Saturday, November 26, 2016

Saturday Musings, 26 November 2016

Good morning,

It seems that I have been writing these Musings forever but it's only been eight and a half years.  So much has happened in that time; so many stages of my life, so many losses and even a few gains.  I cannot decide if I'm in a river swimming against the tide or a bottomless pool struggling to reach the light, resisting a relentless pull downward.

The world pauses for a moment.  Today's early light falls gently on my shoulders as I skitter through the fallen leaves towards the curb with a small bag of trash to add to the larger one already piled there.  I wear my grandmother's house coat flower-side inward, snapped, a folded handkerchief tucked into its bric-a-brac trimmed pockets.  My son sleeps.  This day holds work for him, ten hours of it.  Tomorrow we meet friends for brunch and supper; Monday he returns to Chicago.

The visit has gone quickly.  He came with the intention of being a help to me and he has done that.  He walked the dog, cleaned the house before the arrival of our Thanksgiving guests, drove us around on all our errands, and listened to a friend and me tell stories of courtroom antics.  But he also showed some aspects of his mid-twenties self;  I discovered a lot about my boy.  He runs deep.  He still has little faith in himself, something he learned from me, I'm sad to say.  Yet I have not surrendered my belief in him and I have no intention of dying or relenting.  My mother thought that I could succeed in anything I tried.  Her death at 30 deprived me of my most faithful fan.  Without her encouragement I slid into mediocrity.

Yesterday morning, I watched a little family walk past my house.  Father, mother, sister, brother.  Their daily treks to and from their home began before the birth of either child -- newlyweds hand in hand.  I watched the bulge of pregnancy grow under the woman's clothing.  A baby buggy signaled the happy event.  Later a little toddler pushed that same buggy; and father walked along beside.  I don't know their names, or in which house they live.  I speak only small words to them -- 'good morning', 'happy spring', 'nice weather'.  The man nods or waves.  The woman does  not turn her head towards me, not ever.  She does not break stride.  But the children smile and return my greeting.

I measure my tenure here by the evolution of that family.  I've lived here since before the birth of either child.  I've watched their children grow from babies to scampering grade-schoolers in the uniform of the nearby Catholic parish.  Slightly older than them, my son has gone from a daycare baby to an M.F.A. since we first moved to this neighborhood.  I've married  twice.  I've staggered through the stages of grief for the loss of a brother, my beloved in-laws, and both marriages, both husbands.  I started this blog during the summer of 2008 when my son had gone to Mexico as an exchange student and my husband had decamped for his Ohio girlfriend's arms.  I've tried to be kind; I've tried to be thoughtful; I've tried to avoid the maudlin and the self-absorption that I see in other forums.

A lifetime of stories has fallen from me to these pages, into the little rectangular boxes, driven by the marching cursor.  Faces that I strain to remember dance here.  My little brother lifts me, twirling me around in an airport while my boyfriend stands as an eternal outsider nearby, holding my suitcase.  My mother walks through her front yard, sits beside me on the porch, and listens to my sobbing stories of the failed East Coast experiment.  Doctors, clients, friends, lovers, other people's children -- they all tramp through the paragraphs and pictures that I pour onto these pages.  I hit the "publish" button and hope for the best.  I don't want to embarrass anyone, though I can accept humiliation on the heels of my own candor.  Those who have loved me took that chance.  The gamble of potential revelation.  A roll of the dice.  A bargain:  You give me a few years of your time, and I acknowledge that I might appear in the pages of your life's story.

Except for this:  None of those people understood that whatever else I am, I have always been a writer.  Mediocre, perhaps; unambitious, certainly.  But from this vantage point, looking backward, I see that other than perhaps my father, every person in my life has seen me as something relative to them.  A friend.  Their lawyer.  A short-term employee.  A casual girlfriend.  A troublesome wife.  Mom.  Daughter.

My father though, for all of his terrible burdens and awful actions, understood what no one else acknowledged.  He wanted me to practice law, but he also knew that the writer's gene had gone from his father to him, from him to me.  Neither of them let their lives take that path and nor did I.  My grandfather had a family to support.  He went to law school, started an insurance exchange, and became a gentleman farmer.  The poems which he had written for the journals at Notre Dame give tribute to his literary bent.  My father, on the other hand, went to war and came back a damaged man.  All that exists of his writing gift are a handful of sentimental verses that he wrote about my mother in the five years between her death and his.

I am not much better.  I write these little essays and send a link to them around to a few dozen friends.  My immortality comes only from the annoying fact that nothing on the internet ever quite goes away.  You can do a Google search of my name and find both blogs -- My Year Without Complaining; and these, the Saturday Musings.  Otherwise, there's nothing to show that I lived as a writer, not even a stack of coffee table books in the remainder bin at a failing bookstore.

I tell myself, you're only sixty-one, you're not dead.  More importantly, I scold my son:  Don't do what your mother did.  Don't doubt your talent. Don't throw away your life on a career just to pay the bills, even if you sometimes enjoy it.  Follow your passion.  Believe in yourself.  He shrugs.  He'll make a little face when he reads this but I don't care.  He can be angry with me if he wants.  I'd tell anyone's child the same thing.  I told my stepson.  I tell you all:  Follow your dream.  And: Look inward for your validation; the admiring bog will drift away when a louder frog emerges from the muck.

Now the sun shines full upon the waning year, outside my crooked shades and rain-streaked windows.  The unforgiving blast of daylight reveals the meagerness of what I've garnered from my awkward life.  The fullness of time seems to have won the war.  But maybe not; maybe just the most recent skirmishes.  I take a deep, cleansing breath.  I wait.  And while I wait, I keep writing.

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.