Saturday, August 30, 2014
Saturday Musings, 30 August 2014
I'm blessed with a little laptop that has a touch-screen so I can make the words instantly grow to a size that accommodates my aging eyes. I use that feature and still squint at the white square in front of me, the twenty-first century equivalent of the empty piece of paper rolled into the old Remington. What do I wish to say, I ask myself. I've time enough for most memories but they seem to elude me today.
Last evening, I attended the first hour of a surprise birthday party for a woman whom I barely know but find intriguing. With a wide engaging smile, a gardener's tan and an easy way, Leslie exudes natural cheerfulness without seeming shallow or arrogant. The guests ranged from 2 to something old enough to require a walker and double hearing aids, all shapes, all sizes, all colors, in garb ranging from demure flower-print dresses to cut-off blue jean shorts. The home where Leslie and her family reside sits at the end of a dead-end street, and the resultant secluded lot had been festooned with banners, balloons and dangling fairy lights. A Zydeco group heralded every arrival including, with boisterous fanfare, that of the very surprised birthday girl.
I had intended to arrive at the dot of seven so as to make my escape before the sun set. My finicky ignition switch trapped me in front of my office building for an extra fifteen minutes, until a fellow building tenant came and jiggled it with just the right sensitivity to find the sweet spot. I'm sure I'll have to repair it soon enough, but last night I managed to get to the party -- and, later, home -- without a call to AAA.
Other than the guest of honor, her boyfriend and their children, I knew only one other person at the party, a former client with whom I exchanged somewhat awkward greetings and an update on his improved life in the several years since I got him divorced. I sat in a rocking chair in the sweet evening air, eating a bit of food and listening to the music, having tendered the pricey gluten-free cupcakes that I brought and hugged Leslie, pleasant duties easily dispensed.
A young boy, whom I learned to be a fifth grader, sat in the chair beside me. He declined an invitation from the host's son to play video games. I asked him if he liked the music. He acknowledged that he did. I noticed a couple hovering beyond him, eyeing me, whom I took to be his parents. I kept my distance but continued my delicate inquiry. It's hard to be at a party where you don't know anyone, isn't it? said I.
He raised his eyes and peered full-force into my face. Yes, it is, he admitted. His eyes stayed on mine. I noticed he wore a buttoned, collared shirt, neat khaki shorts, and shoes with actual socks. I recognized him, then: In this child, I met my younger, male self; my brother Frank; his now-grown son Rick at 10. Perhaps my own son. My heart contracted.
I asked him about his school (French immersion) and his summer (a trip to Argentina with his father). He warmed to both subjects, talking about a future field trip to France; the odd meat that his father tried in Buenos Aires which his father leaned down to identify as large intestine. He told me that he wanted to have a job that allowed him to live in the United States but travel. He said he wants to be a writer.
Ah, a writer! I exclaimed. My son is a writer. And I write, but I don't make my living as a writer. What do you want to write? He said he wasn't sure but he thought books. I asked him if he keeps a journal. He leaned forward, rested his arms on his knees and gazed at me with utter seriousness. Sadly, no, he replied. In those two words, I saw reflected many conversations he must have had, with himself or some external influence -- a teacher, a parent -- and all such exchanges that I have inflicted on my own writer's soul flowed back to me. I knew his demons: the writer's blessing and the writer's curse.
At some point, we stood so he could introduce me to his parents. My cell phone rang; my son calling from Chicago; and I excused myself for a few minutes. The boy ran off to get some food, and, my call completed, I chatted with his parents. I noticed the sun had fully set and the danger zone for driving had now been breached. I made my apologies and excuses to the couple, just as their son came back to stand beside his mother.
I leaned down and offered him my hand. It was a pleasure meeting you, I told him. He shook my hand like a champ and then, just before I turned to walk down the driveway, he reached over and threw his arms around my neck in the most tender of innocent hugs that I've had in an eternity of tender, children's embraces. I looked over his head at his mother. I recognized what I saw there; I smiled at all of them as the boy disengaged. I left before the tears could flow, while the unbidden joy still claimed my face.
A man about my age, a friend of my hosts, saw me struggling on the uneven boards of the porch and took my arm. He guided me down the gravel road, and reached into my car to turn the key when I failed to get the thing to work. Seeing my consternation at being hemmed between two vehicles in the narrow lane, he volunteered to back my car from its space, and turn it around. When he had done so, I showered him with thanks, and asked his name -- Mark -- so I could be sure to hold it in my heart, among the names of other strangers who have stopped to help me since my car developed its stubborn refusal to instantly engage.
A half hour later, I sat on my porch, in the easy air of a late summer night. The neighborhood had fallen quiet. I read my e-mail, wrote a few paragraphs to someone who harbors hurt because of me, trying to soothe the deep-set fraying in his psyche. I talked a while to my son, listening to his weekend challenges, getting his insight about mine. I made my night's blog entry, let the old dog out and in again. I set the alarm, climbed the stairs, and sent a prayer from my heart to whatever being watches over serious ten-year-olds and their sixty-year old incarnations. I fell asleep smiling.
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.