Perrysburg

Jul. 3rd, 2010 08:55 am
purejuice: (Default)
My mother got TB when she was about 13 and spent a long time in quarantine in a TB hospital, very Magic Mountain. I always thought of it as the planet of the little girls, and actually think of Henry Darger paintings from the Baltimore Visionary Art Museum when I think of this time in her life.



Here is a memoir I made her write about it.


1924
Hospital at Perrysburg
[J. N. Adam Tuberculosis Sanatorium]

When I was thirteen, childish and immature, I was ill for about three months. When I began to recuperate and grew stronger I was taken to a hospital about thirty miles south of Buffalo, in Perrysburg.

"Perrysburg" was a large hospital including several buildings on the slope of a hillside. I was put in a ward -- a large light room with five or six other girls about my own age. All suffered from bone maladies, all had been bed-ridden for some time (one for 5 or 6 years).

I think the exposure to light and sun after the very dark apartment in Buffalo raised my health and spirits.

I was in no pain or discomfort. Noone else was.

I spent nine months in this hospital with these girls -- and the nurses (few) and doctors (few) and the "up" patients who passed in and out of our ward by day (teen-age girls on crutches).

My mother and father came to visit me every Sunday but the other girls received very few visitors. (I think transportation to this remote spot was difficult -- and private cars were not -- in 1924 -- as ubiquitous as now). School instruction was offered to some but I had been graduated from 8th grade and was exempted.

Morning and afternoon and night in all weathers except rain the beds were wheeled out onto an adjoining terrace. There was a long view from this terrace. This was called "the cure". We lay naked for two hours a.m. and p.m. with or without sunshine.

After I left Perrysburg, age 14, I was healthier than I had ever been.

Other divertissements there were none.

On the back of my bed hung a shoe bag -- the contents of dressing table, bureau, cabinet and desk. I occupied myself -- and this is the interesting peak in the patient's graph -- with books, magazines (send 10 cents for a sample), catalogs, notebooks, paper dolls, drawings, cutouts, letters, puzzles, manuscripts, etc. etc. etc.
without a dull moment.

There was little personal intimacy. We spoke often but there were no heart-to-heart conversations and no interesting projects. The other girls occupied themselves as I did but we didn't
do anything together.

The satisfied feeling which I had and remember so well must have been a "herd" feeling. Think of a flock of sheep. They each do their own thing. They don't interract but they are together -- always subliminally conscious of the surrounding presence. That subliminal comfort plus the pre-pubescent lack of fear, foreboding and anxiety in most kids, plus the womb-like bodily care and care-free existence of the comfortable convalescent adds up to Nirvana, albeit mindless. And goal-less. There was no temptation to get up and at it. There was nothing going on. There was nothing to be done. Float. Enjoy. Eat. Sleep. Sun. No stimulus. No punishment. Float. Enjoy. (A convent provides this
plus work, and purpose -- which we didn't have.)

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