Monday, May 31, 2010

31 May 2010: Memorial Musings

Good morning,

I can only imagine the horrors of war; or the tenseness that lingers just beyond the consciousness of all who serve and know that they could be summoned to war. I cannot imagine the fear of the spouse, the parent, the child left at home. I can only wonder, and hold close those around me whom I love.

Regardless of one's politics, regardless of one's beliefs about violence, regardless of one's proclivities along the broad spectrum of international policy -- the truth still stands: Those who serve in our armed forces do so at peril to themselves and to their own daily existence. Those who watch their spouse, their child, their father or mother leave for such service do so at great sacrifice to the way of life that they have known.

There are no more fitting words for today than these, and so, to all of you, with my thanks, I commend them:

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch: be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

--- John McCrae (1872 - 1918)

Mugwumpishly tendered:

M. Corinne Corley

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Saturday Musings, 29 May 2010

Good morning,

A vigorous chorus of birds dragged me into awakening. I have made a passable pot of coffee, and sip from a heavy white mug, still smiling at my recent discovery that a well-intentioned house-sitter had inadvertently switched positions of the canisters on my counter so that I unknowingly had been decaffeinated this week. I can report that my body struggled with the resultant fatigue; I found myself napping in the evening and canceling social engagements with the thought that I must surely be coming down with something. I am amused; but I firmly re-situated the containers so as to insure that we would not again be poisoned with the innocuousness of the decaf beans.

The customary calmness of my dwelling has been dispelled by the return of the prodigal son. The piano sounds beneath his nimble fingers; the chords of Bach's Suite No. 1 for cello stream from his Les Paul. He unpacked with alarming speed on Sunday, filling three trash bags full of the clothes left behind in his dresser last fall, saying that his taste has changed, he will not again wear these clothes, sorry, Mom. I am not sorry. I smile. He has matured, and I have no problem with the thought that his once-loved baggy jeans will grace the frame of another mother's miracle.

Yesterday, Patrick and I helped gather trappings to hang "The Potter's Hand", a new display at the VALA Gallery. We scoured area stores for large pieces of cloth to use as drapes, and our journey took us to the Salvation Army Family Store, just up Johnson Drive from the Gallery.

As I walked down the linens aisle, a soft, hesitant voice called from behind me. Lady, excuse me, lady. I turned, and beheld a tall, sturdy woman, with an armful of children's clothing, clutching a battered top-bound spiral notebook in one hand. I stopped, summoning a smile. I did not recognize her, but I knew the look on her face. Since I myself have often worn that peculiar blend of need and determination, I could do nothing but respond.

Excuse me, she repeated. Do you have CP?

I have not been asked that question in a long time, and I certainly did not expect to be asked that question in the middle of a May afternoon, in Mission, Kansas, in the comparative complacency of my middle age. But I think I smiled, and replied that I did not, and I think I did so without rancor. Her face sagged, inspiring my eye brows to lift and my curiosity to rise just as much. She satisfied my unspoken question without hesitation. My daughter has CP, she told me. I am always on the look-out for role models for her, and there was something about you -- I thought -- you looked ---

In the small space of time between the trailing of her sentence and the moment when I found my voice, I sailed into the distant past. I closed my eyes, just briefly, not long enough to startle her, I hope. I heard again the derisive voices of a gaggle of boys from my parish school. I beheld again their wildly stumbling progress, a half-block behind me, on West Florissant Avenue, one Sunday when my mother and I walked home from church the long way.

My mother stopped, stunned. I put my small hand on her arm, urging her forward. Don't look back, I told her It's worse if you say anything. I continued to trudge towards home, my Brogues slapping against the pavement, my knees bobbing with unsightly grace within the folds of my cotton dress. Do they always do that? she said, in tender tones. Yes, pretty much, I replied. Unless Mark and Kevin are with me. My big brothers. Beneath her steady, unfathomable gaze, I tossed my head, two long braids floating over my shoulder. I had no faith in the power of an adult to squelch the teasing. In the warm summer air, my skin grew clammy and I felt a long shudder course through me. I closed my eyes and barreled forward, away from their taunts, away from the awkward bent of their bodies in imitation.

I had gone another ten yards or so before I opened my eyes, realizing that my mother no longer kept pace with my careening gait. I turned, and saw that she had gone back to face the small gang of ten-year-olds. I could not move. I could only watch; I could only listen.

Beneath the onslaught of her scolding, the little hoodlums dispersed, some south to the blocks of subdivision houses known as Country Club Hills; some north, into Jennings proper. My mother returned to my side, taking hold of my thin arm with her strong hand, setting me once more in motion. She shifted her pocketbook on her shoulder, and smoothed her skirt. Come on, she said. Your father will be waiting for breakfast. She said no more, nor did I. The heavy pall that had overtaken my body eased; the air around me again felt pleasant and the breeze again rose to cool me. I stole a glance at the strong profile of my mother's Arab heritage, at the liquid brownness of her eyes and the bold crook of her nose, so unlike my own pale blueness and little Irish button. As we rounded the corner at the end of our block, she threw her own head back with a sharp snap, her mouth set, her brow furrowed, and I wondered what she was thinking, but did not ask.

In the closeness of the thrift store yesterday, I studied another mother's face. There it is, I told myself. That look. I've seen that look. My heart swelled, and I stopped, in earnest now; and we spoke about her daughter; two years old and the victim of a neo-natal stroke that killed her identical twin. I had some ideas for her; the life I have led has given me many obstacles to overcome along with many examples of others who have done so with more finesse than I. As she groped in her vinyl handbag, I pulled a pen from my own purse to hand her, and she took it with an earnest carelessness. She wrote down what I recounted: the URL of a website at which she could listen to a recent NPR interview with a doctor doing research on strokes in small children; lists of local services that could help her daughter which I have discovered during my years doing work with Children's Services. She talked a little then, describing the child, in tones both poignant and proud. As our conversation unfolded, the hubbub of other shoppers swirled around us, within which, I swore, I could hear my mother's voice.

Mugwumpishly tendered,

Corinne Corley

Friday, May 21, 2010

Musings Moratorium: Mugwump on the Move

Good evening,

I am in Cloverdale, Indiana. Tomorrow we will be closing out Patrick's first year at DePauw. The fog lies over the valley between us and him; he is doing laundry at Hogate Hall; and saying goodbye to those lingering for Sunday's graduation at his fraternity, SAE, and its sister sorority, Kappa. We ate at Marvin's tonight; and tomorrow we will share breakfast at the Hub with Prof. Andrea Sununu, who has been his most appreciated freshman advisor. We will then load the rest of his belongings in the Saturn and head to St. Louis for an evening of Corley-merry-making with my brother Frank and his family. On Sunday, the prodigal son will return home, to his epileptic Beagle, his old, crabby girlcat, and Pablo, the toughest black cat in Brookside.

The Musings will be delayed; but when they come, perhaps they will prove worth the wait.

Happy trails, from

Your Mugwump-at-large,


Saturday, May 15, 2010

Saturday Musings, 15 May 2010

Good morning,

I must be getting old. As I stood on my porch this morning, watching the black cat limp across the concrete, I shivered. A year ago, this delightfully cool morning would have seen me sitting in my rocker, perhaps with a small throw across my lap. The iBook beside me on a wooden camper's table, I would have sipped strong coffee and hammered away at its keys, buoyed by the sounds of my waking neighborhood. Instead, I retreat to the warmth of my nook, where the chair is padded, and the screen is large enough to read without straining.

Yesterday, I made my way to Mission to visit an old haunt, I Love A Mystery, a bookstore formerly owned by a friend who has since died from cancer that she battled, with varying degrees of success, longer than I would have thought possible. Though I am often just down the street at the VALA Gallery, I do not frequent the mystery bookstore as much as I once did. The staff greeted me as though I had been long at sea, or in Europe, or myself infirm. I felt guilty, knowing that I have betrayed them in the aisles of the Half-Price Bookstore and the book sections of every thrift store in the Greater Metropolitan area. As a consequence, I bought four or five titles, even though I have twice as many already waiting at my bedside. They marveled over my weight loss, and packaged my purchases, and admonished me to return soon. I promised I would, though my words sounded false and guilty, and their faces reflected their understanding of my lack of clear intent.

From there, I continued west, and south, to an Overland Park hospital to take possession of a friend who had undergone tests involving medication that inhibited her from driving. I pulled under the portico, and disembarked, clutching my Blackberry to while away the few minutes, in front of the glass doors through which I expected her to be brought.

I have waited outside of too many automatic doors. I have watched the cold glass, trying to ignore the harried look on the face of my reflection. I am never sure why the simple act of coming to a hospital causes such anxiety. Is it the potential that the person for whom you wait will not come? Is it the fear of role reversal, when you will lie on the gurney, and watch the twitch of impatience, as the person who has delivered you begins to think about their next appointment, or the lunch they have not had, or a cool drink, or waiting work?

In 2003, I think; or maybe 2002; I had my right knee replaced. It should not surprise anyone to learn that I set the record for the longest in-patient stay relating to a total knee replacement at St. Luke's Hospital. Most patients go home in three days. I spent seven weeks in the 8th floor rehab center. In the days before wi-fi, I communicated with my assistant via dial-up and a clunky NEC laptop. It seemed like a party at first, or a vacation, but the stretch of days soon fatigued me, and I missed my son, and I grew so tired of the entire affair that the doctor finally consented to my discharge despite my failure to attain his arbitrary pre-release goal for use of the new joint.

On my first day home, my then-husband suffered a terrible accident that nearly killed him. When I got the call, I was lying on my bed being tortured by an in-home physical therapist with no sense of humor. Determined to accomplish what the hospital therapist could not, this woman -- who probably did not get enough love as a child -- pulled and pushed on my right leg, willing its nerves and muscles to accelerate their response and attain 90 degrees of bend. Not surprisingly, my first reaction to the ringing phone resembled relief, though that quickly dissolved into disbelief.

When I got to that hospital, strapped in a cushioned knee brace, pushing a walker for support, my friend Katrina behind me, a gaggle of white-clad attendants with various degrees and licenses attempted to bar my entry to the area of the hospital where I would find the cubicle in which their patient lay. I am his wife, I announced, as I bullied past them and through those automatic doors into the patient care area. I understood even then that I looked frightful to them, more like a patient than the spouse of one, more like a victim than a rescuer. I understood their reluctance to admit me. But I am relentless, and they yielded to my insistent advance.

He looked terrible. He had suffered a crushing blow from a malfunctioning automatic wheelchair lift, and had not yet responded to their attempts to revive him. I think, even now -- eight years and a divorce gone by in the water under the bridge -- that if I had arrived five minutes later, they would have called the code -- terminated resuscitation efforts -- let him go. But they had reckoned without me.

I pushed aside a large man, whom I later learned was the ER doctor. I approached the narrow bed from one side, abandoning my walker in the doorway and trusting, for the first time, my new artificial knee. I leaned over, pushing my face as close to his as I could, watching his open, wide eyes in a face turned away from the side to which I had come. I spoke his name, Dennis, just once, but in that commanding voice peculiar to a frightened spouse, or a panicked mother, or a desperate child.

And he breathed, a sharp, sudden draw of air. His head jerked toward me, and all hell broke loose, as the men and women in white took up their tools, shoved me aside, doing what they do best. I retreated back to the open space behind the curtain, beyond the automatic doors, and sank into a chair in the waiting room.

Yesterday, at another hospital, beyond another set of glass doors, I glanced around the circular driveway, at other cars, and other friends, other family. Above me, the day's pale sky arched, rising to embrace its feathery clouds. I closed my eyes, and let the sweetness of the afternoon wash over me. Then the doors opened with their firm, assured sound of rushing air in well-oiled channels. An aid wheeled my friend outside, and for a moment, she looked like royalty, in a peach-colored blouse, with her simple, elegant hairstyle, and her gracious smile. You are the best-looking sick person I've ever seen, I told her, and we all laughed. Then the aid helped her into the car, and I took my seat, and looked at her. Bo-Ling's? she asked, and I nodded, and away we went.

Mugwumpishly tendered,

Corinne Corley

P.S. My apologies to DRL if I offend. It is not my intention. Rock on.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Saturday Musings, 08 May 2010

Good morning,

The only sounds I can hear are the very softest of noises: the whirring of the air filter, the occasional sigh from the various sleeping creatures in my house. My cat clings with stubborn persistence to the afghan dangling from the edge of the bed; I am sure she will fall, but neither she nor the tattered square of crocheted patchwork have yet landed on the floor. I carefully turn the heavy brass lamp to shine on my keyboard, and think about writing something cheerful.

I find it increasingly difficult to sleep. I have finished reading a book and still I am not drowsy. I drilled around the Internet for a few minutes, looking for distraction. The novel that I have just completed was called Light on Snow, and I am somewhat disturbed by its tale of a man and his twelve-year old daughter who have moved from Manhattan to the cold hills of New Hampshire to try to forget a terrible loss. Instead, they become enmeshed in loss of another kind, before they ultimately begin to heal.

I think about healing for a few minutes, and wonder if it is really possible for the human psyche to overcome trauma. I heard someone refer to a discord between themselves and another person as "a traumatic experience" this week, and that, too, set me to thinking. In fact, I wrote a list of everything that I consider to be "traumatic", and an argument about a relatively minor incident did not factor on the list anywhere, not even twentieth, or thirty-third.

I wonder if my standards are skewed.

In the notebook that I carry in my pocketbook, I started another list: Things That Have Brought Me Great Joy. I drew two heavy lines under the title, then leaned back in the hard metal chair on the little veranda at the coffee shop next door to my office. I thought about that for a few minutes, then took another sip of my Americano. Great Joy.

My mother's parents raised their girls in the Depression. Grandpa scraped for money however he could, I remember hearing, scrunched against my mother's knees, as she rocked in the metal lawn chair, on a hot St. Louis night. Watching the fireflies in my neighbor's yard, thoughtlessly scratching the patch of poison ivy on my shin, I listened, almost eavesdropping, to my parents talking with my mother's sister and my Uncle Joe. Daddy bought a bunch of beer to sell, my mother remembered. Her voice held wonder as she recounted the mess that they found one morning, coming out to the old garage where the beer had frozen and exploded, splattering her father's plan for finally making some money all over the unpainted walls and dirty concrete floor.

Nana and Grandpa finally started a hearing aid business in Springfield, north and east of Gillespie, the town where my mother had lived as a child and where I remember catching fish in a creek and carrying them home in a bucket to hang on the spigot under the kitchen window. They sold their home in Gillespie and bought into a new kind of living, a "subdivision", the first house to be built in Lake Knolls, outside the city limits of Chatham, Illinois. Their one-story brick house stood next to a cornfield, and had a square concrete patio on which my grandmother would sit, in the dark of a summer evening, in a nylon full slip with lace at the bodice and around the hem. The pinnacle of freedom is being able to sit outside at night in the privacy of your own yard, wearing whatever you want, or nothing at all, she often said, and I believed her.

I remember Nana as a fiercely competent woman who bought penny loafers for me. I wore out a pair of shoes every month or two in those days, before the years of physical therapy, before I learned to constantly struggle to keep my right foot from rolling towards the left. Pretend your feet are angry with each other, she'd instruct me. We walked the few blocks from her office to Strong's Restaurant to eat stewed chicken and fresh biscuits with honey butter. When we came to each corner, she would say, in her gentle voice, with a very slight burr of the old country, Put your best foot forward. I would ask which was my best foot, and she would trill, The one that is going first, of course. It seemed to make sense then.

In the storefront next door to the Sonotone House of Hearing, an old man ran a bookstore. I had learned to read at an early age, and could not hide my astonishment at the endless towers of crisp, unread books pushed against the walls of the hallway in the backroom of my grandparents' business. They allowed the bookstore owner to store his merchandise in that backroom, since the hearing aids did not require much space. In the tight confines of the musty corridors, I trolled for treasure. I did not mind going to work with Nana and Grandpa, for they always allowed me to choose a new book, which I would finish in a day or two and return to the stack where I had found it.

My brother Mark and I spent week after week with Nana and Grandpa. Looking back on those summers, I realize that what seemed to be a vacation for us must have been my mother's way of thinning the herd and making it more manageable. But I didn't care. In Springfield, our needs did not go unmet. We had ice cream for dessert, and seconds at dinner time, and as summer melted into fall, Grandpa let us go into the cornfield and bring back as many sweet, ripe ears as we could carry. He would roast them, and let us slather butter all over the golden kernels, which we ate until our stomachs felt heavy and full. We wiped the smears of gold from our mouths with the backs of our hands when Nana looked the other way, giggling at the broad winks that our grandfather gave us, smirking when he shrugged his heavy, broad shoulders as though to say, How can I scold you, my precious grandchildren?

Nana insisted that every visitor hose her patio down and sweep away the grime with the water. To do this correctly, you would first drag the heavy furniture out onto the lawn, and then you went to work with a hose and two brooms. One child held the heavy hose with its powerful spray of water and wet the entire surface of the large concrete pad. Then, together, you swept the water towards the yard, both working in the same direction, sending accumulated dirt and leaves over the edge. When all the standing water had been cleared, you hosed down the cushions of the chairs and loungers, then dragged the lot back onto the patio and arranged it in the proper configuration. The task exhausted us, but my grandmother's smile more than compensated for the blisters from the thin wooden handle of the old broom.

Nana also came to our home, staying with us for days at a time when Mother had a baby or some mysterious ailment, the origins of which I can only understand through speculation, decades later. Whatever the reason, Nana's trips usually coincided with my mother's temporary absence. While Nana visited, she assumed control of the family activities, and never, anywhere, at any time, did so many beds succumb to such vigorous making. Tight as a drum! Neat as a pin! she commanded, but with kindness, so that we eagerly scrambled to comply. I should be able to bounce a quarter off the bed, she insisted. When choosing a child for bed-making duty, Nana extolled the grandness of the honoree's prowess. Nobody in the whole family can make a bed as well as you can!

To this day, we call it "Pulling a Nana".

Nana complimented the performance of delegated tasks as vigorously as she delineated the requirements for their satisfactory completion. She pulled you to her ample, comfortable bosom and placed her arms around you with deliberate, dedicated happiness. A hug from Nana meant that you had performed your chores with excellence the likes of which she might never have previously seen.

I do not remember fancy events or expensive outings with my grandparents. Mostly, we cooked dinner, and went for walks, or played in their yard with the girls who lived in the house behind theirs. When the sun had gently slid down the western horizon with its stand of young trees, we sat on the patio, while my grandparents had a cocktail and my grandmother smoked her cigarettes. In the cornfield, crickets and cicadas crooned lullabies to their young, and the occasional owl responded with a gentle, agreeable hoot. The corn stalks swayed in the teasing night air, and the smoke from my grandmother's cigarettes drifted out into the air over the lawn. Highway noises in the distance offered the only hint of intrusion from the city life that we have left behind, but they did not unduly disturb us, being dim, and far away, and possibly, not even real.

And now, as I come forward in time, I find myself surrounded by the heavy, unrelenting din of the traffic on Broadway. I look at the page in front of me, on which I intend to record my list of things that have brought me great joy. I lift my pen, clumsily adjusting it in the crook of my right hand, and carefully ink a single word: Life. Then I finish my cooling coffee, close my notebook, and go back to work.

Mugwumpishly tendered,

Corinne Corley

P.S. Happy Mother's Day to all -- especially Jennie Taggart Wandfluh, mother of four including Gavin Donald Wandfluh, born on 06 May 2010.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Saturday Musings, 01 May 2010

Good morning,

Relentlessly happy baby birds summoned me from a fitful sleep two hours ago. I lay, briefly, listening to the yowl of the cat, with his uncannily accurate instinct for when I might be stumbling down the stairs to shake Good Life Natural Recipe into the blue plastic dish that he favors. The dog snuffled at the upstairs door, occasionally uttering a small bark of inquiry. And those birds, in the gutter, under the eaves on the northeast corner of the house, earnestly heralded the triumphant first rays of the sun.

Rise and shine! Rise and shine! *

I am bothered that I cannot recall what station played the marches to which we awakened as children. I find myself drilling through the imperfect encyclopedic knowledge of Wikipedia, trying to determine. Was it KMOX? Blasting from the white BakeLite radio on top of the old rounded refrigerator, drawing the eight Corley children from the fog of sleep. Da da ta da da! Da da ta da da! Da da da ta da ta da! da da ta da da da ta! My mother, marching around the kitchen, waiving the oatmeal spoon, ruffling my hair, drawing a boy towards her to dance. I would twirl, long braids spinning around my shoulders, then snatch the cornflakes box and trot into the breakfast room, as my older brothers grumbled around me.

Rise and shine! Rise and shine!

I wore those braids until I was in high school where I finally abandoned them, shamed into modernization by the sharp words of a snotty girl with straight blond bangs. High school provided many opportunities for shame and sorrow, but also one or two moments of glory. I have a small round scar at the front of my calf, the contours of which I can feel when I run my finger very slowly down that leg. I remember that injury. I played Helen Keller during my freshman year at Corpus Christi High School. During the climactic scene in which her teacher, Annie Sullivan, exhorts her to Reach! Reach!, the senior playing the Miracle Worker pulled my arm forward, thrusting my body to a kneeling position. At the end of her monologue, she pulls Helen onto her feet, and at that moment, I heard my brother Frank cry -- Look! She's bleeding! A nail protruding from a board on the old stage had embedded itself into my leg, and tore at me as we played out the staging. I had not felt it. Rise and shine! Rise and shine!

On Thursday, I followed a woman into the elevator at my office building whose long, silver braids formed a crown around her head. She had struggled to drag a rolling back-pack up the short flight of stairs in our building's foyer. I know she works on the fifth floor, and I understood why she disdained the longer route of the wheelchair ramp entrance. I tried to remain patient while she adjusted a few wisps with a slender black hair pin before pressing the button to send us to our respective destinations. I shouldn't bother putting my hair up, she confided. I told her that it looked nice. I mentioned that I had worn the same style as a young girl, and that I wished I had kept my hair long. She reciprocated by complimenting my short curls, expressing the sweet, insincere hope that her own hair will look as good when she finally cuts it. I exited before she did, and we wished each other a good day. The doors closed and she continued upward. Rise and shine; rise and shine.

I spent yesterday doing bookkeeping and housework, a hearing in a distant county having been unexpectedly canceled. My shoulders still ache from hours over the imperfectly situated keyboard. As the storm overtook Kansas City, the dog inched closer to my feet, paws over her nose, one eye closed, one eye cast upward to my face. The room darkened, the power flickered, and she let out a short yelp and a little whine. Sheets of rain washed down the side of my house, overwhelming the downspout, washing the cedar shake shingles, flooding the worn trench on the side of the house where the dogs have paced, back and forth, since we first moved here in 1993. When the rain finally cleared in late afternoon, I booted the dog outside without much thought, tossed some food into her dish, and admonished her to behave. The cat followed her out and jumped onto the railing of the back porch, shaking the scruffy fur of his tattered ears and scaring a flock of starlings that had come to roost in the tender grass. They soared past the power lines, over the cedar tree, into the clearing sky. Rise and shine. Rise and shine.

At the art fair last evening, I followed my companion through narrow openings in the crowd circulating through the main tent. I caught a glimpse of a tow-headed boy darting ahead of me, and for a moment, I thought it was my son. Wait! I nearly cried, but stopped myself. Of course that can't be Patrick, I told myself, then glanced around me, wondering if I had spoken aloud. As I did so, I saw a tall man lift his child onto his shoulders, and I caught, for a breathtaking instant, the bright beam of the toddler's jubilant grin. His father pushed him higher, towards the strand of lights, oblivious to the crowd scurrying around him. Rise and shine. . .

In a weaver's booth, I stroked the silken strands of a shawl, the shimmering colors falling through my extended fingers. The artist leaned against a temporary wall, beside her stool, and spared me a gentle smile. My sister is a weaver, I told her, as though that excused my clumsy mauling of her work. I moved past her, back into the stream of passing strangers. Further down the makeshift lane, I found a display of wooden bowls, curves drawn with a delicate tool, smoothed with simple, subtle strokes. A woman lifted the largest of these over her head, and in the gap between her arms, I saw the face of the craftsman, watching her from behind a slight wince and a tiny frown. Our eyes met. His long stare dared me to betray him. I broke my gaze and hurried by.

At the end of the row, outside the tent, a cluster of men had been abandoned by their wives. They held tall paper cups branded with the emblem of a local roasting company. Their eyes darted back and forth, their hands twitched, as they drank lukewarm coffee and grumbled that they couldn't find the beer tent. I stopped to tell them that I had seen it at the other end of the row of display booths. Thanks, hon, one of them told me, in an unexpectedly knowing, lecherous tone. I moved away, startled, infected by their nervous, needy energy. Surrounded by the heavy, lumbering smell of popcorn, I closed my eyes and gave myself to the cool of the evening. Standing on my patch of cement, in the unnatural glow of the tall carnival lighting, I felt my body sway. Other nights, other lights -- the Midway in Sedalia, 1991, a few weeks before the early arrival of my child -- my niece and nephew clamoring for another ride on the Ferris wheel. Pennway Park, six years later, three little boys high over Kansas City in a bucket truck. Rise and shine, rise and shine.

I open my eyes now, and I am in my breakfast nook. The shimmering sound of the CPU reminds me that it is 2010, and a strong fragrance wafting from the kitchen suggests that I have let the steel-cut oatmeal boil too long. I cannot hear the early birds; they have dispersed, and the sun shines strong against my back porch. I pour another cup of coffee, and think about my day, and then I call out, Rise and shine, rise and shine! but only in my head, and after a moment, I hear my son's laughing, dutiful response: Mother, I will rise, but I will not shine!*

Mugwumpishly tendered,

Corinne Corley

*Tennessee Williams, "The Glass Menagerie"

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.