Yesterday Scott W. wrote about being grateful he missed being in San Francisco for the "Summer of Love". I told him that I might write about my experience that summer. I think I will do that today - it is, after all, Sunday when I write these long old posts. (Even though I want to get out and run before it gets too hot.)
In June 1967, I was 15 years old and in Chicago. Spending my summer at the St. Vincent de Paul Home on LaSalle Avenue. It was a lovely old building which housed student nurses and unwed mothers. Guess which group I was with. I was 15 years old and pregnant - which at that time was a big fat scandal. You just did not do things like that! But I did.
It was the first time in my life I had a serious consequence for irresponsible behavior. The summer before, in 1966, at the age of 14, I had picked up my first drink. Within 4 months I was pregnant. I was "in love" with my first boyfriend and was sure we would be married as soon as we were out of high school, and although that sounds stupid, I was at least smart enough to know that there was no way on God's green earth that I was going to be able to care for a baby. So I went away (quietly and secretly) to the St. Vincent home so the nuns could get me through my pregnancy and arrange for the adoption of my baby.
Being at that lovely old building, with the other girls, and the wonderful nuns was one of the best experiences of my life. I loved being there. We stood in the halls and prayed before every meal and before bed, we went to Mass every morning, we prayed, and prayed, and prayed. I spent a lot of time learning how to knit while I was there. I sat on the bed in my room and listened to the radio. So, the "summer of love" was on the radio. I loved the Beatles, but at first did not understand "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band." It was a hot summer in Chicago and I remember the fans always blowing - no such thing as air conditioning in a building that old in those days.
I was sure my life was reformed. I was sure I wasn't going to drink or have sex once I got out of there. But I don't need to tell you how wrong I was.
On August 15, 1967 - nearly 40 years ago, I gave birth to a little baby girl. I named her Mary Catherine - after a beautiful nun from St. Vincent's. I never got to hold her. They took her from me and never let me touch her. I still can't write that without crying. Part of the deal at the hospital was that we were supposed to be able to hold our baby at least once. But the nurses were not enamored of unwed mothers... they told me they did not have time to bring the baby to me - they had "real" mothers to take care of.
My heart was broken. And to add to my misery, I had to go back home. My time at St. Vincent's was over. I had to go back home to my family and my school and my friends. I had left there a little girl - with a little girl's body. I came back a very depressed young woman, with a full-grown woman's body.
When I got back to the "real" world, my friends had gone from being little preppy types to being "hippies". Talk about culture shock! But it took less than a month for me to not only start drinking and having sex again, but also I began using drugs -- and I sure understood Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band then! I was part of the scene, man. I discovered that my true love had been a very busy young man while I was gone, and we broke up. I was so depressed I don't know how I lived through that time. But I did live through that time... as you know.
Addendum to the story: When I was sober a couple of years, I tried to find my daughter and found out that she was looking for me. We corresponded for a while and then she flew from Chicago to Denver to meet me when she was 20 years old. When she got off the plane, we just stared at each other. We could not stop looking at each other. To see someone who is that closely related to you - who you have never met before is an unbelievable experience. The amazing thing was, we didn't know how to relate to each other and so we met just that once. We kept in touch for a while, but I have not been able to locate her since 1990. She was just starting to drink heavily then. I pray she is OK. I pray we will find each other again.
I often think the experience of giving a child up for adoption was the single most life-altering event in my life. I once heard a woman describe it as being a ghost for the rest of your life. There is always something missing. There is always a huge unknown. Every time I say how many children I have, I am essentially lying. I raised 3. But I gave birth to 5. FIVE. One was given away, one was stillborn.
So that is my story of the "Summer of Love." Thank God I am sober today and my life is good. It is abundantly full of beautiful people I love and who love me, by the Grace and Perfect Mercy of God.
"We, who have recovered from serious drinking, are miracles of mental health." -- Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 133