Saturday, August 1, 2015

Saturday Musings, 01 August 2015

Good morning,

Shadows score the driveway's service.  From where I sit, the alternating dark and light spanning my yard and the neighboring lawns seems ominous.  Birds chatter high in the maple and the sun rises to my right, scattering the pillars of gloom as its glow expands.

I like my neighborhood because it reminds me of Jennings, the town in North St. Louis County in which I spent my childhood.  It's different now, I know; but then its streets were only a decade old, paving sections of farm sold for those early subdivisions.  My parents bought the old farmhouse, while its owner occupied a red-brick one-story to the south.  Our porch faced west towards the post-war ranch homes flanking the street running from ours to the majesty of the shopping mall at the other end of Kinamore Drive.  I would sit in a metal lawn chair, my feet on the low brick wall in front of me, my reveries interrupted only occasionally by a slow-passing car.

I close my eyes and I am there, I am fifteen, I am home.

Mother comes out from the house and sits to my right.  She sets an aluminum glass on the flat surface of the porch wall.  Mom's hair has been rolled around brush rollers, secured with plastic stickpins, tied round with a bandanna.  She wears a wrap-around skirt, one of many she made from the same pattern.

The summer heat settles on the yard as evening wanes.  I've been writing in a notebook but it now lies on the concrete floor of the porch.  Mother speaks, What are you doing, she asks, and I turn my head towards her.   Nothing, I say.  She nods.  We like doing nothing, my mother and I.  We rarely get the chance.

In a month I will start my second year of high school.  The summer still creeps slowly; the press of Labor Day does not yet loom.  I've been babysitting the Tobin children while their parents work at the restaurant they own in the city and scribbling my poems and stories.  Only half of the family remains at home.  Ann has gone to the Army; Adrienne finally got an apartment near the zoo; Joyce got married.  It's me and the boys now.

Mother and I don't speak much.  She drinks her lemonade and I gaze across the yard to the sycamore on the edge of the property near the street.  Mother says, finally, Is something bothering you, and I tell her, It's so quiet.  She nods.  She knows what I mean.  The silence which cannot be trusted.

My father has been gone for months.  She does not know where; she does not know how.  She's tried to find out, in the sick way that a child picks at his scabs.  She won't let herself heal, won't rest in the lull or move out of the way for good.  She stands in the center of the street, stretching her neck, straining to see if the bulldozer has swung round to return.  I feel the same.

I'm thinking of joining Junior Achievement next year, I confide.  My mother's thin eyebrows raise.  She wonders aloud if that's a good idea.  She asks about meetings.  I tell her about the mailing which had come that day, for entering sophomores, addressed to me.  I reach down to my notebook and slip the pages of the letter from between its covers and show it to my mother.  She checks for the cost, the meeting place, the parental involvement requirements.  Any of these could derail my plan.

I'll get a ride, I assure her.  My voice starts weak but I gather myself and forge ahead.  I won't be the only one from Corpus Christi, I plead.  Somebody can take me.  Maybe Patty Becnel, I guess, though Patty has too many responsibilities already, with her father being widowed and her little brother being so young.  I turn sixteen in the fall but won't take Driver's Ed until the following summer and so I will not be able to drive myself with my mother's car.  But I want this.  It's supposed to be good for college applications.

And in that quiet summer, with my father gone, I've begun to think about having what I've come to learn is a normal life.  I might have pajama parties.  I might get a full night's sleep without the terrible interruption of my father's arrival, late, angry, drunk.  The shadows might dissipate from under my mother's eyes.

The sun has fallen below the neighborhood.  Our house on McLaran Avenue, at the bottom of Kinamore Drive, sits in darkness.  Lightening bugs begin to cavort in the grass.  Crickets rise their evensong.  The occasional chirp of the robins settling for the night sounds from tree limb to tree limb.  My mother takes sips of watery lemonade.  We'll see, she finally says.  I know I cannot expect more.

By the first snow, on Halloween, my father will have returned.  He will have crashed through the door while I am at Junior Achievement, making trouble lights with my group which we will sell for five dollars to our aunts and uncles.  He will have smashed a coffee cup over my mother's head and my sister Joyce will have brought her husband into the house to try to tame him.  The police will have been called.   The boy on whom I have, by then, developed a crush, will bring me home in the light dusting of snow because my mother has inexplicably failed to appear to retrieve me.  My little brother will run out and give me a locked file box in which my mother stashed her wallet and car keys to hide them from my father.  As I sit, stumbling over an explanation, a patrol car will pull to the curb in front of our house, at the bottom of the Kinamore Drive hill, on McLaran Avenue, in Jennings, Missouri, where my innocence was lost long before that wintry Halloween.

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.