I LEFT THE HOSPITAL but THE HOSPITAL NEVER LEFT ME
I didn't understand my "New World" any better. As soon as I entered the house, my grandmother took off her hat. I screamed. I thought she was taking off her head. I didn't know that "hats" were something that you put on or took off of your head. I had always assumed when my grandmother visited me at the hospital that her head was misshapened. Being deformed was natural to me.
I was put in a room by myself. Next to "my bed", in "my room", in "my house", was a lamp with a bare bulb. I don't know why, but I put my blue bathrobe over the bare bulb and the room became so pretty. Soon the bathrobe caught on fire. I had never seen fire before. Nobody at Peabody taught me about "things that are dangerous" No one ever told me about being burned by the flames. Instinctively, I threw the robe as far away from me as I could. There was no instinct to run away from the fire because at night I was put in braces that prevented my legs from moving. There was an instinct of fear so I just pulled the covers over my head and in my own childish mind I thought if I cannot see it then it does not exist.
The room where I was put was right above the front door. (My sad story about life could have ended in this room!!)
Many years later I learned that two people had been walking down Newbury Street and saw flames going up the wall of the room where I was staying. I remember seeing a few men putting out the fire. I was told that I had to be carried down stairs because I would not stop screaming. I then stayed in a room outside out side of my grandmother's room.
I received my first doll to keep when I was almost seven and I didn't know what to do with it. I gave my doll elaborate operations. In fact, for almost two years, every doll and stuffed animal I received was subjected to getting an operation! I would cut them across the pelvis and then stitch them up with heavy black thread. I never took the stitches out because I remembered how much that hurt. Instead, I immediately wrapped the doll or stuffed animal in gauze and would use a pencil as a bar to hold the legs apart. Then I would find white powder and mix it with water and smear it over the gauze. I never understood why my home-made cast did not get hard! I waited very patiently for that to happen but it never did. Eventually, I would put the doll, with its surgery, on the floor in the back of the closet. Other "patients" would soon follow to be placed in the "ward at the bottom of the closet floor"!
When I no longer had to be put in braces at night, then I was moved to the top floor at 263 Newbury Street and stayed in the back room. (On the back side of the house, this is the 5th floor but on the front side of the house it is the 4th floor.) I spent most of my time by myself and just as I had at Peabody, I lived in my own world. I watched the sky and the trees but now something new had come into my world to watch and that was, sparrows. At the same time, I learned so many "new" things. One hot day, my mother decided to bring me to Revere Beach. As usual, when in the company of others, I had a million questions. (That might be why I was put on the 5th floor by myself!) We got on the subway at Copley Square and transferred at Park Street. It was then I barraged my mother with questions: What is a beach? What is sand? What is an ocean? What is a wave? what is salt water? (I could tell that my mother was becoming impatient with me but my questions continued.) What is a roller coaster? What is a slice of pizza? What is a seagull? Why did we go from the dark to the light? (subway had just exited the tunnel and became an elevator train) What is a tan? Her reply to that question caused me to stand up and cry as I pointed to a very old black man sitting across from me and I said, "....But, I don't want to look like him". My mother had told me a tan made your skin darker but all I focused on was the white hair growing from the man's face and I didn't want white hair growing from my face.
I went to school and the Swedish Salvation Army. As I tried to make sense of Peabody Home so I tried to make sense of this world at 263. I gradually became aware that I had no idea what toys really were and how to play with them. When I was 8 years old, the Swedish Salvation Army had a Christmas program and I was suppose to recite a poem about: "If Jesus had a birthday cake as big as big could be. There would be so many candles that none of us could see.".......That is all of the lines I remember to this poem. Toys were given to each of the children. This time we could keep what was given us. I got a "Flexible Flyer". I didn't know what I had but I dragged it back to 263 for three and a half blocks and then I dragged it up the stairs to my room on the top floor.
One day I looked out my 5th story window. We had just had a big snow storm and I watched some kids as they went up and down the alley on their "sleds". I then knew what I had. I stumbled down the flights of stairs, dragging my "Flexible Flyer" behind me. "THUMP, THUMP, THUMP", it went. I ran out the front door, ran down Newbury Street, took a left at Fairfield to the alley and that was when I first learned to play with a toy. What a WONDERFUL day I had. What a BLESSING it was for I also learned the feeling of being JOYFUL and having friends with whom to laugh and play. At 8 1/2 years of age I had had the HAPPIEST day of my life. From that day on, my life was on the streets because for the first time I felt I BELONGED thus, it was the only place I wanted to be. I didn't have to make sense of this world. The corner of Fairfield and Newbury was HOME.
To this day, whenever Christmas comes around, I always put money in a Salvation Army Kettle to cover the cost of one "Flexible Flyer". Last year, it cost $79.00 to buy the best sled there ever was.
I will eventually continue on with my stories and hopefully by doing that a realization will come as to what was my purpose for being. One thing I know for sure and that is the fact that Peabody Home for Crippled Children permeated my life.
(Two years ago I saw an episode on Sixty Minutes about a similar children's hospital in San Diego. A girl, living in Montana, remembered having a brother who had CP and one day when she came home from school, he was gone. Her mother said that he had to go to a hospital. The sister, well into her adult years, decided to try to find her brother. For ten years she unsuccessfully sought him until she found a nurse who knew the hospital in which he had been placed. When Sixty Minutes investigated, they found films of children being exposed to a "blue light". It was explained that a study was being done to determine how much radiation exposure could be tolerated. When this episode was over, I immediately went to the site of Sixty Minutes and the story was no where to be found. Was this the answer I was seeking as to the "blue light" that I experienced at Peabody Home?)