"Truth is like the sun. You can shut it out for a time, but it ain’t goin’ away." Elvis Presley
And then it all came rushing back. The smells, the sounds, and the temperature of the maternity home.
I stood across the street from the grey stone building and was transfixed. I felt as though I had been thrown back in time.
As the door opened on the building that was now the Depaul University Theatre Annex, several students exited. I stood and watched them. Instead of seeing young, vibrant college students, I saw the ghostly apparitions of the unwed teenage mothers that had once called the building "home".
Molly, from Michigan, was returning home from the hospital. Clad in dark leggings and a dark black oversized shirt, she was helped from the car by her social worker. Her dark eyeglasses and the cane she carried gave her the appearance of a blind person. She wasn’t blind of course. She was three days post partum. Three days had passed since her hip had been dislocated during the birth of her son. She looked terribly sad. She could barely walk and if you looked closely you could see the tears that fell from her puffy blue eyes. The eyes, now flecked with red from the strain of crying, were a stark contrast against the glasses and long mane of blonde hair.
A jovial, Lorna Jean, 8 months pregnant, rushed by Molly. Lorna had to work at the consignment shop to pay for her stay at the home. She was often late and this frustrated the other shop workers. She had no time to stop and talk to Molly about the birth of her son. She yelled a quick “hello’ followed by a wave and waddled down the street towards the shop.
Patsy, the house mother, appeared on the scene and was startled to see Molly. As Molly struggled with the door and her social worker struggled with her bags, Patsy attempted to make small talk. Would that make things better? Would that make Molly forget the fact that she had just given birth and had surrendered her son? Would that silly chit chat from the mouth of Patsy help Molly’s broken hip (and heart) heal faster? Would it make her forget what had been done to her and son?
More images flashed before me.
One student left the door open and I could see inside. The plush dark blue carpeting suddenly morphed into the old grey and blue vinyl tile of twenty years ago. I could hear the clack of my wood soled silver loafers I wore during my pregnancy. I shuddered at the sound of Sheree’s shuffling her feet on the stairs above.
Peering in and down the stairs I recall the dining room and the box of fuzzy oranges. Food was regularly delivered to the pantry and overflow was left in the dining room. It was always cold in there. It was Chicago in the winter and it was a basement. You could leave food out for days and it would be chilled.
A box of oranges was left there. Abandoned, like a mutant fruit bowl on the floor, for the expectant mothers to take from. Only no one saw the mutant box of fruit and within a few days the oranges turned fuzzy with brown mold.
I can smell them now.