From a chair on my new deck, I see the blooms of my cultivated mimosa swaying against my neighbor's kitchen window. The growth of this little tree has been stunted by the lingering presence of the aging cedar which shades the back of our house. My mimosa started three years ago as a volunteer, which I watered, protected and nourished. Now it huddles, misshapen but eager, under the spindly, sprawling branches of the evergreen. I am not sure if one could be taken down without damaging the other, so we do nothing, pondering a replacement for both, as summer fades into fall.
My week brutalized me, save for a quiet evening with friends last night, with bounty spread upon their table and delightful, lively conversation. I spent the week roaring from court to court handling other people's problems. I missed a hearing that my usually diligent assistant had forgotten to docket, though I pulled that one out of the ringer thanks to a gracious court clerk. I yelled in outrage at a hearing officer who had called my client directly and held an on-the-record proceeding without me, despite the superseding entry of a judicial order rendering the issue moot, despite her agency's having previously told me that the hearing would not take place. I am not particularly proud of the manifestation of my fury, but I think it was understandable.
By midnight at week's end, my neurological system rebelled. The nerve running through my artificial knee knotted and spasmed until just before dawn, when I finally calmed it with repeated applications of balm and the ingestion of Vicodin. The human body recoils from a relentless onslaught of stress.
But this morning, the crickets sing to me, and the white cat has her morning bath on the decking beside my chair. I roll my shoulders and close my eyes, leaning back, feeling the cool air on my tired face. My own two divorces afforded me significantly less grief than the partings of the scores of strangers to whom I strive to give my staunchest defense. I carry their burdens between my shoulders, diagonally along nerves long encrusted with the shingles virus.
As I left the Platte County courthouse Thursday afternoon, tucking a file under my arm and rummaging in my bag for keys, the guard bade me a good afternoon and I stopped, considering the potential. He smiled, and I am certain he must have sensed my pessimism. Or have the best afternoon you can, he conceded. We shared a laugh, and I exited on his line.
Now I am scanning the neglected posts in my list-serve, contemplating whether solo practitioners should or can take vacations, whether the Democrats or the Republicans ruined our economy, whether I know any lawyers in any of the counties in which my colleagues wish to make referrals. I listen to the occasional honk of a distant, impatient driver, and the backnotes of songbirds, who seem oblivious to the demands of traffic. I find myself turning my head sharply, thinking I hear my mother's voice, my father's cough, my brother's Hey, Mare Bear. It is only the yowling of the cat and the drone of a small plane overhead.
As I exited my house yesterday to go to meet my suite mate for coffee, a mother walked down the sidewalk with her two children. The youngest sat, alert, in a stroller, while beside him, a small golden girl in a navy blue uniform tread carefully over the cracks in the old cement. She held a cup of juice. Off to kindergarten? I asked, thinking she might be going to the Catholic grade school that sits three blocks south of here. I'm only THREE, she announced, amused, as three-year-olds will be, at my mistaking her for a worldly five-year old. And I'm going to BORDER STAR!
Border Star is a charter school located about a mile west of my house. It used to be a public elementary school, but has evolved to survive. I was surprised that such a small child would be walking so far, and said as much to her mother. The woman raised an eyebrow as she trundled past, remarking only, Walking is good for you. I watched them for a few seconds, then got into my car. Later that day, when I returned, in my car, from work, I happened to see the same little girl sitting on her father's shoulders as he strode down my street, going home. The child still looked splendid in her tiny blue uniform, small white blouse and shiny Mary Janes. She still clutched her juice cup, smiling her radiant smile at the end of her glorious day in pre-school. I could not suppress my envy.
I like to think that I can remember such happy occurrences from my own childhood, but I cannot. The only time I walked home from school with my father was on a grim day in the 4th grade when I got suspended for slapping my teacher. She had jabbed my cheek with a ballpoint pen and made a check on my skin to punish me for poor penmanship, snarling that the red of the ink would match what she described as my horrible freckles. I backhanded her without hesitation. My father, the nonworking parent, had been summoned to fetch me.
I couldn't tell you why he didn't have a car that year, but he walked to my school and together we walked home. I would have hit her harder than you did, he admitted to me. But it probably wasn't the most clever response. When we got home, he made lunch for me, and a hot fudge sundae. The teacher, who visited such imprudent discipline on other students and had an annoying habit of sitting on boys' desk with her skirt hiked up above the edge of her stockings, did not return to school after Christmas break. We heard she got fired. The incident did not go on my permanent record.
I remember that sundae melting in the plastic dish in which my father served it to me. I swirled the sauce into the cream, and slurped its sweet stickiness. My father made himself a cup of coffee, and we sat in the breakfast room, the smoke from his cigarette drifting to the circular fluorescent fixture. I was nine years old. I got glasses that year, and heavy, ugly orthopedic shoes. In response to these indignities, I made my mother let me get my hair cut for the first time, which I later regretted. But on a cool fall day, my father spoke sharply to a small, ugly nun in full habit, and, in my defense, told a fuming lay teacher that she had no business being responsible for impressionable children. I stood beside him, trying to look repentant, thinking only that I could not recall another time when I had been proud to be my father's daughter.
I hear the slamming of car doors, and the quick roar of a lawn mower. Later today, the dead lawn in my backyard will be patiently Verti-cut by my persistent, persnickety husband. The seed of some desirable grass will be sown, and the dry earth will be watered. In the meantime, I think I hear a book calling me from the Half-Price Bookstore, and I am quite certain that there are freshly roasted beans designed for my Americano at Dunn Brothers Coffee.
RIP Richard Adrian Corley, 12/27/22 - 09/07/91
Saturday, September 3, 2011
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The Missouri Mugwump™
- M. Corinne Corley
- 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.
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