Monday, June 22, 2009

Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da

click on image to enlarge

Note: The entries with the funky computer graphics are reflections upon the early influences of my life as an artist.
After perhaps two weeks of living in my parent's neighbor's upstairs I worked up enough nerve to walk across the driveway and ask mother if I could borrow her car. It was a sunny Sunday afternoon in late June and I wanted to go across town to visit my friends. It would be my first taste of freedom.
I'd been in hiding for 7 months.
When I discovered I was pregnant I went to see my boss. She called my mother and we had a meeting to discern what was to become of me. Mrs. McQuaide offered to send me to Mexico for a weekend. She suggested that when I came home I could resume my life "as if nothing had happened". In 1968 abortions were rumored to be performed by unscrupulous doctors in back alleys using clothes hangers.
I said, "No. I didn't do anything wrong and I don't deserve to be punished."
With this one option rejected it came to be my mother's turn to figure out what to do with me.
I was driven downtown to Catholic Charities to be admitted to their home for unwed mothers. A case worker gave us a tour of the dingy and guilt ridden rooms. Back in her office she slid the necessary paperwork across her desk and handed me a pen. I said, "No. I didn't do anything wrong and I don't deserve to be punished. "
She went to a higher authority. A Catholic Charity supervisor brought me into her office and gave me a talking to. She made a series of tense phone calls. Clearly she didn't want to chance my walking away and having them lose a young white girl's baby.
Eventually she arranged for me to go and live with an elderly couple prominent in the Catholic community. They lived in a mansion that contained three full kitchens, 10 bedrooms/baths and an octagonal ballroom. The fulltime painter did touch-ups room to room. The Arch Bishop was a frequent dinner guest.
I moved into the beautiful upper floor (attic) and became part of the household staff albeit the only live-in at that time. Each day I was required to change uniform three times as I carried out a list of duties beginning at 7 am. and ending at 7 pm. I was allowed 12 hours off per week and was given $12.oo. I was not allowed outdoors. It was an exceptional prison.
Sometime into the pregnancy I was hospitalized and the doctor said that I needed two weeks of complete bed rest at which point I called Mrs. Carlin and was told that I couldn't return. She said "Who will take care of us?"
Mother, intent on keeping my situation a secret, spoke to the produce manager at the grocery store where she shopped and soon I relocated to a tiny bungalow just three miles away from my parents home and several doors down from Millie, a former co-worker at the dress shop, making it necessary for me to remain indoors at all times. I began caring for Mary's three children ages 2-7 and her mother who had been through a double mastectomy. Mary, at 33, had just been widowed. We were a sad but determined little troop.
I was eager for what I percieved to be a normal life. So I was very relieved that mother consented when I begged her to let me borrow her car.
I was looking forward to seeing my artist friend Sandy, plus the poet and musician friends who all shared a dorm house on the campus of Case Western Reserve University, within walking distance of the Cleveland Art Institute.
I hadn't seen Sandy and the many other occupants of the sprawling house (located across from the little park where they were playing touch football) in months.
I imagine I sang all the way across the river to the other side of town.

This image, quickly sketched in Sumo, shows me driving my mother's old 59' Dodge with the huge fins over the Cuyahoga River spanning the flats in Cleveland.

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Thanks for stopping '-)