You may be wondering if my parents ever came to visit us while we were in the orphanage home, and the answer is yes. We had visiting day every Sunday. I would be with my brother and some other boys playing in the playroom when Sister Lockhart, our group sister, would come over and tell us that our mother was here. I would remember the feelings of excitement and anticipation as we headed down the stairs and through this long hallway that led to the visiting hall.
Now, the visiting hall was this big blue and grey room with benches along all the walls. I don’t remember if their were any chairs and tables, but who cares, my mother was here!As my brother and I got closer to the hall we could hear laughing and talking that grew louder and louder as we approached the entrance. When we opened the door you could see all the other children running around playing with their brothers and sisters as their parents looked on.
I would see my mother sitting down on the bench to my right by the window with a cigarette in her hand and brown shopping bags by her feet waiting for us. When she saw us coming towards her, I could see her face change from looking serious to the biggest smile a mother can give to her children with her arms wide open for us to run into. We would scream her name as we hugged her and she would shower us with kisses all over our faces.
Then in seconds I could hear my other brothers yelling her name as they ran up to her and received the same hugs and kisses. We were a family once again. The only one who might be missing most of the time was my sister Gracie. As of now, she is the only sibling whose real name I will show because she is no longer with us. She passed away from breast cancer over seven years ago and we will just leave it at that for the time being.
I am sure she had her reasons not wanting to see my mother and to be honest, I never put too much thought into it either. When she did show up to see my mother, it always seemed that they would start arguing and my mother would get upset and kiss all of us and leave early. My older brother would yell at Gracie sometimes and then we would find ourselves going back to our dorms before visiting time was over.
But this day, Gracie wasn’t there and I don’t even think anyone noticed, except for my mother. Anyway, my mother would take put her hand inside the bag and pull out those skinny long containers of Tropicana Orange Juice and boxes of Crack Jacks and hand them to us. Sometimes there would be extra ones,but we all knew why. We would open the Cracker Jacks first and if we didn’t like the prizes we would swap them among ourselves.
But we took our time drinking the orange juice. If it was nice outside, my mother would take us to these big wooden gazebos next to the visiting hall we called the Summer House. I don’t know where that name came from, but that’s where my mother would go for shade while we played on the swings. Our visits were mostly happy times. When my mother didn’t come for whatever reasons, she would send my oldest sister G instead.
I remember a few of those visits but not many. I do remember my father visiting us a few times, but don’t remember them as much as I remember the time my mother spent with us. I do remember him putting us on his lap as he drove his car in the parking lot and let us all take turns to steering. I remember kite flying in the field with him, but it always seemed that he was the one doing the kite flying as we all watched.
I remember sleigh riding down this hill we had behind the gym called Donkey Hill. That’s where we all would go sleigh riding or just throw ourselves down to the ground and race each as we rolled all the way to the bottom. He brought his new girlfriend with him once, but that’s it — I don’t remember after that. There are some memories I have during my stay at St. Michael’s, but as time passed those memories faded, as well.
But there is one memory I wish to this very day I didn’t remember. I was playing in the playroom when Sister Lockart had called out my name. As I looked up, I saw my brother, who’s a year younger than me standing next to her smiling. I had no idea what this was about, but it looked to me that we were going somewhere. So, I ran over to her and my brother and asked where we were going. All she said was that we had visitors and we needed to wash up and change into our Sunday clothes.
Now wait a minute, I thought. Today is Saturday. My mother and father never visited us on a Saturday, not even my sister G. I remember asking Sister Lockhart why we had to wash up and wear our Sunday clothes when it was Saturday? I wanted to know who was visiting us. She told me was to stop asking so many questions and just follow her. So we did just that.
We passed through St. Peters Dorm which was connected to our dorm, and walked down three flights of stairs that led us through the long hallway towards the visiting hall. But we made a right into the main building.She then opened a door to a room we had never been before and told us to wait inside until she came back for us. I thought we had visitors?
There was no one in the room but just me and my brother. But we could hear people talking in the next room with just two big doors with curtains separating us from the voices. So we walked over and peeked through the window and saw other kids with their mother and father talking with Sister Lockhart and another nun. My brother asked me who they were and all I could respond back was that I didn’t know.
I was trying to listen to what the man was saying to the nuns, but my brother was being annoying and kept asking me a bunch of questions. I told him to be quiet so I could listen and find out who they were. I felt that something wasn’t t right and felt the urge to want to leave and go back to my dorm. The family standing on the other side of the door talking to the nuns were here for us.