Daniel Pinkwater and Scott Simon read a children's book in the background as I study my "contacts" entries and wonder whether my words reach those on the list or succumb to the vicious slam of a delete key. Occasionally, I hear from people -- "thanks for leaving me on your list", say some. "Delete me," say others. I try to comply and wonder if columnists whose essays appear in the newspaper fare as well as I do. So far, the expressions of thanks outweigh the expressions of annoyance about 4 to 1. As I ponder, Pinkwater concludes his "occasional appearance" on Morning Edition, the rain softly falls on the peeling paint of the neighbor's eaves, and the other sentient beings in my home begin to rattle around or pour second cups of coffee.
The year draws to a close more quickly than I anticipated. Like the errant buttons of my old alarm clock, the pages of the calendar have leaped ahead. I am another year older but no wiser; still stepping on my own toes, while pushing my foot towards my mouth and flapping hopelessly in the conversational breeze. I'm living proof that those who cannot do, write about doing.
After pizza and a tour of the Benson Gallery last evening, we arrived in Mission just before the launch of the fireworks. The shooting stars sailed over the old Fine Arts theatre, the former lobby of which is now the VALA Gallery at its new location. As I stood on the slick cobblestones and craned my neck back to better see the streaks of red, blue and gold, a mother broke away from the group gathered around the fire pit to take a frightened child farther from the crackles and booms. I was instantly transported to a long-ago Fourth of July, when my own small child huddled against me crying, They're pretty, Mom, but why do they have to be so loud?
Christmas fireworks don't figure in my own family's tradition. We install a smallish artificial Christmas tree in the living room, and decorate it with ornaments whose history I relate to anyone foolish enough to stray close to the action. Lights and garlands adorn the mantle; a small collection of snow globes, the plastic Disney kind, nestle among pools of tinsel. I usually get this done on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, but I have a trial next Monday and my attention has been distracted. I hope to have the tree installed before St. Nicholas Day, even though there are no longer small children whose shoes must be filled with candy overnight, and no longer anyone to anticipate a visit from the Tree Elf, who puts a small present for each child on the lowest branches the night of the tree's first appearance.
These rituals, slight variants of those which my mother orchestrated for my siblings and me, tell me that the year will soon fade into my increasingly cloudy memory. With less than a month remaining of 2011, I hold myself accountable for the failure to completely attain the New Year's Resolutions that I made on the stroke of midnight eleven months ago. I am no less catty; no less snappish; no better organized. I have not progressed towards getting published, nor gone paperless. In fact, the only one of my self-imposed goals that I accomplished this year was keeping slim. Three and three-quarters years after I started my diet, I hover between 108 - 111, depending on salt intake; I started losing weight at a horrible 175 pounds on March 1, 2008.
I mark the passing seasons by the changing colors of the trees rising above my neighbors' homes. Today they bear few leaves, and their dark scraggly limbs sag under the chilly weight of the winter rain. The view out my window could be anywhere but the most rural of locations. The houses press towards each other, dwarfing the urban clutter of wires and cables, looming over the SUVs on the small parking pavements at the end of the narrow driveways. Without the cheering rays of a summer sun, the roofs seem sad and dingy.
I feel a sense of listening, waiting, in the air around me, in my home and outside in the stillness of my street. Standing on the porch an hour or two ago, bending to retrieve the paper in its plastic wrapping, I let the cold air rush over me and closed my eyes. Winter drives the dog-walkers indoors. I have not seen the usual strollers in weeks, and when the first snow falls, I will close the blinds on the outside world, and retreat to my writing desk, where I will begin to compose another set of resolutions.
Perhaps next year, my successes will outweigh my failures, and I will not be overwhelmed by winter's gloom when December arrives.
Saturday, December 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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