The rain has passed. I've warmed a mug of coffee, peered out the back door, and checked the perimeter of my dwelling. Seeing no intruders, I gazed for a moment at the sleeping dog and then came back upstairs, mug in hand, to stare out my window and watch the sun rise.
Memories crowd me this morning, begging for my attention, boasting of a richness that they crow will not be found in the present. I stare at the computer screen, willing it to flicker with images of old familiar faces. I think about a long conversation that I had last night, one into which no artifice crept. Our words flowed easily, free of any subtext, tinged with pain, with regret, with compassion, with sweet disclosure. A gift, that conversation; and a useful one, which I will keep at hand and study often.
My house fell silent once that conversation ended, with only my footfalls and the whisper of the dog's movement as she settled for the evening. Into the silence came echoes of the past -- shadows of fifty years ago dancing beside those of last week, mingling, waltzing, taunting me. Here is my mother, holding my son though he came into this world six years after she departed. Here the small clumsy feet of my childhood struggle to climb the Arkansas mountain where I camped in 1986 with the man whom I would marry the next year. Time folds over itself, twisting, weaving.
I close my eyes and see boxes in this house. Someone stands in the front bedroom assembling the frame of a toddler bed. A little boy carries a stuffed bunny. One tiny fist rubs a sleepy eye. I raise him in my arms and we settle into a rocking chair, ignoring the moving mess, waiting for all the kind helpers to pack their tools and leave us to the evening. We'll unpack tomorrow.
May 29th, 1993. The first night that my son and I spent in this house. Before his eyes flickered shut, he said, Is this our forever home?
Now the only possessions of his which take any space here are three guitars with missing strings, a set of weights, and two boxes of God-knows-what brought home from his college fraternity house three years ago. The favorite guitars, his keyboard, the small desk from his room, and everything else he valued fill a basement apartment in Evanston, Illinois.
On Wednesday morning, my son casually announced over the phone that he had been awarded his MFA. I nearly wrecked the Prius. I had known that something happened on Tuesday, something he described as "defending my portfolio" but I did not realize it had such significance. After four years of college, a gap year and two years of graduate school, my little boy now holds a Master of Fine Arts in Screenwriting.
I think about the child whom I first held in my arms shortly after 1:00 p.m. on 08 July 1991, born six weeks early but still weighing over seven pounds. Good god, the midwife exclaimed. Just think if you'd carried the lad to term. We all laughed, our voices bouncing from the sterile walls of the operating room. Though that lad struggled for the first few years from the effects of a shortened gestation, nonetheless he now stands nearly six feet tall, with the broad shoulders and narrow waist of his father's Native American heritage. Of me, he inherited only my troubled soul, which I got from my father, and which my father brought home from his march down the Burma trail.
Perhaps he got his writing talent from me; and if so, that, too, I inherited from my father, and he from his. My grandfather John L. Corley, a lawyer who haunted the halls of Notre Dame, published poetry under the name Louis Millwood, a nom de plume combining his middle name and the name of the town where he lived. Patrick carries that tradition, along with a tendency towards isolation; both proclivities smack of the Corley heritage.
I hear the alarm ring and I am not sure why I wanted to rise at 7:30 but I've been up since six, thinking about being a girl, a wife, a step-parent, parent, a lawyer, a friend, a solitary woman. Everything that I have done, everyone whom I have known, and all of my choices paved the path that brought me to this moment. As I said goodbye to my visitor of last evening, standing on my lovely porch in the chilly night air, I felt the keenness of my sixty years full upon my shoulders. Some future hovered just beyond my sight, dancing in the darkness, twirling to the vibrant lilting tune of a pipe I cannot quite hear. I put out the lights and retired for the evening, feeling another page about to turn, giddy with anticipation.