Saturday, April 21, 2012

Saturday Musings, 21 April 2012

Good morning, In the quiet of a Kansas City Saturday morning, I drove my stepson to school, early, to board the bus for the Latin competition occurring in Columbia today. Few cars shared the roadway with us. We chattered about inconsequential matters, and I assured him that his father and I would make good on my daybreak offer to take his car to be detailed before tonight's prom; and secure the ordered corsage; and sew the buttons on the dry-cleaned tux hanging on the bedroom door of our absent older son. With a smile, and a crisp goodbye, he eased his tall frame from the vehicle. I watched him saunter over to a friend as I pulled behind the stream of exiting parents and merged back onto the light flow of morning traffic for the five-minute drive home, where coffee still cooled in my cup, and the dog awaited her medicine. In my youth, I imagined that I would have many children. All that I would need to complete my life would lie in trundle beds in a charming home. A small room in the house would hold an old wooden desk on which I would place the typewriter that I used to write pithy stories and touching poetry. The male parental unit to be involved in this idyllic scene hovered in a hazy patch, just outside the reach of my clear consciousness. I imagined that I would be successful in twin branches of existence: Wife and writer. I imagined that I would be published; I imagined that I would make spicy pickle relish and hand-rolled yabre, what my grandfather called the rice-filled grape leaves that others knew as dolmas. I saw no further than a few essential trappings: I would cook, clean and craft stories. I close my eyes now and think about that dream. Then my mind drifts to the surroundings in which I had those aspirations. I see my mother standing in the kitchen of my childhood, smiling over her shoulder at me, her hands plunged into soapy water. I remember the moment when I realized her imperfection. I remember the sharp intake of my drawn breath; the spreading heat of my embarrassed blush; the slipping of my illusions and the silent unseen crash, as my faith in her infallibility splintered on the green linoleum. I won't be like her, I promised myself, with the callous arrogance of my teenage years. This week, I held a telephone close to my ear and listened to a prospective client whine about her failed marriage and thought, get over yourself, lady. Her voice droned and droned as my mind wandered. The file of an appointed case sat at my elbow, and I raised its binding, glancing over a psychological evaluation of my client. I could not help comparing the caller's complaints with those of the young woman whom I had been appointed to represent and others whom I have helped over the years. I realize we all have different capacities for endurance, but I found it hard to sympathize with a claim that this able-bodied woman's preferred, comfortable lifestyle should be financed by the man whom she desired to divorce, the man whom she insisted wanted her to forgive him but whose perceived treachery she could not excuse. I compared her with scores of women who just wish their former spouses would pay the court-ordered pittance to help them support small children while working minimum wage jobs. I could not reconcile the level of her shrillness in proportion to the recounted events of her marriage. I could not place her anywhere on the sympathy scale near what I felt for my nineteen-year-old appointed client, whom the educational system had failed, passing her from grade to grade with no real accomplishment, and whose parents have some dirty secret that I've yet to discover which resulted in her leaving their home at the age of fifteen, cast into the arms of a man three times her age by whom she has now born two children. We've all got troubles. But aren't some just empirically worse than others? As I listened to the indignation of the woman who sought my representation in her quest for a pound of flesh from her cheating man, my eyes fluttered. I felt my patience oozing from me. My disgust rose like bile in my throat. But I forced myself to hold back as I told her that I would be happy to refer her to someone else. My schedule does not permit me to take a new case like this, right now, I am so sorry, I glibly lied. She fell silent. But my cousin said you represented him, and helped him get custody of his kids. He said you worked really hard. I sent a message through the cosmos. Don't make me tell you that I just don't want to champion your revenge, I pleaded, in my head, in my heart. I just can't muster the energy to care about whether he pays you maintenance for the rest of your life, and I surely won't be able to convince a judge that I think he should. As I understand the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, passed by the U. S. Senate on 08 April 1864, by the U. S. House of Representatives on 31 January 1865, and adopted on 06 December 1865, slavery has been abolished in our country and there is no asterisk after which my name appears as an exception. I declined her case. In a little flurry of outrage, the woman in turn rejected any name that I might give her. Lucky thing, I thought. The temptation to refer her to a bad attorney might have overcome me. As I close the book on another week of living a dream that I never imagined having, I thought about my mother, who quit nursing school just shy of graduation to betroth herself to a soldier home from the Burma front. Did she think about the house full of children that would eventually come? Did she imagine a career for herself? Or did she want both, as I did, as so many others have? Did she have any regrets? Most specifically, as she glanced over her shoulder, worn hands in a sink full of warm water, gazing at her fourth daughter's slender, teenage frame, did she sense my overwhelming disappointment in her? If she did, perhaps her restless spirit heard my apology, as I gently laid down the receiver on the still shrill voice of my caller this week, a woman so far removed from someone whom I can admire, that the stark contrast with one whom I should have worshiped cut to the bone. The heat has risen in the brightness of the day. In a little while, I will journey west, to Mission, for my weekly coffee with a dear friend. We will talk about the events that she plans at her Gallery for May, and the large new space in which that Gallery will soon be housed. After a while, I will leave her, and on the way home, I will retrieve the corsage intended to adorn the wrist of my stepson's prom date, and take his car through the car wash -- because, as Penny Thieme says, that's what mothers do. 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.