Saturday, September 6, 2014

Saturday Musings, 06 September 2014

Good  morning,

Another anniversary of my birth has come and gone.  Aching muscles testify that I enjoyed the evening's events but tasked myself over-much.  My professional suite's quarterly art reception coincided with my birthday, so I stood all evening in my customary place by the door, serving as guest book attendant and hostess, standing, smiling, greeting, marveling at the fifty or sixty folks who braved the driving rain to come see Heather Roman's extraordinary fabric scrolls and make a donation for SAFEHOME and Rosebrooks.  Each entity got $300 from the donation bucket, pushing them an inch closer in their battle against domestic violence.

The presence of the volunteers with their literature also cast a light into the dark mists of an ugly reality. Several people came to me and confided that they had, on some occasion in their past, needed the services of a shelter.  Among them, even before last night's event:  the manager at the store where I purchased some of the supplies.  She asked me what I was doing and when I told her, she said, quietly, simply, that she had been a client of Rosebrooks in the past - and then gave me a 10% discount.  She thanked me for helping an organization that had once helped her, and I left that store humbled by the catch in her voice and the lingering sheen of tears in her eyes.

As the reception drew to a close, I stood in my office and thought about people whom I have known in my practice who suffered abuse at the hands of a spouse or parent.  I understand their burdens; I feel what they feel; I taste what they taste.  I rarely speak of the grimmer moments of my childhood except by oblique reference or in reflecting on the healing path I strive to walk.  My silence on specifics honors both dead and living.  The dead cannot defend themselves; the living should not have to address anything which they prefer not to confront.  And so I leave the details of what my family suffered to the box in which I store them, and take them out one rock at a time, examining each memory when it rattles and demands to be touched or when something reminds me and I finger the wounds, massaging them with healing ointment, smoothing the ragged edges.  I admit that I have done more healing in the last year than in the previous fifty years.  I feel forgiveness warming me.  I wonder what my life would have been like if I had found this peace a long time ago.

On the wall in my newly painted hallway hangs a hand-drawn depiction of the expressions on Japanese marks.  A former client gave me this work after I completed her divorce.  Born in Japan, and here in America first on a student visa, this woman had married an America and triggered the start of a half-dozen years of hell.  Working with her immigration lawyer, I secured a judgment which enabled her to complete her permanent residency despite the divorce, based upon the domestic violence which she suffered.  Without specific findings about her husband's abuse of her, she would have been ousted from this country with the application still pending, no longer the spouse of a citizen, no longer eligible to attain the status.

My client also gave me a puzzle box, and years later, sent another one to me in the mail.  On a shelf in my office stands a Mrs. Potts teapot from Tokyo Disney World, with its corresponding Chips cup, also gifts from her.  The last time I saw her, she came to my home for Thanksgiving dinner, the year of her divorce and just before she journeyed home to Japan to see her family, secure in the knowledge that she could legally return to this country when she chose to do so.  When we went around the table doing our "thankful-fors", this beautiful young woman pointed to me, without speaking.  I have never forgotten her.  I never could.

Last night, someone asked me what I would do in the last year of my fifties if I could have my wish.  I considered "bring about world peace", but knew she asked her question with seriousness and wanted me to respond the same.  I voiced a couple of sentimental yearnings, but saw her arched eyebrow and fell silent. "I want to know what you want to be doing," she gently urged.  I reflected.  "I'd like to write," I told her.  "And I'd like to create something bigger than just my law firm, something that would do some lasting good so I could know that I made a difference, that I created something that would help a lot of people who need an advocate."  She nodded, as though to say, I expect no less of you, my friend.

On the radio, a group of children sing Edelweiss.  This song brings my grandmother to mind.  She was born in Austria and immigrated to America as a child.  A strong woman, assertive, independent, she had a gentle side.  I remember her visiting our home once when my mother was hospitalized.  I don't know why; perhaps my brother Stephen's birth, perhaps some other, terrible event.  I could not have been older than five or six.  I came upon Nana standing in my mother's room, over the bed she had just made.  She held something in her hands -- a book, I think; perhaps my mother's missal.  She did not see me.  Tears fell from her unblinking eyes, trailed down her cheek, fell to her blouse.  I made no sound.  Nana leaned down, set the book on the bedside table, and ran one hand across the pillow case to smooth it.  I've never seen such tenderness bestowed on an empty bed.  I can only imagine what she thought, at that moment, about the woman --- her oldest child -- who normally slept there.

The morning labors on while I linger over coffee.  I need to tear myself away from my thoughts, and do something constructive.  But with the sweetness of the morning air drifting into the house from the backdoor, I prefer to sit, thinking, wondering about the ways in which we treat one another; wondering whether the good outweighs the bad, whether the love conquers the fury of anger.  I think about my client, far away, in Japan, and hope that happiness has found her.

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.