Saturday, June 21, 2014

Saturday Musings, 21 June 2014

Good morning,

Potted plants surround me, with their mixture of fading blooms and emerging buds.  I realize that I need to trim the dead blossoms, and idly reach over to nip one or two with my fingernails.  I hear the call of a bird which I've been trying to identify by its song since it nested in my gutter.  I know it's not a bobwhite, a robin or a whippoorwill.  Its notes hit high and sweet, rapid and rhythmic.  I think I might find a website with clips of bird songs, and see if I can match it.

It's the Summer Solstice.  I think of this day as being the day we buried my brother.  I believe it was June 21st; I could be off by a day.  Since we don't know when he died, only the day someone found his body and the day of his burial stand as anniversaries of his death.  Seventeen years.  I still miss him; but then, my mother died in 1985, and I sometimes engage the phone to call her. Still.  I wonder if her number has been re-assigned.  Perhaps whoever has it now would listen.

My mother listened to me, regardless of how crazy my thoughts and ideas became.  She listened; and when I needed her, she never failed me.

1975.  Saint Louis, south side.  I'm living in a second-floor flat with a woman named Mary Ann who turned bad on me, some months later, but she'd just moved into the back bedroom that June and I hadn't yet figured out that she had a mean and sadistic streak.  That Saturday, I awoke feeling ill.  I stood in the bathroom, swaying and retching, sweaty and dizzy.  Mary Ann wasn't there, I didn't know where she had gone or when she might return.  So  I called my mother.

An hour later, I lay in my bed writhing and shivering.  Out on Maury Avenue, children with nothing to do but hammer the fire hydrant with baseball bats had finally succeeded in sending a gush of water across the asphalt.  They shrieked as they ran through the spray, and my head pounded with each peal of laughter.  I struggled out of bed, onto the balcony, and shouted down to them,  "Please, please, can't you be quiet??"

As I stood there, in my sweat-drenched nightgown, my mother climbed out of her car and tilted back her head.  "Oh honey, go back inside," she called to me.  "They're just having fun."

I resented her taking their side but complied.  I closed the balcony door, shutting the stale heat and motionless air of my apartment against the laughter-tinged breeze.

My mother dumped an armload of supplies on my dining room table and promptly pulled the French door back open, letting in a stream of fresh air.  She got the backdoor open, and several windows. She walked past the closed door to Mary Ann's bedroom and ran cold water  the kitchen sink.  She filled a glass and made me drink the whole thing.  She shushed me when I gagged.  "Now go take a shower," she instructed.  Again, I did as she told me.  I could not resist my mother's commands, even at nineteen, even when I'd been living on my own for a year.

When I returned, clean, clothed, she had sanitized the kitchen and dining room.  She moved into my bedroom, stripped the sheets, and shoved them in my laundry hamper.  With one hand, she sprayed Lysol on the mattress; with the other, she shook out the pillow.  The air smelled like medicine, like a  hospital, like the aftermath of a motherly tornado.  I sat down on a dining room chair and closed my eyes.

I think I slept.

Another scent lured me back to consciousness:  Tea, hot, in a china cup.  I curled my hands around it, raised it to my nose, and pulled the fragrance of it into my lungs. The smell of home.  The odor of love.

I heard the whirring of my electric can opener and knew that a bowl of soup would soon be on the table.  Crackers would follow, on a little china plate, and there would be a napkin.  I leaned back and drank the tea.  I surrendered to the inevitable recovery.  By morning, I would be fine.  My mother's care had a relentless, driven edge to it that would tolerate no dissent.  I found myself smiling.  All was well.

Here in Brookside, in 2014, I lean back and let my gaze travel the full height of the front maple which rises high above the roof line, lush and green.  The last few weeks of rain have set our yard to shimmering, tall grass, out-of-control shrubs, a rash of wild green onions.  I might be in the forest surrounded by native undergrowth, with the chattering of monkeys signalling the approach of a predator.  I let my hands fall idle and surrender to the soothing sounds of the unknown bird, high above me, on the branch of the neighbor's cedar.

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.