Saturday, March 30, 2013

Saturday Musings, 30 March 2013

Good morning,

The end of a relatively brutal week finds me smiling.  A million times a million people have life worse than I do, I reminded myself, publicly, in the little window that allows us to tell our "friends" on Facebook how we fare.  Just for the sake of accuracy, responded my math teacher brother Frank, you do know that a million times a million is 1,000,000,000,000, don't you? That's a trillion people we're talking about right there.  Hence, the smile. Leave it to family to help me keep everything in perfect perspective.

I close my eyes.  A faint smell of chocolate wafts from the coveted Christopher Elbow box in which nine little pillows of wonder nestled, presented to me -- with flowers and a dinner at our special restaurant -- by my husband on our second anniversary.  I've eaten three in as many days, shared one, and five remain.  I like to make the good things last. 

The candy's fragrance inspires a swirl of memory of Easters gone by.  The baskets full of jelly beans; those tasteless coconut eggs we called "blah" eggs, with their thin shell of hard sugar; the marshmallow shapes, some covered with chocolate and some not; one Russell Stover bonbon; and a rabbit -- in good years, solid chocolate, in lean years, the hollow kind.  My Easter basket, with its name tag on which "Mary Corinne" is written in my mother's hand, rests on a high shelf in my breakfast  nook, now empty except for pleasant memories and a few random shreds of plastic grass.

The thought of Easter always brings to mind the sight of my mother, standing in our breakfast room door, a terrified look on her face.  Six or seven laughing Corleys surround the table, recording a mob scene in the tape recorder we got at the S & H green stamps redemption center.  Give us Barabus!  Crucify him!  We want Barabus!  Long will I remember my mother charging into the house from work, waiving a bundle of pussy willow branches that a workmate had given her, shouting, What's going on here!  What are you kids doing!  I could hear you halfway to Clayton!  Only the family "Jesus jokes" made her laugh harder than she did that day, when she realized that her children were not butchering each other but re-enacting the sentencing of Christ by Pontious Pilate.

Holidays in a big family engender special memories that others might find just a little creepy.

But an Easter from my son's childhood stands squarely in my mind as the one from which I take the most spiritual meaning.

The several families who commonly gathered at my home stood on my porch, preparing for the boys to take up their Wal-Mart baskets and scout my front yard for plastic eggs filled with candy and pennies.  In their matching white shirts, rumpled and a little too big, three of the four friends eagerly waited for the last one to exit the house so the hunt could begin.  When he came through the front door with a deep scowl on his dark, nine-year-old face, his mother rushed towards him.  What's wrong, what's wrong, she cried, holding him close.

He had been talking to his distant father on the phone in my living room.  His father, whom I had met only once and who rarely visited, sent prec ious little money for his son's care, and who had moved to Colorado to let his own parents support him while he pursued an advanced degree.  The boy would not reply, but sobbed against his mother's bosom.  His friends, including my own son, stood in an awkward circle around the pair, no doubt torn between the urge to charge into the yard looking for loot, and their sympathy for a child whom they had known for most of their lives.  I sank into a rocking chair, easing the pressure on the wretched, bone-on-bone knee that had not yet been replaced.  My husband and a couple of other parents set their coffee cups down on random tables and moved forward, eager to help, unsure of what they could do.

Finally, the boy broke from his mother.  My baba says I can't hunt Easter eggs because I'm Muslim, he wailed.  The wind caught his words and merged them with the shudders and sighs of the earth.  The porch fell silent.  The child's outraged mother, herself born and raised in Beirut and the reason for her now-ex-husband's conversion from Christianity, pulled her strong, beautiful frame tall and let out a stream of Arabic that I think meant something like, "That bastard, I'll break his face if I ever see him again for scolding my son!"  I don't speak Arabic, but I well understand the fury in the shrill tones of a tired, frustrated former spouse.  I'm sure that's close to what she said.

I stepped forward then, putting my hands on the shoulder of the grieving boy.  I leaned towards him, towards this boy who called me Auntie Corinne and often spent weekends in my home, nights when he read far into the night while my son and the other two slept in oblivious sprawls on bunk beds and piles of sleeping bags.  It's okay, I told him.  What if the other kids eggs for you?  What if you and I sit on the steps and say, "Hot! Hot! Hot!" when they are close to an egg, and "YOU"RE TOTALLY COLD!" when they move away?  What if they hunt, and you and I are the referees?  Would that be okay, do you think?"

His mother moved away, and sank onto a chair, her gorgeous, furious Arabic eyes flashing.  The boy sniffled a little, and said, What about what my Baba said?  I drew him towards the doorway of the porch, and beckoned a little to the other boys.  Your Baba said you couldn't hunt eggs, I told him.  You aren't going to hunt eggs.  You're going to eat the candy!  And the other boys will hunt the eggs.  I looked at the other adults, whose tense faces reflected their understanding of the boy's pain.  Eating candy isn't a religious thing, I assured him.  Even Muslims eat candy, don't they?  He nodded.  I felt his shoulders relax under my hands.  

My son and his friends whooped and hollered as they ran down the concrete steps into the sweet-smelling yard, with its newly grown grass, its hyacinth, and the budding Japanese maple.  The fourth boy and I sat on those steps, he with his basket between his feet, and we coaxed the hunters towards the hidden bounty.  I made a rule:  for every egg you kept, you brought one to the waiting basket of their benched friend.  He made quite a haul.  When the hunt had ended, they gathered on the floor of the living room, cracked open each plastic egg, and spilled the fragrant mix of jelly beans, chocolate eggs and coins onto the carpet while the adults fixed lunch, and the sun rose high in the April sky.

This afternoon, I will take a beautiful silk blouse to my mother-in-law so that she may wear it when we come to get her for Easter Brunch tomorrow.  She has progressed from hospital to skilled rehab, but her husband of fifty-eight years faces the decision of where she should go next, and the best neurologist in town has said that bringing her home seems imprudent.  The fabric of the blouse came from one of the exotic places to which they traveled together.  Each time she wears this garment, I compliment its beauty, and the color that it brings to her delicate skin.  She smiles, and tells me that Jay had the blouse made for her, and I nod.  I don't tell her that I know, that I remember from when she has previously told me.  In some situations, words are necessary, and other times, words wound like the relentless pierce of a spear in tender flesh.

We have a table for eight reserved at a restaurant that my father-in-law thinks his wife favors.  When I told her where we were going, one day this week while I sat beside her in the little sun room of the rehab center, she smiled.  That's nice, she said.  It might not have been my first choice, but Jay likes it, so it's good we're going to go there.  I returned her smile, and touched her hand.  I am still smiling, days later, as I think about the two of them, each straining to please the other.  Surely that's what life is all about, I tell myself.  Not giving up chocolate for Lent, or staying behind while your friends hunt for Easter eggs.  But going somewhere that might not be your first choice, just because you think it's the first choice of someone you cherish.

I've mentioned this before now, I'm sure, but let me tell you one more time.  One year, my mother sent out Easter cards with a picture of my two little brothers carving the previous year's Jack-O-Lantern.  Inside were words written in my thirteen-year-old penmanship, words with which I leave you today:  Happy Easter, Happy Spring, Happy Happy Everything.

Mugwumpishly tendered,

Corinne Corley

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Saturday Musings, 23 March 2013

Good morning,

I wish that I could say it has been a quiet week, here on the western side of my beloved state; and in some ways, I suppose, it has.  I suited up and hauled exhibits for a trial which got bumped, making my late-night prep and early-morning drive a monumental waste of time except to reveal some difficulties in my evidence which I can now address.  In the between hours, I brought Laura Little fudge to  my mother-in-law who is recuperating in a rehab center; learned to e-file; and taught the second of three writing workshop sessions in my new guise as a writer's teacher.  Those who can, do; those who can't, teach?

I started the week in St. Louis County, in Chesterfield, at a table in St. Louis Bread Company with my sister.  While my husband dropped our number-three child in Webster Groves to catch his ride back to school post-spring-break, I ate salad with my sister and talked about a painting she found at a thrift store.  "Eighteen bucks, and it's gorgeous," she gushed.  We deployed my Google-tron and learned that the painting has a value of around five-hundred dollars on the open market, if original, which she believes it is, and if done by the painter whose work it appeared to be, whose signature appeared in the lower right-hand corner.  She beamed at her find; and I felt a rush of love and yearning.  "There are two kinds of people in the  world," my father often told me.  "Corleys, and people who want to marry Corleys.  And you, my dear, are a Corley."  Indeed.

I go about my business, most days, disconnected from my heritage.  Then I hear a little eastern twang, in a voice over the phone or from the radio, and I find myself transported back in time.  I crave contact with my kind:  Corleys, yes, but St. Louisans.  I tell people that I hail from Kansas City because I moved here in 1980, but in  my heart, I still feel the sway as I rounded the curve of the Halls Ferry Circle, still hear the echoing rush of the muddy Mississippi just below my dangling feet, the year it flooded and I sat on the edge of the Eads Bridge in defiance of the police road block.  I force myself to drive to Overland Park, damning its distance, but still conceive of the St. Louis Metropolitan area as being comprised of North Jerusalem, East Jesus, West of Everywhere, and South God's Country.  I can't help it.  I believe that its contours, thusly defined, might be imprinted on my DNA.

Most of all, I find myself wanting to mingle with people who share that DNA.  I love my husband, and I particularly enjoy  having parents again since mine died so long ago.  I feel satisfied that I finally have the semi-large brood that I wanted -- a daughter, another son, flanking my birthson in age.  That my son finally has siblings particularly satisfies me.  I mean my family-by-marriage no disrespect when I say that I sometimes keenly feel that I am not one of them.  I find myself orphaned, like a little patch of land which was once part of the mainland, cut off by a shift in the river's path. The village where I live has charm, but I search for a bridge.  I stand on the river's steep banks, yearning, wishful.  I love my town.  But the mainland holds people whose chin matches mine, who share my childhood memories, whose voice echoes the cadence of my own.

And so, I reach for them.  I traverse Interstate 70 more and more.  I message them in social media; I send e-mails; I query after their lives.  I look backward at the road which I have traveled, straining to identify forks taken that moved me further away from my siblings and later, from my son's aunts, uncles, and cousins.  Can I go back?  Do I get a do-over?  Impossible; but perhaps, like the roads of Jennings, there exists a circle which I can use to bring myself back around, so I can take another road and still come home.

I hear the radio babbling about a snowstorm that will crash down on the interstate which I had intended to travel tomorrow to have dinner with my son and two of my nieces.  We've acknowledged, via text and Facebook message, that our plans will likely fizzle. I throw a pillow at the radio, willing the woman to tell us that she's erred; the snow will miss all three of the towns:  Kansas City, St. Louis, and Greencastle, Indiana.  But she does not.  Not as much snow as fell in Kiev, she acknowledges, But a major storm,  across the state.  Prepare yourselves.

I sit, drinking my coffee and listening to NPR.  The bland voices rankle.  I long for the harshness of those St. Louis vowels, the giggle of my sister, the easy smiles of the next generation of Corleys.  I, too, have miles to go before I sleep, but none of them will be easterly, I fear, and I will have to endure another week or two without going home.  Now the announcer talks about the St. Louis basketball team and my ears twitch, my heart races, and I think to myself:  It's still there, the city of my other life; waiting for me, and those faces, with their familiar contours, will smile when I arrive.  The thought sustains me.

My father-in-law ruminated about the phenomenon of modern marriage over dinner last evening.  My mind wandered a bit, my thoughts taking a different direction but triggered by his observations.  It used to be that you had a limited social sphere, he commented.  And you were likely to partner with someone that had a lot in common with you.  Now, you meet so many more people that you are more likely to marry someone whose interests are different from yours.  You used to have so much in common with the people you married.  My social sphere shifted just as he meant.  The modernity of life took me some distance from my city of birth, to Boston, to Kansas City, to Arkansas, and back.  I have no regrets about my choice of partner, even though we have such different backgrounds, our childhoods spent in such vastly different cities.  

But I do regret that time and the coincidences of my life's events have left me on an island, gazing across a seemingly uncrossable distance at those who share my blood.  My fascination with memories, with stories of the life I have led, and the lives of people I have met, comes down to this unwavering need to be among my kind, if only for a while, if only, now and then.  Most of the time, I am content to live on my island.  But the mainland calls me, and I cross the bridge, smiling as I pass the sign that announces I am entering St. Louis County.  I am home.

Mugwumpishly tendered,

Corinne Corley

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Saturday Musings, 16 March 2013

Good morning,

After a brief, breathtaking preview of spring, the cold fog of winter grips us again.  My bones ache.   The dog shudders on the back porch and looks reproachfully in my direction, until I let her back into the house.  A greyness descended overnight, a sad ending to our unexpected respite from cold.

I stood on my lovely front porch yesterday, a bit later than usual in the morning, lingering with a cup of coffee.  From the south, two figures approached.  The woman's shoulders bent forward, but the set of her face reflected resolve.  The man wore a heavy jacket.  Both bore head coverings, tied securely beneath their chins, framing the fragile, lined skin of their faces.

I sipped my coffee, watching their halting progress.  I told myself that I should descend the stairs of my porch, travel down my walk, and await them.  I should extend my hand, reminding the woman of my name.  I should mention, not assuming that she knows, our shared past:  She graduated UMKC law in 1984, one year after I did.  I should, I should:  I should beg their forgiveness for the twenty years in which I have watched them in my neighborhood and remained silent.

I let them pass.  Their journey continues beyond my house, slower than the slowest snail.  I watch until they move far enough north that I cannot see them without making the trip down my steps, something I will not do.   
When I first moved to this neighborhood, the pair biked past our house many times a day.  She generally zipped ahead of him, with a carefree backwards waive of her hand.  He kept a steady pace behind her.  He wore a smile, his eyes moving back and forth to check for danger, but mostly staying locked on the woman ahead of him.  She drew him on, on to the grocery store where I would often see them slinging bags onto their handlebars; on to the walking path, their receding, sleek figures deftly navigating around the joggers, and the children, and the mothers with their fashionable strollers. 

During the time in which my son struggled to learn to ride a two-wheeler without training wheels, this pair, this woman of Germany and her stalwart husband, slowed on our street and theirs to encourage him as he made his creeping way down the sidewalk.  Her radiant smile, cast down to my son's small helmeted head, swept him into the world of bicyclists, a world that I do not inhabit, a world where he desperately dreamed of dwelling.  He would raise his small face  and his sweet smile and greet her, and then,  pedaling with renewed determination, burst forward, if only for the few seconds when her gaze lingered on him.

I might as well have been invisible.  I did not belong in the sweep of their exchange.  But I did not mind.

As the decade waned, as the century drew to a close, I saw the pair less often.  Eventually, they re-emerged: on foot now, making the same two-block circuit that my son and I often traveled in his childhood, one dog or the other straining on a lead in front of us.  My classmate and her husband, now apparently no longer able to zip around the neighborhood, instead trudged a smaller distance, no less determined. 

And I watched them, from my porch, with one cooling cup of coffee after another, traveling from the south, northwards, to the corner, where they would turn to go east and recede from my field of vision.
One day, a year or two ago, my heart wrenched:  Here came the woman, alone, frail, sneakers tightly laced and scarf wrapped securely under her chin.  She walked with eyes downward, scrutinizing the old broken sidewalks.  Her stiff arms barely moved to and fro; her shoulders bent over her thin chest.  Still I stood, on my porch, with my damned cup of coffee, and said nothing.  I did nothing.

When the hard days of winter came that year, I did not  see her anywhere.  I do not know how she got groceries or medicine; I didn't know whether she went to church.  She had never practiced law and I never learned what she had chosen to do instead.  I had never learned her husband's name nor what his occupation had been.  I assumed, because I  no longer saw her with him, that he had died.

Until yesterday.

I do not know why I have not seen them together on any other occasion.  My schedule rarely varies.  Perhaps, having decided to spend a few minutes in the warmth of yesterday's unusual weather, I accidentally timed my lallygagging to coincide with their daily constitutional.

In the last few weeks, my parents-in-law have faced a crisis.  My mother-in-law developed clots, requiring hospitalization and now, an extended stay in skilled nursing  rehab.  Their fifty-eight years of marriage set a pattern so strong that each depends upon its constant rhythm.  I silently observe them, wondering which suffers more -- the one who is ill, or the one who is left behind to fret.  They have been married a few months longer than I have been alive, almost as long as my mother got to live, nearly fifty years longer than I ever managed to remain married -- so far at least.  They have journeyed far together, and long.

As I watched my neighbors make their slow  and painful way past  my house yesterday, in the gentle air, and the sweet sun, I understood what had kept me from speaking to them over the years.  I have always thought that I remained silent out of cowardice, unwilling to offer assistance or get involved; or, perhaps, from fear that she would rebuff my overture.  But now I understand, and I cannot say that I am less ashamed.  For it was not laziness or pride which stayed my feet and held them on the cold concrete platform of my porch.  Not at all.  It was envy.

Mugwumpishly tendered,

Corinne Corley

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Saturday Musings, 09 March 2013

Good morning,

Another sunless day.  Rain has washed away most of the lingering, sad snow.  The beautiful blizzards of 2013 remain in memory and, possibly, in the slightly higher water table measured by the Kansas farmers.  Our heater barely stretched its muscles yesterday, though my office, with its wide windows on the Westport world, still carries a biting chill.  Can this be spring?

A child came back to the roost last evening, borne to St. Louis by a school friend and fetched from there by his father.  My weary body succumbed to sleep before their midnight arrival, but I stirred enough to know that they had arrived, then slipped back into dreams.

Another winter, more than three decades ago.  A journey west, to San Francisco, where each day held rain, and mist, and the mucky cold of a seaside January.  Only a day trip to Muir Woods saved the vacation.  I didn't know our hosts and found nothing in common with them. I quarreled with my companion, our relationship past its prime and quickly rotting.  But I stood beneath an ancient petrified redwood, my head cranked backwards, eyes scanning high into its towering branches.  An abiding calm eased through my body, easing my tense, thin frame huddled in an over-size jacket.  I raised my arms, my hands open, reaching for the beauty.  I drew in a soothing breathe of a cleaner air than I had ever known.

We had gone to California through Utah, spending an extra day in Provo due to the sad breakdown of my old Nova, the Nova that my traveling companion had taken apart on Christmas Day under the guise of effecting the same fix for which we ultimately paid a hefty price to a sly mechanic.  We routed our return through Arizona, and left a day earlier than we had planned, having done what we could to enjoy the California dampness, the storm-drenched sights, and the waning welcome of his old friend and the friend's disapproving wife.

As night fell, some night, a moonless night in early January 1981, our approach to Flagstaff halted behind a stationary line of cars.  We had not conversed for miles.  He had taken the wheel an hour or so earlier, and I slumped against the window, staring over the edge of the highway, to dark shapes below, the slopes of mountains the names of which I had not bothered to learn.  We sat, motionless, silent, unconcerned about the reason for delay so much as how we would endure each other's presence for even a few extra minutes.

Ahead, emergency lights pierced the darkness.  Figures passed between the halted traffic, a dozen or so cars to the east of us.  Someone raised a bank of generator-powered safety lights.  Still we sat, but our curiosity overcame our sullen thoughts and we began to ask each other what might be happening.

A half-hour later, a uniformed figure approached our window.  We're going to start the line moving, but be prepared to stop, he said.  My friend asked the reason for the delay.  The officer hesitated, a grim look over-taking his lined face.  It's an accident, he said, finally.  He looked away, to the south, searching the dark horizon.  A semi jack-knifed, and hit a passenger vehicle.  He brought his gaze back to us.  You guys got your belts on?  We assured him that we did.  He nodded.  Drive careful, now, he finished, and moved beyond our car, to the next traveler, the next question.  The line inched forward.

As we neared the bank of emergency vehicles, the extended black pole-lights on the right, the fire-trucks on the left, I realized that a stationary ambulance still lingered at the scene, a useless stretcher forgotten in the yawning gap of its open rear doors.  My stomach clenched.

I still do not know what power stayed our course at the exact location where the two vehicles had landed, over the edge of the highway, on a small plateau about a dozen yards beneath my window.  The truck's cab hand fallen squarely on top of a station wagon.  A huddle of emergency personnel stood beside the wreck.  The roof of the  passenger car stood level with their waists.  

Beyond the spot where fate had drawn those people, we could accelerate.  Silence overcame us again, not the spiteful silence of traveling companions who have grown weary of one another but the stunned speechlessness of certain, awful knowledge.  I twisted in my seat, hungry for some scrap of hope, and in that moment, saw one paramedic fall against the chest of his partner, whose arms reached around, whose eyes, briefly, keenly, met mine.

The morning rain has dwindled. My husband bestows a small kiss on my lips, then saunters off to tennis.  Our youngest son sleeps the deserving sleep of the straight A student.  To the north, our daughter no doubt lingers in the lazy warmth of a Nebraska weekend, and eight hours east of here, my Thespian playwright has probably not yet stirred, the cast-party for his latest acting stint having kept him celebrating late into the night.  

And I, mother and wife to them all, sit in our dining room, surrounded by wood and the delicate sheers that hang at our windows.  The Flagstaff news, heard in a cheap hotel room, on a January morning in 1981, had told of a family of five killed in a late-night accident involving a tractor-trailer.  The truck driver was unhurt,  the announcer assured us.  I stood, that day, with a Styrofoam cup of coffee, watching the television and shaking my head. You're wrong, I said to the screen, to the clueless and carefully coiffed lady, who sat at a mock desk, reading copy handed to her by a skinny guy with a headset.   I saw the wreckage.  No one came through unharmed that night.  No one.

Mugwumpishly tendered,

Corinne Corley

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Saturday Musings, 02 March 2013

Good morning,

A grey sky has hovered over Kansas City for two days.  Yesterday's snow flurries had no impact on the banks of snow piled alongside every sidewalk and street, neither to increase the mountains nor liven the grime.  Winter grips us.  No one in the Midwest ever expects to be snowbound, yet this week, many were.  I shiver as my feet hit the kitchen floor, and shy away from the gap at the bottom of the backdoor, through which icy tendrils of air seep.

The crystal stillness of a snow-crusted darkness lulled me to sleep last night.  Each weary muscle settled against the mattress as I drew deep, gratifying breaths, feeling the warmth of the air, letting the tiredness drain from me.  Life marched to these times, tramping over green fields, and piles of rubble, scaling mountains and skittering around curves.  Life brought me here, to this place, where I stand for hours greeting visitors in a beautifully lit professional suite of offices which I share with my husband and three people whose diverse life philosophies nonetheless seem to mesh so well with mine.  I look around that suite, and see fabulous works of breath-takingly honest art, month after month, art that has been  brought to me by my soul-sister whose vision propels me so much farther than I could have ever dreamed.

Just before sleeping, just before I sink into the long refreshing time of unawareness, an image returns to me:  that same soul-sister, her silver hair then a rich brown, but fringing the same radiant smile.

I stand at her front door, a bag of groceries awkwardly bunched against my coat.  Heaps of snow spill from the sidewalks and driveways of her subdivision.  Penny swings the heavy storm door towards me just enough to let me slide through, then bangs both doors closed, shushing the dogs who frantically strain to get out, get at the visitor, get her attention.  I surrender my burden and shrug from my winter things, and look beyond the entryway, past the kitchen, to the lower-level family room where a boy intently studies a drawing pad.

My boy.

He glances my way only briefly.  Hi, Mom, I can't talk to you right now, we're having drawing class, he informs me, a little reproachfully.  I glance back at his aunt Penny and arch one eyebrow.  Indeed, indeed, I cluck.  Don't let me interrupt.  Penny returns to her pupil and I help myself to coffee, sitting at the small table overlooking my studious child and his beloved teacher.  His short hair spans the tender contours of his skull.  I know the curve of that head; I know the line of scar where that head smacked a marble window sill on his fifth birthday, and the smooth surface of the forehead which swelled the time he fell in Tower Grove Park, on Easter, two years before that.  I sip my coffee and gaze on his furrowed brow, at the terse set of his lips, the focus of his gaze.  I drink my coffee.  I have time enough to wait.

When the artists relinquish their sketch pads, we make a little lunch with the provisions I have brought.  We sit as strangers might, at the table.  I get the idea that when I am not there, lunch takes on a rather more festive air and happens on the coffee table.  With me present, lunch has matching dishes, and square-cut sandwiches, place mats, and good manners.  

After lunch, we have a shopping trip.  My son, who lives with his aunt Penny during August, when his school is closed, and on long holidays, because his mother works and does not yet feel he should spend long stretches of time without an adult, needs a few things:  socks, and T-shirts, and chapter books, mostly.  We assemble what meets his seven-year-old sensibilities in a cart at Wal-Mart.  He rejects one or two items that he says cost too much.  Always looking for a bargain, my boy.  Afterwards, we stop for treats.  I can't remember now, all these years later, whether we had ice cream or soda.  I picture him across a Formica table-top, intent on eating without getting anything on his shirt.  What overwhelmed me then, rises again within me now.  Is it love, or gratitude?

I take him back to his aunt Penny slightly wired on sugar.  I hug them both, and then the visit ends.  My last sight of him almost drew me back:  as the door closed, I just barely saw his head peaking from beneath a cover on the couch, his heavy-lidded eyes almost shut, his last words before sleeping barely audible:  Bye Mom, I love you.

Over the years, my son grew taller.  He went through a long-haired phase which ended with a symbolic buzz, which he wore with defiance of his past for several high school years.  On a trip to Mexico he let his hair grow again, and it came back in dark, heavy curls.  I did not recognize him at the airport.  More years passed, and he abandoned drawing for guitar, which he played with his usual unrelenting intentness.  Slowly, gradually, words came to him, and now my electronic mailbox sizzles when he sends me something that he wants me to read.

The light outside my dining room window shines through frozen streaks.  Our dog gazes at me, a silent question echoing her hunger, the need for her medicine.  I see that time has continued its onward trudge, while my muscles tensed, slightly hunched as I am over this old computer.  In a little while, I will try to rustle up a coffee date with my son's aunt Penny, and later, I'll visit my mother-in-law at the hospital, and bring her flowers or a little trinket.  And after a while, I will call my son, and unless the Google-subscriber lady tells me he is unavailable, I will share with him, my memories of long-ago, when he was young, and I had visitation with him on Saturdays, while he bloomed under sweet, prescient gaze of his other mother.

Mugwumpishly tendered,

Corinne Corley

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.