Saturday, March 26, 2016

Saturday Musings, Easter Weekend, 26 March 2016

Good morning,

The cursed cell phone alarm rang at seven.  I had not intended to be jarred from sleep but I let myself lie abed for a few minutes so no harm befell me.  When I finally rose, my legs worked well enough, the dizziness had passed, and the craving for caffeine had taken hold.

I padded around the house shamelessly, slippers on my feet and robe clutched against my chest.  One of the nicest things about middle-age has to be the sudden lack of concern for one's morning appearance.  Hair scrunched, skin blotchy, nails bitten and bent.  Yawn.  Heat another cup of coffee, why don't you, you'll be fine.  I laughed at myself and did just that, as the dog thumped her tail against the floor and eyed me, wondering, no doubt, if I would make her go outside.

I had to tell my son that Easter had come, during a call last night which ended with ten minutes at the end of the driveway talking into the air.  I still marvel over the concept of Bluetooth, which connects itself to my mobile and allows me to chatter away as I drive down the roadway, both hands on the wheel, radio off, looking obliviously loony except for the fact that no one sees, since they're all on their hands-free cell phones, talking to their sons.  Or daughters.  Or whatevers.  My son said, Tomorrow's Easter?  I had no idea.  Doesn't that come in April?

I didn't raise my son with any sort of religion. He's baptized in the Catholic Church, because that's what Catholics do, even recovering ones, and he spent two grueling years at St. Peter's Catholic Grade School which experience, he said, turned him atheist at the age of 10.  I don't know where he stands on the existence of a divine entity, let alone on the divinity of Jesus Christ or life ever after, amen.  We did Easter with the Taggarts, ham on the table, chocolate in baskets.  Occasionally we visited other people's churches in our "Sunday Best", but usually we just did brunch in the dining room, eggs hidden in the yard, and lots of candy.

One year the Easter Egg Hunt halted while Maher Sagrillo, age 9, listened to his father tell him that as a Muslim, he could not hunt for pagan goodies in Auntie Corinne's front yard.  When the phone disconnected on the faraway father, Maher's mother consoled him and Auntie Corinne said, Fine, then, don't hunt, and commanded the other little boys to fill Maher's basket before their own.  Done and done.  In their matching white shirts, the ones they'd worn in Auntie Corinne's wedding, Patrick, Chris, Sam, and Maher sat on our steps and ate themselves sick with jelly beans and Reese's Peanut Butter Bunnies.

When my brothers Frank and Steve were about that same age, mother made Easter cards from prints of the two little boys carving the pumpkin at Halloween the previous year.  I hand-wrote the message inside each card:  Happy Easter, Happy Spring, Happy Happy EVERYTHING.  My mother loved a good metaphor.

In a little while, I will make a visit to the cemetery and then throw my bag into the car and drive to Honker Springs Farm.  I will give myself over to Ellen Carnie's hug, and sink into her comfortable couch.  We'll figure out dinner, and maybe have a glass of wine.  Jerry Stewart, her gentleman friend, will squire us wherever we go.  I'll sleep like a baby in the guest room under an old quilt, and waken with the first light.  I will putter around her kitchen making coffee, which I'll drink on the deck, with the sun pulling itself over the horizon.  I will tug a shawl around my shoulders and let the cool air cleanse me inside and out.  By and by, we will go to Stony Point Presbyterian Church where Ellen and her friends will celebrate their risen Christ.

For my part, I will remember last Easter, when I sat in this same church numb from crying.  I will shift so that I can see the people around me.  Ellen will beam at me, and Jerry will ask me if I am okay.  I will shake my head at both of them, signalling that they should pay me no mind.  The choir will raise its voice, and within that tiny warm building, I will close my eyes and let the music flow around me, silently giving thanks that I have survived another year.

Mugwumpishly tendered,

Corinne Corley

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Saturday Musings, 19 March 2016

Good morning,

I survived the brutal schedule of the last two weeks.  Every chair in my house bears a jacket; most surfaces hold stacks of legal pads, files which should be at my office, and clutches of unsorted mail.  I paid the utility bills online but otherwise merely glanced at each day's haul from the mailbox checking for anything critical.  Junk, mostly; and bound for the recycle box; but temporarily occupying space as flotsam and jetsam scattered about the place.

Once or twice each year, my docket falls apart like this.  But coming on the heels of my California trip, this spate proved particularly grueling.  In the middle of the span, I attended a funeral; and tomorrow, I will make a brief appearance at another.  Untimely deaths, both:  A young girl, and a middle-aged man who had reclaimed a broken life.  I sip my tea, here on earth, and realize that both had radiant smiles; dancing eyes; loving, tender hearts.

Perhaps God needed a new crop of angels to breathe life into heaven.

I pad around the house with a touch of aimlessness while my tea brews.  The tasks before me seem more daunting than the ones through which I've just safely navigated with only a few scrapes along the hull.  I don't dare think about the number of laundry  loads or the layer of grime on the stove from the few meals that I've managed to cook for myself.  I stare at the nearly bare shelves of the refrigerator. Old Romaine; two yogurt containers; dubious-looking carrots; a half-depleted container of hummus.  I close the door and go upstairs with my tea and a rice cake.

A conversation with a friend yesterday has reminded me once more of childhood and the ladies who raised me.  My mother, her mother, my sisters.  I reflect on our weekly bus trips to my grandmother Corley's apartment in the city; the opulence which surrounded her, as she sat ensconced in her quiet existence.  I sank into the quiet, so different from the chaos of my parents' house.  I lifted one child's finger to touch the china figurines, the glass birds, the gilt frames.  No one scolded me as I marveled over the sheer elegance of everything I saw.

Last night I took myself to my favorite neighborhood restaurant for dinner.  I had to feed myself and could not face the drudgery of shopping, exhausted and feverish, bone-weary, laden with the raw emotions of others heaped on me in the course of doing my job.  Instead I sat at the counter and ordered the exact assemblage of food that I always get there:  three appetizers -- pakora; spiced corn; and vegetable somosas.  I strained a bit to settle myself on the high stool, but declined to occupy even a table for two on a busy Friday night.  The owner raised his hand, brief thanks for my courtesy, then poured filtered water, setting a linen napkin beside me, asking after my son who used to work for him and whom he never fails to mention.

I ate my meal with my tablet open to a detective novel, translated from Norwegian, light, unchallenging.  Afterwards I paid at the register and took the leftovers home for Saturday's lunch.  As I pulled away from the curb to drive the three blocks to my house, I saw several families navigating the broken sidewalk towards the restaurant:  A teenage girl, a young woman pushing a sleeping toddler in a blue stroller, a couple holding hands.  A cat darted in front of my car and I pressed gently down on the brake  pedal.  As I stopped, I noticed a man watching my car, and I caught his eyes.  He smiled and nodded, then walked on, into the restaurant.

I took his smile home with me.  Its essence lingered far into the night, a flickering candle warding off the gloom.

Today holds errands.  I will grocery shop, buy a few household needs, run to Target for a pair of tights to replace the ones that finally tore beyond usefulness this week.  I have not been to my favorite curmudgeon's grave since before I left for California.  Though tomorrow's service for my friend Robert will take me to the same cemetery, I want to visit Jay and Joanna's resting place today, in the quiet of the afternoon.  I will lay the orange roses on Joanna's headstone, and speak a few quiet words to the lingering essence of the man whose ashes lie beneath the ground there; the man who called me "Honey" and told me he loved me, every time we met.  Then I will come back home, and begin the process of setting things right in my world.

Mugwumpishly tendered,

Corinne Corley

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Saturday Musings, 12 March 2016

Good morning,

As I stood waiting for the kettle to boil this morning, the sounds of a steady rain surrounded me, wafting into the house through the slight opening in the back door. The dog sniffs the yard, then takes the stairs in the slow ponderous way she has developed, mostly, I've concluded, to guilt me into letting her come back inside.  She sprints out the front door if it's left ajar and makes 63rd street before I can find the leash.

But I let her have what she wants, another hour in her bed under the dining room window.  As she settles I pour hot water through the cone of the coffee dripper.  The Mr. Coffee died while I cavorted about the ocean side.  I don't understand why; I had just purchased it six or seven months ago.  So I've gone back to my college roots with a 10-Cup Melitta with its plastic cone.  I got a single-burner warming plate to replace the one I donated years ago when I thought I'd never need it again.  This one has four settings and sits high on the conter.  I miss the low, flat one with its single-button feature but I couldn't find a replacement on Amazon.

My mother bought my first Melitta, forty or so years ago when she came to my little apartment on Russell Street where I paid by the week.  I kept the place scrupulously clean, not too difficult since I owned next to nothing.  Mother stocked my kitchen with cast-off pans from her collection, the Melitta, and dishes from Vet's Village.  We had repaired our relationship that far, after my petulant decampment from home the prior year.

My living room had a futon on a folding frame, a couple of rockers, and an old recliner.  Mother brought me the old full-sized bedframe and we found a mattress and box spring set somewhere cheap.  I had no air conditioning.   I ate at a Formica table on a metal chair with the back door propped open for circulation.

Mother did not understand why I insisted on living in the city.  But she kept her complaints quiet.  By then I had quit my hospital job in North County and found a similar one near my college.  I had bought my first car, an MG midget which constantly needed my brother's ministrations.  I burned through clutches like Kleenex.

When I got tossed out of that place for bringing black people around my bigoted landlady's precious four-plex, I moved to Laclede Town with two roommates.  One of them had a full set of dishes and a couch.  They both had lots of friends.  Donna, one of them was called -- which I only remember because we worked together, later, at Legal Aid.  I think the other one's name was Linda but I'm not sure.  It could have been Sue.

They both had their lives on track while I mostly worked, cut classes, drank Scotch at the Student Union, and sat in my bedroom with the door shut feeling sorry for myself.  But I adored those girls. I cut my hair because they wore theirs short.

Three campus cops lived in the townhouse across from our back patio.  One or the other of them would slip out their patio door and across to ours, rapping on the glass.  Whoever heard them pulled the wooden dowel from the well of the doors and let them into the house.  They'd borrow coffee, bring us booze, carry heavy furniture without much prompting, and otherwise do what guys do when three women move into the neighborhood.  None of us dated any of them.  They had girlfriends now and then; Donna and Sue -- yes, her name definitely was not Linda -- always had boyfriends.  Our place drew a small crowd once a month.  The little dishwasher got a lot of use.

Donna and Sue finished their studies before I did.  I stayed in the place by myself for a full semester, not counting the pregnant teenager that lived with me for a few weeks and sat on the patio, smoking, in the November rain.  She drank cup after cup of coffee brewed in my Melitta.  I took her to an adoption lawyer who helped her find someone to pay her expenses and take her baby.  After she left, I was alone.

On my twenty-first birthday, during that last fall of college.  Donna, Sue, and a friend of Sue's named Kathy who had a broken voice box and spoke in a whisper, took me on the Admiral to celebrate.  On the crowded deck, music blaring, the Mississippi gliding behind us, they pressed frozen drinks with little umbrellas into my hand.  I got hopelessly drunk and cried.  They danced and held me in a room so crowded that I couldn't have fallen down if I had tried.  The music pounded in my head for weeks, fading only with October's chilly evenings, when I'd stand in their empty bedrooms and will them to return.

In a couple of hours, I will don a black flowered dress, and a pink sweater, to attend the funeral of Maddie McDowell who died this week.  Her family has requested that mourners wear pink in honor of her youth and sweetness.  This will be the second funeral that I've attended in pink, the first having been that of a sixteen-year-old who killed herself.  Maddie, with whom my son attended elementary school and who lived across from another family we know, died in her sleep after minor surgery.  Her loss grieves me.  I cannot imagine bearing the pain which her parents and brother must feel.

The rain saturates the ground and flows from my gutters.  I stand at the front door with my crystal mug and think about replacing the broken rocker and buying new plants.  Soon spring will unfold herself and spread her grandeur over Brookside.  I am ready.   I intend to plant pink roses in Maddie's honor.

Mugwumpishly tendered,

Corinne Corley

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Saturday Musings, 05 March 2016

Good morning,

I've heard it said that the mark of a good party comes when something breaks, preferably a wine bottle or a beautiful crystal goblet.  It's a party now! But for me, the sign that a function has succeeded lies in the ache of my feet, the knot in my knee, and the exhaustion that claims me when I finally collapse into bed.

I felt every speck of that last night after the opening reception for the latest artists at Suite 100, the professional suite that I've shared with four other professionals (friends, all) for the last six years.  I'm not sure I can faithfully reconstruct how these art receptions developed, but we have them four times a year.  The March and June openings are "all about the art".  In September, we do a fundraiser for two area domestic violence shelters, Rose Brooks in Missouri and SAFEHOME in Kansas.  Then in December, our big annual Holiday Open House provides a chance for us to thank our clients, colleagues, and friends for their faith in us and their support of us.  At each, new art graces our walls and artists have a chance to mingle and sell their art.

It's hard work, but rewarding.  This morning I feel each day of my sixty-plus years, from the ends of my hair to the gnarled tips of my toes.  But I'm okay with that; I can feel, therefore, I still live.

As I sit peering through the still-broken slats of the blind in one of my north-facing windows, I can hear a faint roar.  Traffic out on Troost Avenue, perhaps; maybe a distant passing train.  A motorcycle courses through my neighborhood, its engine racing to a crescendo as it nears my house, then fading as it moves south.  Five birds flutter in the air and land on a taut wire.  As they sit, the wire gently sways; suddenly, they lift and dart out of sight.  I watch the movement of the wire in their wake and wonder where they would light if humanity had not provided this perch.

Four houses to the north of mine, an overturned wheelbarrow protrudes from a  pile of spaded earth.  Squirrels dart along its upper edge, catapulting into a nearby spindly dogwood.   My neighbor has torn down a small gazebo and started work on her backyard, hoping, I suppose, to match the beauty of her front yard plantings which already put the rest of us to shame as we walk past.  I remember when the people before her leveled the yard for a swing set.  Our children took turns on the glider before running three yards over to conquer the jungle gym in my backyard.  The littlest, Rebecca, scurried behind her brother Dane and my son Patrick, dragging a doll in the dirt as she ran. Though our yards were fenced, a series of old gates yielded as the kids darted from one house to the other,

The gates are gone now.  Rebecca and Dane moved to Kansas, and my son found other playmates. Decades receded; those laughing, flushed children no longer exist.  The Girl Scouts who lived on 61st Terrace are college students and graduates. I see their parents at parties once or twice a year.  We trade stories of our children's successes, beaming and proud beneath our grey hair.

I have survived to middle age.  I count among the days gone by, the loss of both parents and one brother;  four failed pregnancies including my son's twin; one live birth, three marriages and three divorces; life in three states and five cities; two home purchases; a moderately successful law practice; three separate, successful efforts to overcome substance dependence; the intentional loss of eight-two pounds; and the acquisition of a heartbreakingly loyal group of friends.  I've fallen in love five times; had my heart broken six times (counting the loss of my son's twin as one); and outlived a firm prediction of my impending death by eighteen years and counting.  I survived Catholic schools, an alcoholic abusive father, two tornadoes -- one of which some disputed, calling it a mere straight-line wind; and an attack on an emergency room in which two people died from close-range shotgun blasts.  I stood fifteen feet behind one of them as he fell to the floor.  I have been hit by cars while crossing a street three times, twice unscathed and once with only a crushed leg -- and not one drop of blood shed.

I'm cleaning out the closets at the Holmes house.  I sense the approach of a storm; or perhaps a tidal wave.  Change looms around the corner.  I feel the need to jettison anything that will not aid my survival.  Meanwhile, the world turns outside my window.  My son voted for the first time this week, in the Illinois presidential primary.  I have tried off and on for the last six years to convince him to exercise his civic duty.  I had stopped trying; his decision to register had nothing to do with me, unless you count whatever passion I have inspired in him for  the betterment of the world around us.

Now the dog barks to be let back into the house, pulling me from these pleasant reveries.  By the light streaming through the window, I know that the hour of my next obligation draws near.  I leave the keyboard, and the cold cup of coffee beside it, and take up the day.

Mugwumpishly tendered,

Corinne Corley

The Missouri Mugwump™

My photo
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.