Saturday, May 10, 2014

Saturday Musings, 10 May 2014

Good morning,

I have made it through a difficult night and sit now in my rocking chair.  My husband walks from kitchen to porch, checking on me.  Coffee brews; I can't smell it from here, but I heard the grinder and can almost taste the richness, feel the warmth.  It's later than I usually rise even on Saturdays, and cars pass our house with more frequency than I would like, disturbing the quiet.  But the nesting birds still sing as sweetly; they still rejoice in the morning, and the dew has not yet dried on the grass of our yard.

I'm thinking so much of my mother; of motherhood; of lessons that she taught me and lessons that I failed to learn before she died.  My husband asked me, this morning, if I discussed intimate things with my mother.  I don't recall conversations like that.  We talked about God, and politics, and gardening; but not the relationships between men and women or between friends.  I don't know if she would have shared her feelings, if I had approached her.  The fact is, neither of us tried, even when I was still young enough that such lessons would, today at least, have been natural subjects for a mother and daughter.

I inherited my mother's frankness.  She rarely sugar-coated anything she told us.  But she also had an incredible gentleness about her.  She yearned to be buried with the unbaptised infants in a nearby cemetery.  She couldn't stand to think that they had no mother to protect them, to comfort them, to sing to them.  She walked among their stones, scattering flowers, singing softly in her mother's voice.

When I was twenty-two, I had a miscarriage in my mother's bathroom.  I hadn't told her that I was pregnant but I think, in retrospect, that she must have known.  I hadn't lived at home with any regularity for five years, when I had decamped following a senseless quarrel between my mother and me.  "Dinner's at five," she had snapped.  "If you're not home by then, don't bother coming home at all."  That was in September of 1973, when I had just turned 18, and except for a few random Sunday dinners, I took her at her word all through college.

But by January of 1978, we had reached a kind of peace.  My post-college sojourn in Boston had brought me to my knees in many respects, and she had put aside her bitterness at my ungrateful ways.  On this evening, the evening I lost my first pregnancy, I had come out to the county for dinner.  I had intended to confide in her afterwards, to ask her advice.  I had only two meaningful choices at the time:  Quit grad school and raise a child; or give the child up for adoption.  I was four months pregnant and sinking fast into a quagmire of uncertainty and gloom.

I felt sharp pains during dinner which I dismissed.  But afterwards, in the bathroom, the controversy came to a sad end.  My mother, hearing me sobbing I suppose, stood at the bathroom door and quietly called my name.  When I did not respond, she let herself in and locked the door.  She looked at the sad mess that results from such occurrences and said, "If I didn't know better, I'd guess you were having a miscarriage."  I don't quite know what she meant, but I collapsed, sobbing, in her arms and she held me, standing between the sink and the tub, until my body grew weak and still.  And then she cleaned me, with her soft mother's hands, and led me to my old bedroom.  She helped me into a pair of pajamas that might have belonged to any of her children, and tucked me under a quilt that her grandmother had made from tailor's scraps.  I slept for twenty hours.

I got that quilt when my mother died.  I haul it out sometimes in the winter and spread it over me, letting its warmth meld around me until my mind releases whatever troubles have taken hold of it.

All that I have been as a mother came from my mother, both the good and the bad.  My tenderness, my tenacity, my sweetness and my ferociousness -- all of it came to me through her.   I have drawn upon her lessons and also, I can admit, I have repeated her mistakes.  Whatever I am, whatever I have done or not done, I am Lucille Corley's youngest daughter.  I make no apologies for what I have been.  I am a tribute to my mother, to the pain she endured, and the children she bore, and the dreams she harbored, for herself and for them.  When I die, as we all die, I hope that the first face I see beyond heaven's gate is hers, and that she wears the same smile I last saw upon her face.  I hope she speaks to me, and welcomes me home.

Mugwumpishly tendered,

Corinne Corley

Happy Mother's Day to everyone who has been a mother, however that motherhood transpired.  In honor of my mother, Lucille Johanna Lyons Corley, 09/10/26 - 08/21/85.  May she rest in the peace she deserves.

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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.