Saturday, February 7, 2015

Saturday Musings, 07 February 2015

Good morning,

Last evening a fluttering bird beat its wings against my rib cage.  With my palms pressed to my chest, I moved my neck in a feeble attempt to imitate the motion that should help calm the rapid beating of my afflicted heart.  Of course I have "SVT", annoying though not fatal; and of course, I have a type of SVT that cannot be fixed, located in a place in my heart that cannot easily be reached, even if a doctor's ministration could remedy the problem.  For another problem I have nitro-glycerin, but this little bird-dance inside my heart cannot be remedied.  I wait it out and fall asleep to its erratic rhythm.

I dream of my mother, but the unfolding is less a dream than a cherished memory.  We walk down the street of my childhood, McLaran Avenue in Jennings, Missouri.  Mother wears her hair in curlers held by plastic picks, with a bandanna tied around her small head.  Her olive, blotched skin shows keenly in the evening light, but I cannot discern her liquid brown eyes behind her glasses.  I see her smile and know its light gleams upward.

As we walk, I set the pace.  My legs falter but her bearing has an enviable sureness.  She lets me lead, though; and so we stroll rather than stride.  We do not speak at first, but I feel my mother waiting.  I have come to visit her because something troubles me.  I live in the city, near my college, in a small apartment.  I drive a little MG and I have parked it outside of the house.  She met me in the yard, embraced me, and said, Let's walk.  And so we are walking.

Fall surrounds us.  The neighborhood's trees shake their finery in the breeze which has not yet settled to sleep.  The light still plays to the west, as we crest the hill near the public elementary school where my siblings and I played as children.  The wide expanse of the school's hilly yard has not yet turned brown but the leaves which have begun to fall from surrounding maples skitter across the blacktop where the teachers park.

Mother and I stop at the stairs on the south side of the building.  I lean against the yellow brick of the retaining wall and Mother settles on a step beside me.  A few moments pass.  I know she has chosen to give me whatever time I need, whatever space it takes.  At the house my father will be doing the dishes.  I can picture him standing at the sink, gazing out the window at the neighbor's house.  He knows his youngest daughter must be troubled, because Mother has told him, Let me talk  to her, and left him to worry.  He'll pause with a dish in his hand and the water running, lost in blame, lost in shame, lost in a fog of worry about whether what he's done to us might be causing me to be less than able in my dealings with the world.

But I won't know about his castigation of himself for many years, and on that night, the night which I envision so vividly it might be a movie, my troubles don't seem to have anything to do with my father.

As the darkness gathers around my mother and me, I feel tears trickle down my cheeks.  Their saltiness reaches my lips and falls to the brick.  Mother stands, then, and puts her arms around me.  She remains silent.  I start to speak but cannot.  Eventually, a long shudder roils through me, and my mother knows that I have come through the worst of my grief.

I tell her of my terrible loneliness; of my differences; of my feelings of isolation.  We sit on a bench on Sunbury Avenue, facing the houses which flank the street across from the school.  We can see families through the picture windows.  In one house, I babysat during high school in exchange for piano lessons.  The children whom I watched must be in high school, I think, as my mother pats my hand.  She still has not spoken other than a few murmured words between my sobbed confessions.  But there is nothing for her to say, and she knows it.

Because I am different:  I walk funny; I have a weird health condition that no one will understand for several decades; my hair is heavy, long and curly in an era when whip-straight was the fashion.  I'm clumsy, and clingy, and smart.  Smart women won't be truly appreciated until the 1990s, some fifteen years later.  As for clumsy and clingy, they'll never be in fashion and I can only hope to outgrow them.  Mother knows this.  She listens.  I talk.

Eventually, I run out of words.  We stand and begin the walk home, north for a half-block then east, back down Kinamore, across McLaran, down our steps. My father sits in a metal lawn chair on the front porch, smoking.  He has turned on the porch light, which I spied halfway down the hill.  My heart feels lighter.  My father says, there's cake, and my mother raises her eyebrows in my direction.  We go into the house and my mother says, Do you want to stay here tonight? and I think, yes, yes, tonight and forever.  

I smile at them both, as my mother brews a cup of tea, and my father slices the cake.  Guess what the secret ingredient is, my father says, as he always says when he has baked a cake.  And then I laugh, and suddenly, I am awake.

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.