Saturday, December 3, 2016

Saturday Musings, 03 December 2016

Good morning,

Something I saw or heard this week awakened memories curled tight deep in my subconscious.  Was it the car fire that I watched with morbid fascination? The sudden cold snap? Photos of my old high school on a Facebook group page for the parish where any connection to religion shriveled under the unrelenting glare of angry nuns and the insidious leer of a lecherous priest?

The face which rose from the gnarled knot of images has gentle contours.  Rose Novotny.   Google tells me that this is the most common Czech surname.  Rose had a lilting accident.  Lithe and blonde, Rose wore her uniform with a careless grace.  Her hair grazed her shoulders.  Two pale blue eyes flanked a strong nose.  I envied her soft perpetual smile.

Rose lived in the little house on the school grounds.  Her father cleaned the buildings.  Another family occupied that house before or after them; I can't recall the sequence.  In fact, as I write, I question all of this.  It could have been a dream.  Perhaps she did not speak to me with kindness, or help me when I dropped my books on the stairs.  Perhaps her clothes did not sit easy on her shoulders.  But that is how I remember her.
On a cold afternoon the fire drill bell rang.  We filed outside, and formed a line with our classmates.  My bunch stood in front of the little house; its door swung open and Rose's mother stepped outside.  Her hands fell softly on the full white apron as she watched the students jostle one another.  Rose raised her own hand to greet her mother, standing sure and solid on the stoop in her heavy shoes.

Someone snickered.  I felt a flush rise within me and glanced around to see who might have been the one.  A quick whisper whipped through the line.  Faces turned to look at the lady from another country whose husband emptied the trash cans.  I turned to find Rose.  She stood without moving, her eyes locked with her mother's gaze.  Helplessness overcame me as I realized that she knew all too well what others thought of her, of her family, of their strangeness.  I stood apart from all of them and waited while the teachers walked back and forth with their instructions for our future fire drills.

The line fell silent and began its movement towards the building, back to our classrooms and our seats.  I lost sight of Rose.  Turning back, I watched her mother take up a broom and begin to sweep the pavement.

The alarm insists on my attention even though I've been awake for hours. As I cross the room to silence its bleating, my eyes fall on a headline on my tablet, a quote from the German chancellor encouraging her citizens to welcome immigrants.  I stand reading the story for a few moments.  I shake my head; I reach to silence the alarm and in the following quiet, I think again of Rose Novotny, living in that little house, crossing the parking lot every day for school.  I wonder if I've only imagined her and her sweet mother.  Did they exist?  Did they come from Europe to Jennings, Missouri?  And did they dwell on the grounds of my parish?  Did that derisive laughter ripple through a line of crowding children standing in the cold while the teacher counted us?  And if it did, was Rose the victim of that ridicule or was it someone else?

I let the memory fade and go about my morning, no wiser than an hour ago; no more certain.

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.