Saturday, February 11, 2012

Saturday Musings, 11 February 2012

Good morning,

Disturbing news of wrangling over provision of health benefits relating to birth control to all women in America through employer-provided health plans blares into the room. I'm a lapsed and recovering Catholic with miles of disdain for that institution, and a deliberate absentee from the debate of birth control and abortion, which I believe should be private, personal choices. I do not care for insurance companies, though the annual dividends from my grandfather's company supported my family in some of its more bleak years. I feel clay gathering at my feet, and I stare at the morning headlines with impatience.

None of the scenarios seem reasonable and I toss the newspaper down in disgust. These politicians cast a putrid pall on living, with their endless insistence on clouding issues with irrelevant considerations, and the fact that women must choose between their religion and good health care frustrates my sense of fairness. Ironically, some polls show that the majority of Catholic women continue to use birth control. Perhaps the Catholic Church should revise its position; or perhaps we should take separation of church and state to its logical end, and loosen the grip of religion on our political decisions.

I push aside thoughts of political and religious debates and reflect on my week. I find myself looking at houses more and more. I like my house; don't get me wrong. Its cozy contours suit me. Certainly, we could use a few more closets, and another full bathroom, but I like the cathedral ceiling in its upstairs bedroom and the charm of its cedar shake shingles.

I am not gazing at other people's dwellings with covetous eyes. To the contrary: I am content with my abode. Instead, I am trying to see behind the stucco and siding to the families within. I drive down the street in a state of distraction, glancing at shrubbery, and lingering Christmas lights, and empty planters on stone porches. At stoplights, I gaze into windows from which curtains have been drawn to allow the winter light to enter, straining to see the twitch of the hand on the drapery cords or the child playing on the carpet in front of the sofa.

From an upstairs courtroom, I gaze across the city to the rooftops of old apartment buildings. I see a cluster of seating on a balcony, and a red rectangle that might be an abandoned book. I watch a Volkswagen parallel park as I drive down a side street near my office, and see the young man exit from its driver's door with a take-out box and a Kindle cradled in his arm. He enters a brick building which boasts of converted condominiums, and I recall the apartments that used to flank its dingy hallways, decades ago, when I still spent each evening in bars watching a trumpet player who had my affection at the time. Its exterior has been redone, and I am sure the place where I used to put my hand as I waited for him to unlock his door has been cleaned, my fingerprints covered with putty and paint.

I see a trio of children pulling a red wagon in which there appears to be a kitten sleeping on a towel. They bump the rolling burden over cracks in the sidewalk and disappear behind a hedge, beyond which I see a wooden door swing outward, then in again, and I assume the little girls have made it safely to their mother's arms. I gaze at the roof line visible beyond the bare maple in their yard, at the upstairs window with its broken screen, and the pile of leaves in the hanging gutter. The sound of a piano's keys under young fingers drifts from the unseen interior. I picture the kitten, yawning, perturbed at the disturbance to its nap.

At the end of a tiring work day, I drove home last night with half of my mind on a trial set for Valentine's Day and the other half thinking about the people in the cars which surrounded me at each intersection. A horn startled me and I jerked my wheel back, thinking that I must have drifted, but the blast had nothing to do with me and I continued driving. A city bus stopped and a small group of tired women stepped onto the cold bare pavement. They trudged past my car moving from west to east, and disappeared into a block of houses like mine, air plane bungalows with small closets and screened porches.

I pulled down our newly-paved driveway, and turned my car to back into its space against the fence. I shut off the engine. The sudden silencing of National Public Radio brought an amazing stillness. I sat, for a long moment, in my messy Saturn with its back seat full of clothes , culled from my stepson's wardrobe to go to the thrift store. My neighbor's little Kia stood solidly beside me, and a light winked from my back door. My hands gripped the edge of the steering wheel, clad in their black gloves, and I huddled, briefly, inside my plaid coat, while the jangle of my nerves subsided.

After a few minutes, I opened the car door, gathered my pocketbook and the odds and ends that cluttered around me, and walked the twenty passes to my front door, closing the world out behind me as I entered the warmth of home.

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.