Saturday, September 24, 2016

Saturday Musings, 24 September 2016

Good morning,

In a few hours, I will turn the Prius eastward to St. Louis, abandoning the dog and house to the best house-sitter ever, a woman whom the neighbors have hinted should adopt our little old Beagle-Lab mix since she renders far superior care.  I've been mumbling about taking the dog to the groomer; Catherine actually took her and did not even ask me for repayment.  The dog stands in the hallway mooning towards the guest bedroom as she usually does after my son has visited.  I'm obviously more suited to the disdain of cats.

The madness of mid-September has abated. Stillness descends on the waning days of summer.  The umbrella maple in the front yard bears tinges of auburn in her crowning glory; the monkey grass has bloomed and the black-eyed Susans have dropped their petals.  Soon I will shake the mustiness from the woolen quilt and bring my coats out of the cedar closet.  Winter looms.

Last evening I drove thirty minutes to walk through an art gallery at which an old acquaintance had a display of her hand-made jewelry.  I don't usually venture to the hinterlands but this display needed my attention.  The woman suffers from advanced cancer and needs money to pay for her treatment.  I don't know her well and have not seen her for years, but the strength of my affection does not dictate the degree of my compassion.  Besides:  I can always use a source of gifts. So off I went.

The rush-hour traffic demanded most of my attention but in the space between lane-changes and slowing for semis, my mother's face rose to claim brief contemplation.  Her wispy hair, fallen to the chemo; her olive skin stretched across sharp bones.  But even in her waning days, at least until the cancer claimed her mind, the warm eyes danced and the familiar curve of her smile greeted me.  I'd drop my bags in the living room and walk through the doorway to the bedroom where she rested.  Sinking to my knees, I'd wrap my arms around her neck and breathe her fragrance, a mixture of tea and powder.  Then she'd speak in her low throaty voice, uttering the familiar cadence of my name, and I'd stand and start to do her bidding.  Lucy's word had become law.

I spent so many Friday evenings, Saturday mornings sitting in her garden or by her bedside, depending on her strength.  I would babble about my little life, the life in Kansas City without cancer.  I didn't talk about the arguments with my boyfriend or the hours hunched over a bar top.  I avoided the lameness of my limited role as a city prosecutor and the sparse work in my private practice.  Instead I talked about the walks around the lake in Loose Park and my attempts to take yoga classes.  She listened carefully, no doubt hearing between the lines, but nodding, patting my hand, and asking for another glass of water or bidding me to play the New World Symphony one more time.

When I stepped into the Gallery last evening, the woman whose work I had come to see had not yet arrived.  I stood in front of the display, fingering the fresh water pearls and the hammered metal.  When I had known her, this gentle creativity had been as yet unseen.  I knew nothing of her story since we'd parted.  I knew only of the grief through which I had once tried to navigate her; and the grimness that sharpened her anger in those days.

As I stood at the counter contemplating which earrings to buy for my sister, the door opened and Ruth walked into the room.  I saw at once that she bore the stamp of a difficult disease but gamely.  She had clipped her hair, let it go its natural grey, and lightly applied a layer of make-up.  Her shoulders squared above her spare frame, and only a slight pinch of her brow testified to pain.  We embraced; and we walked around the large open room, while she told me about the cancer and the abyss into which she nearly tumbled before a miracle treatment had been found.

I'm a super-responder, she told me, her voice tinged with the wonder that must never abate.  A year ago, I sat in a wheel chair and now, look at me.  I did; I looked so closely that she must have thought me odd.  I saw a woman game to try, to push, to stand and move.  She greeted others who had come to support her efforts or who had wandered in from the Oktoberfest outside.  She talked with the gallery director and the artists whose work graced the walls.  I watched, not speaking, until her circuit brought her back in my direction.

Then we stood together at the counter talking about her jewelry.  While I picked a few items to buy,  I felt my mother's spirit in the room, just briefly, just a whisper, so faint that it could have been that a momentary madness had overcome me.

I completed my purchase, and we sat talking on a metal bench.  Suddenly, Ruth turned to embrace me and I leaned closer to her, breathing in the fragrance of her fragile body.  After a few moments we parted and I said goodbye.  I went into the night and drove home, with something close to love settling lightly on the barren contours of my heart.

Mugwumpishly tendered,

Corinne Corley

Visit Ruth Roberts' FACEBOOK STORE.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Saturday Musings Delayed


I am preparing for our annual benefit which is held this evening at 7:00 p.m. at my professional suite, 4010 Washington, Suite 100, KC MO.

Therefore, I will not be writing a musing today.

If you are in KC, please join us for an evening of food, fun, music, art, and raising funds and awareness for two local KC shelters for those experiencing family violence and needing help to survive and thrive.

Thank you.

Mugwumpishly yours,

Corinne Corley

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Saturday Musings, 10 September 2016

Good morning,

From an AirBnB in San Rafael, I search for pictures of my Mother to share on this, the ninetieth anniversary of her birth.  I have few.  I've scanned some; taken snapshots of others; and snagged a few from my sister Adrienne's Facebook page.  Someone might have more but all I have sit in space somewhere, grainy and awkward.

But she cannot fade from my memory.  Recently one of my siblings reminded me that Mom had her flaws -- and she did; we all do.  She allowed our father to commit atrocities on us which had no name then but today would be considered felonies.  While I understand what happened to her, and why she felt powerless to fight him, still, there it is -- leaving us scarred, damaged, different, disillusioned.  Some of us rose above what we felt and saw; some of us sank below the muck and mire.  None of us emerged from our childhood without a profound burden, however easily or awkwardly each of us learned to carry it.

However, my mother had magnificent qualities.  She gave me many of them.  She steadfastly endured, and I have leaned on her example through my own travails.  Mother could skip one moment and hold a troubled child the next.  Possibly this mercurial quality would be seen today as manic-depression, but I just thought of it as adaptability.  She had little tolerance for inanity, or cruelty, or illogic.  She protected her babies with an unparalleled ferocity in most realms, though at home, only by standing in the way of many of my father's blows.

At least, I remember her this way.  Others might have their own images, their own memories, their own opinions.  But I persist in my assessment.  Lucille Johanna Lyons Corley stands tall in my mind.  Not perfect, certainly.  Irreverent, often.  Tired -- most assuredly.  But present -- ever present, and unwavering.

It took me nearly 37 years to successfully bear a child.  My mother died six years before my son's birth.  I mourn the fact that he never got to meet her.  They would have had fabulous talks, Patrick and Lucille.  They have much in common, including an inner gentleness that happily came out in his genes though they skipped mine.

My first pregnancy ended in a bloody mess on the floor of my mother's bathroom in late winter, 1977.  At twenty-one, aimless and undirected, I would have been a terrible parent.  But I had known the child inside for a month or so, and desperately wanted the baby even if I had no earthly clue what to do with it.  I stood helplessly clutching the sink, pressing a wash cloth to my mouth to stifle the sobs.  My mother knocked on the door.  Mary, let me in, she commanded.  When she saw my face, she folded me in her arms.  She did not require a confession.  She led me from the room, stripped me, found a nightgown, and settled me in my old bedroom without making me answer for my actions.  I fell asleep with a cup of half-drunk tea cooling on a tray beside me.  Though I went back to my apartment the next day, my mother's love followed me.  I slept for days under my great-grandmother's quilt which Mother sent with me that morning.  It carried the heavy fragrance of home:  Mother's perfume, over-cooked coffee, and a curious blend of Pine-Sol and talcum powder.

In one of my many wooden boxes at home, I have my mother's defense medals, the bracelet she made from the baby beads of her first four children, and some pin that could be a Boy Scout den mother award.  I have little else of hers.  But every fiber of my being carries her stamp.  I would not be sixty-one and still relentless if I were not my mother's daughter.

In a little while, I will go to see the garden of a gentleman whom I met on my travels.  I will stand among the flowers in this temperate climate, remembering another garden, in Jennings, which bloomed beneath the tender care of a half-Austrian, half-Syrian, girl from Gillespie.  I will think of how much my mother loved her flowers, and her vegetables, and her children.  I will  not cry.  She would much prefer that her memory linger in my smile.

Mugwumpishly tendered,

Corinne Corley

In Loving Memory:
Lucille Johanna Lyons Corley
10 Sept 26 - 21 August 85


Saturday, September 3, 2016

Saturday Musings / Without Complaining

Good morning,

I did not write an entry in My Year Without Complaining yesterday.  My travels kept me away from a computer.  Here on the coast, the internet works when it wishes to work, in the house or room where it feels comfortable.  Cell service follows the same dictates of its whim.  But here I sit, in Dolphin House, in the kitchen.  A young man from Germany who had no breakfast food other than a peach now cooks two of my eggs for himself.  He might be the same age as my son; I hope if my son travels in Germany, someone's mother will spare him a couple of eggs and some butter for his morning repast.

I left Kansas City at 10:20 a.m. CDST and pulled into the parking lot of HI-Pigeon Point Lighthouse at precisely 5:00 p.m. Pacific time.  I had acquired a box of groceries in Pescedaro.  I set my basket on the counter and asked for butter.  A surly man gestured to the back case.  I walked over, rummaged, and found a pound for $5.00 or a stick for $3.00.  I went with the pound.  Back at the counter, I asked the man if they sold coolers.  He grunted, a sound which I took as a negative reply.  Instead he loaded my groceries in a leftover box, breaking off a stalk of celery in the process.  I smiled.  He evaded my eyes.  I broadened my smile and thought perhaps he softened his gaze.

Out at the rental car, I spied the trunk open but luckily my suitcase still rested within the small cavern.  I stood staring at the keys, wondering if in my fumbling I had pressed some wayward button.  I let my shoulders rise and fall and set to driving the rest of the way to the hostel, the ocean on my right, the gentle western slope of the mountains on my left.  With the radio silent  and the windows slightly open to let in the soothing air, I drove, and thought, and breathed.  Mostly I breathed.

Michael stood behind the counter at the hostel.  I swung around the doorway and broadened my smile.  Michael, you're still here!  I cried.  He matched my grin.  Why, it's the girl from Kansas City, he replied.  It might be a trick he has; to check the roster.  But I let myself believe he remembers me.  He might; I don't mind either way.

Michael helped me with my suitcase.  Had he not, I would have pulled a few things from the large bag and put them in a smaller pack, one brought just for this purpose.  We talked as we walked, me with my red walking stick, Michael carrying everything else.  As we entered the building, he asked me, Are you this happy at home? Or is it California?  I stopped and thought.  He waited for my answer.  I told him the truth as I know it:  This place brings out the joy in me.  He nodded.  He has his own story of redemption, behind a weathered face turned sixty-one last month.  He understood.  We continued into the building.

Later, I sat in the Adirondack chair and let my eyes play over the ocean.  A woman from Santa Cruz told me about her childhood in Kansas City.  She went to St. Theresa's High School, and then over to St. Louis University for college.  Our lives intersected in so many places that we sat together for some time at the kitchen table, she with a somewhat burned pizza and me with my apples and hummus.   She talked of some unpleasant things which had happened to her.  I steered the conversation towards happier memories and she talked about Imo's Pizza, the quadrangle at SLU, Minsky's Pizza in Kansas City.  I listened, hearing the loneliness between her words.  Then our voices fell silent and only the ocean spoke.

Later, two men traveling for the Labor Day Weekend gave me a couple of their stuffed mushrooms.  They offered pasta but I declined.  We sat at the same kitchen table with the ocean still sending its voice in waves towards us, right outside the window.  We talked of their jobs, and the election, and the artichoke bread that I had bought in Pescedaro.  One of them told me about teaching ballroom dancing in Long Beach.  The other spoke of moving to California from Amarillo in the 1990s, to find somewhere liberal enough to accept him.  We ate without speaking for a few minutes, the room around us heavy for a brief time with our thoughts, with the longing for a place to call home.

Then a couple of young women burst into the room, backpacks falling from their shoulders, eyes bright, faces gleaming.  I took my plate to the sink, and myself to bed.

I fell asleep easily, with the window open, and the sea air soothing the weariness which I wear like a shawl.  Everything fell away, to the floor, crumbling, whisked away by the breeze playing through the room.  I woke twice in the night; once to the sound of laughter in the hallway outside my door; and once with a start from a dream that I cannot recall.

When I rose at six, a fog had settled over the lighthouse; but the one surrounding my soul had cleared.

Mugwumpishly tendered,

Corinne Corley

PostScript:  My humility compels me to confess that Master Michael of the Hostel Realm confirms that he did indeed remember me; and he further honored me by telling me that he considers me a friend. My cup runneth over.

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.