's too sensitive. I am twenty-two, more than old enough to know how to treat people, beyond the age when Saturday morning visits to my mother should be consumed with sniveling. It can't be all her fault, her gentle voice tells me. You need this job. Grad school is expensive, your apartment might be cheap but you still have to pay rent. You can't come home again, she does not say. I've adjusted to an empty nest already, her tone suggests. Don't screw this up. She sets a plateful of warm schmarrn in front of me, its luscious batter lightly browned and lathered with the sheen of butter overcast by the sparkle of cinnamon sugar. I sullenly spear a piece with the side of a salad fork, and slip it into my mouth, cradling its warmth against my lips as I chew. Thomas Wolfe be damned; I could eat this stuff forever, as long as my mother cooked it in her heavy cast iron pan, and served it beside a steaming mug of cocoa.
I grumbled over that letter for an hour. In the end, I slashed the self-righteousness under my mother's slightly amused watch. She had no need to speak; the perennial message shone from her eyes. I set aside my cloak of denial, and admitted that I had been wrong, that I had been unreasonable and rude. My mother could draw the feelings of shame from me as swiftly as she could reduce me to sniffles with the gentle touch of her spotted, worn hands. I disdained of the accumulation of wealth, but if my mother approved of my moral choices, I felt like a king in his counting house, gleefully tossing each coin on a growing pile.
And now my thoughts stray back to my son, to the soft questions he poses over the wonderful medium of the Internet: Have you seenRust and Bone yet? Did you listen to that song I sent you? How is the dog? I hear again the gasp which escaped from his lips when I called to tell him of the death of one of his childhood heroes. I was just talking about him yesterday! he protested, because remembering someone damn well ought to keep them alive. I had no comfort to spare; I could only listen, just as I could only type concurrence in a mournful chat with my ex-husband an hour earlier. We should have done more. Yes. We should always have done more. We have never done enough. Just write the letter, my mother admonished, in her kindest voice. You should have done more; you hurt her feelings; you know better.
As we drove the last miles to this retreat yesterday, my husband at the wheel, we floundered a bit, the map being too vague and his memory failing to supply the intricate details of the county roads. I gazed out the window at the pastures with their small stands of livestock nibbling on the dry grass. What harm would befall us, were we to get lost for a half hour? I remained silent while he glanced back and forth at a troubling intersection, finally choosing one direction over the other for no reason other than it seemed to be correct. And it was. As we recovered the speed of sureness, he thanked me for not getting anxious. I shrugged. One small step towards redemption, my wobbly foot on the high road at last.
The Missouri Mugwump™
- M. Corinne Corley
- 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.