What We Make

VICTORIA HUGGINS PEURIFOY

GOD’S HEART MUST BE CRYING
I’m sure there’s days when He is hurting;
to see his children in such despair.
His dreams for them were much more exciting.
But this old world just doesn’t seem to care.
Should our eyes and ears be shut down to warring factions?
Assaults abound around us to and fro.
Why do we continue to hear the moans of mothers?
Whose babies have been shot down, shot down, shot down?
God’s heart must be crying
Politicians do not care; don’t care about nothing at all.
It’s their pockets, their pockets that must have a flare.
Number 45 wants World War III; anyone in the way is collateral damage
Number 45 wants World War III; anyone in the way is collateral damage
Overdosing children and adults is at an all-time high.
It’s only an epidemic now, because European cherubs are being
cut down.
There’s no grace, there’s no mercy, there’s no grace or mercy in
these streets.
There’s no grace, there’s no mercy, there’s no grace or mercy in
these streets.
God’s Heart, God’s Heart, God’s Heart Must Be Crying.

 

 


 

 

NURSE ANGELINE

 

Spiritual blessings always abound.
Never do we expect what comes our way
Glows of mercy touch our hearts each day.
Nurse Angeline, who no one knew,
Treated me with care.
She exuded such grace And mercy too.
An Ordinary appearance at first,
Later she was deemed extraordinary.
She was unknown to anyone, but her presence
Blessed my heart with her gentle hands.
Nurse Angeline, may God forever bless you…
for Blessing me.

February 1, 2017

 

 


 

 

A QUIET STORM

 

 

Two weeks into therapy, the quiet in my storm came with the assistance of an angel; God confirmed my belief in Him when an angel came to visit me one night. I was lying in my special bed, when pain began to travel up my neck and continued to my brain… then back down to my feet. The ability to push the button seemed virtually impossible. When the nurse appeared, all I could say was,
“Pain!”
She asked, “Did anyone tell you that before you go to sleep, to ask for your pain meds?”
I said, “No!”
She gently helped me move; placing her hands and arm behind my head and back, helping me move to an upright position. She let me sit on the edge of the bed for minute, administered my medication, and then helped me to the restroom. Her name tag said Angeline. I thanked her for her help.
The next morning when I asked about Nurse Angeline, the nurses said they didn’t have a nurse on staff for day or night shift named Angeline. I was awe struck! God sent me an angel in disguise. I remembered a glow all around her; but I thought it was my imagination. I wondered how she moved me without hurting me. I know now that God was with me that night and every night and day of my recuperation. I love the angel he sent. I knew from that point on, that regardless of how difficult my recovery would be, I would weather my storm…until…

 

 


 

 

TURQUOISE IS A MOOD

 

 

Turquoise is reflective love.
Give it to fabric, jewelry, rings
or a needy wall. There is a joy
In calmness that sings melodies
of praise, smooth jazz, and spirituals, hummm.
Turn turquoise loose to fly to the sky;
to climb a mountain high. To
Forge through war and bring tranquility
and peace, as if it were star lights.
Turquoise shifting between a gray
spindle on my cranium and light blue
energies, Aztec bungalows
and a glimmer of sunlight’s love.
Oooh, Turquoise come and change
sullen moods. Headache, sink into
the core of a Doberman’s play
toy. Soft sounds of life I need… now.

 

 


 

 

I WRITE LISTS
WITH RACHEL WENRICK

 

I write lists because I am a senior, and I see the world differently.

 

I write e-mails, lots of dumbfuck e-mails, because the world is confused by alternative truths.

 

I write wishes because I am unwilling to accept a lie as true.

 

I write lines to connect me to people long gone. More binding than blood. More lasting than bodies, theirs, mine—because the world is worse off than after WWII, Vietnam, Korea, or Kuwait.

 

I write eulogies because I am tired of the news and false facts.

 

I write what I can’t say because I am stuck on “in my solitude you haunt me.”

 

I write who I’m trying to be because the world refuses to embrace each other’s differences and simply love one another.

 

I write love letters because I’m tired of sons dying.

 

 


 

 

THE YELLOW DOOR

 

 

The hallway is long. As I walk closer to my destination, time is pushing me back further. The walls are beige. The floors are gray and white commercial-grade tile that has been shined to look like glass. There is a young man on one side of me and a young lady on the other side. We are all walking toward the yellow door at
the end of the hall. Within this door there is a square window that beckons my presence. It’s saying, “Come, child…come…there’s something you need to see.” I see a lady’s head. She is wearing white with the olden nurse’s cap of yesteryear. In her arms, wrapped in a swaddling blanket nestled against her chest, is a handsome little baby boy. He is my son who I can never touch, never hold, never kiss, never hear coo, or cry. He will never hold my finger or drink my breast milk or do anything a newborn does with his mommy.

 


WHAT I WANT

 

 

Australia is where he lives
Backdrop
Companion
Diamonds
Energy will be needed, so he can share the history of his home
Freedom
Grant
Height
Ice Cream
Joshua knows I exist now, where I was a mystery
Kitchen
Love
Motivation
Neighbor
Options
Patio
Queries
Rooms
Sunshine has ignited the aroma of azaleas and lavender
Toyota
Writing
Voice
Warmth
Xylophone
Yard
Zeal

 


DEAR SON
April 12, 2016

 

 

Dear Son,
There always comes a time in our lives when we want to know where we come from—who our parents are, what causes us to be who we are. Plain old curiosity. I have decided to write you this letter sharing all of the details that brought you into this world. However, I would really like you to take it all in. You may still have questions. Please feel free to ask.

 

 

Your father and I grew up in West Philadelphia, in the UniversityCity community. We had just begun the summer vacation when I began seeing a neighborhood boy named J. A. Wilson. Actually, I called him Jerry. He was a skinny dude, average height, very fair, who had large brown eyes and who could also sing. He was a member of the choir at a church in South Philly. I sang there and at my church in West Philly. Sometimes, we would sit on my mom’s porch singing “Deep River” or “Come Ye Disconsolate” or Temptations or Four Tops songs.

 

 

He told me he had been adopted. His adoptive parents were rather elderly. I met them and they were very nice people, but he gave them a run for their money. He was so incorrigible, and he stayed in some type of trouble for dumb things, like calling teachers out or playing hooky. He attended Catto, which everyone in the neighborhood knew was the school for unruly boys. In spite of that, I liked him. We could talk, we had fun together, and we had a lot in common. Plus, I thought he was cute. He was a year older than me.

 

 

Someone at the YMCA had planned a trip to Coney Island. All of the teenagers from the neighborhood wanted to go. I saved my money from odd jobs I did: hemming dresses and pants, ironing clothes, grocery shopping for neighbors, babysitting. Doing these tasks allowed me to go on the trip.

 

 

In New York, Jerry and I walked the boardwalk and ate the best Frankfurters. We went for a swim in the Atlantic Ocean and laid around on the beach. I had made my bathing suit and was excited about wearing it. It was a two-piece, colorful striped number. In the water, I began jumping up and down when suddenly everyone was pointing at me. I never felt my breast fall through the bottom of the bra of the swimsuit. I was beyond embarrassed!

 

 

For the rest of the trip, Jerry kept trying to console me about the mishap. “Don’t worry about it, no one really saw anything,” he said. But he could not calm me down. He decided that we should take a ferris wheel ride. We began having more fun that afternoon.

 

 

When we returned to Philadelphia, the consoling continued. But when the summer ended, our relationship ended. No special announcement or proclamation. We were high school seniors, went to two different schools, and went our separate ways with no malice, or sadness.

 

 

Upon entering the 12th grade, September of 1968, I was 16 years old. It was the normal procedure at all high schools then for students to have a physical examination upon returning to school from the summer. I took the test and passed, whatever passing meant. I was a senior now. I was going to the dinner dance, prom, class luncheon, class trip, graduate and go to college—although college was a distant and delayed thought. I was so happy to be a senior. I would be finishing school on time with my friends. We had over 1200 potential graduates that year at West Philly High, but only 855 would eventually take the pomp and circumstance walk.

 

 

I loved most of my subjects in school, but gym was my favorite. For me, it was a welcome release. Our teacher, Mrs. Ryan, was Irish with light ice blue eyes and a contagious smile. She always wore a white blouse and a short tennis skirt, white sneakers. One day, with a concerned look she asked, “Victoria, how have you been feeling?”

 

 

“I feel great,” I replied. It was February of 1969 and it was cold and blustery outside but, for some reason, I was always warm. We wore these horrible, royal blue one-piece gym suits that were like bloomers at the bottom, and they also had a belt. My teacher asked, “You seem a little sluggish, and unable to keep up with the class. Have you been sick lately?”

 

 

I repeated, “I feel great.”

 

 

“Let me weigh you,” she said. I stepped on one of those big old-fashioned scales and tipped it at 165 pounds. The gym teacher proceeded to look at my school chart. “You’ve gained 20 pounds since school started,” she said. I had a confused look on my face. Then she said, “I think this weight gain is the reason you are so sluggish. Maybe you should see the school nurse. There can be many explanations for sudden weight gain. If you talk to the school nurse, she may have a better explanation than I do.”

 

 

At this point, son, I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t even know if I had a reason to be afraid. The nurse was used to seeing me because I used to have horrible menstrual cramps that would land me in her office every month. But this time, as I took my school pass to the nurse, I was praying that I didn’t have cancer or some other catastrophic disease.

 

 

Her office looked like it always did—white and sterile, with a series of file cabinets and a wooden desk and chair with a clock above it. The nurse greeted me. “Victoria, I haven’t seen you in a while. I used to be able to set my clock to your monthly visits.” She looked at my school health records and weighed me like the teacher had done. She asked, “When was your last menstrual cycle?”

 

 

“It did come last month,” I told her, “but it was spotty.”

 

 

The nurse called my mother at work and expressed her concern and felt I should be seen by a doctor. Truth be told, the teacher and the nurse had their suspicions as to what was really wrong with me but back then they weren’t allowed to say it out loud.

 

 

I was a typical high school girl in 1969. When we went to the doctor, I had on yellow knee-highs that matched the yellow cowl neck top I had made. My penny loafers matched my brown straight skirt. On our way to the Naval Base Hospital in South Philly, my mom didn’t talk to me very much like she usually did. I think we both had a lot on our minds. Neither my mother nor I suspected what the doctor would say after my examination.

 

 

The doctor was young, but disinterested. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I didn’t like him. He did whatever test he had to do, then he returned to the room where we were. “Mrs. Huggins, there is nothing wrong with your daughter. She is just seven, almost eight months pregnant.”

 

 

“WHAT?!” my mother shouted as I stepped away from her. “She’s pregnant?” she said in a softer, almost pained voice.

 

 

The doctor continued, “She’s due April 27.”

 

 

My mother, still grappling with pregnant, turned to me and asked, “Do you have on a girdle?”

 

 

“No, mom,” I said.

 

 

Son, that moment was the first that I knew of you.

 

 

***

 

 

The way home was worse than going to the doctor. The air in the car was stifling, in February. Suddenly, I couldn’t breathe. My mother was torn apart because graduation was only four months away. She just kept talking. “How could you do this to me? How are you going to graduate? I should put you and the father under the jail. Whose child is it anyway? Do you want to marry him?” All in one breath, she was shouting at me, this girl who had just turned 17-years-old and who didn’t have a clue. This child was still hearing the doctor say pregnant.

 

 

Your grandmother was at her end—to the point where she was taking pills for her nerves. Then she got pissed-off and said, “This is bullshit.” She tortured me with, “I can’t feed another mouth. I’m struggling hard enough as it is. I’m not getting financial support from your father.” She was talking to me and asking questions at the same time. “What do you plan to do about this?”

 

 

Any other time, I would have had a whole lot of mouth. But today, I had no argument, no justification… nothing. I could feel a back-hand waiting to connect with my lips, but I chose not to say a word.

 

 

After the doctor’s visit my headaches began and they would not let up. I couldn’t tell my friends, my neighbors or even the people who I ran to all of the time. Shame, fear, doubt, anguish and confusion were whirling around in my head and would not leave me. I used to do a lot of errands for the school counselor, Mrs. Rothenberg, and I felt I could talk to her. I hoped she would help me figure out what to do because your grandmother was through with me, and I think I was at my wits’ end too.

 

 

In the meantime, I had to tell Jerry. I hadn’t seen your father since August. When I told him that I was pregnant, he questioned whether he was the father but I convinced him that since school had started, I had not been with anyone else. As I mentioned earlier, he had been adopted, so he did not want our child adopted. However, he, a student himself, was not in a position to take care of a child. His parents were much too old to adopt another child. There was no resolution that either of us knew about. When I think about it now, no one ever talked about foster care. I would have considered foster care, but that was never given to me as an option. Your father didn’t have an answer either.

 

 

***

 

 

Mrs. Rothenberg was sitting in her office with books and papers all over her desk.I asked her if I could talk to her for a minute and she invited me in. I discussed my dilemma and wanted to know about graduating on time with my condition. As tears welled up in her eyes, she said, “I don’t know why you girls always get yourselves in these situations.” But then, she said she would help as much as she could and for me to go to class and come see her tomorrow.

 

 

I had a headache. To make matters worse, my girlfriend Jan, who lived around the corner from me, had a mother who attended the same community meetings as my mother. Back then, people really frowned on girls who were pregnant out of wedlock. Some families would hide you away; others just made you feel unworthy to breathe the same air as they. When Jan’s mother found out that I was pregnant, she told Jan that she was never to see me, go to my house, or talk to me because I was a bad influence.

 

 

I wasn’t a bad influence. I was just a girl who got in trouble for not knowing what she was doing. Jan defied her mother. She told her that I was a good person, a good friend, and the last thing she would do is abandon me now, because I really would need a friend now. Jan was true to her word. She gave me moral support… and she never told anyone. That was a friend.

 

 

Mrs. Rothenberg, with her usual tweed suit, indicated that she could sign me up for a clinic that served young ladies who were pregnant yet still in school. She would assign me to the special school set up for pregnant girls. I would have to keep up with my schoolwork in order to graduate on time. The teachers were told that I was taking classes at a temporary location to handle a medical condition. However, my school assignments were to be turned in on time. Some of my regular teachers actually came to the special school to coach me with my assignments. My science teacher, Mr. Horace, was especially nice to me. He took time to explain the work to ensure that I would get a good grade. The nice thing was that none of the teachers judged me. They wanted me to beat the odds.

 

 

Son, I hope all of this detailed information is not boring you. It’s just that I felt it important that you know what was happening to me at the time. One day, at the medical center where I saw my doctor, there was a social worker there who talked about adoption to all us girls who were pregnant, and about how we could help a family who couldn’t have children.

 

 

Bells went off in my head. I can help mommy. She won’t have to worry about feeding, clothing, housing, or supporting another child. That was the answer. I thought it was a selfless act…an act of kindness toward someone I didn’t even know. But I never thought about how it would affect me.

 

 

That night, I told your grandmother. She said, “So let it be done.”

 

 

She had her way out. She never asked me how I really felt deep down inside, was I really sure. She never said, “Don’t do it. We’ll figure something out.” Never once did she suggest another option.

 

 

***

 

 

One day I went into labor, not understanding why I was in so much pain, your grandmother looked at me and began asking me questions. I told her that I had felt a gush of water come from between my legs. She wanted me out of the house right away. She was afraid if I delivered you at home, that left too much chance for me, and for her, to get attached and fall in love with you.

 

 

She rushed me to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania down on 34th Street. I was dilated nine centimeters. The doctors and nurses prepped me and an anesthesiologist knocked me out cold so I wouldn’t remember anything.

 

 

I was told I had a boy.

 

 

Several days after I delivered you, the social worker assigned to my case was talking with me when I interrupted her, “I want to see my baby.”

 

 

Shocked, she asked, “Are you changing your mind?”

 

 

I told her that I wasn’t changing my mind. She began to explain hospital policy and it was against the hospital rules for me to see you. I finally got some backbone and said, “I have not signed any papers releasing my son to you. I want to see him!” She said she would try to make it happen.

 

 

A day after that conversation, two of my classmates, Marion and Brea, came to the hospital to see me. They had been boyfriend and girlfriend and had always been nice to me. I had known Marion since elementary school, Brea only since high school. As my friends sat down, the social worker walked in and said, “It’s time. Are you ready?”

 

 

My friends asked, “Ready for what?”

 

 

I told them, “I am going to see my son.”

 

 

They were surprised, they didn’t know I had given birth or that I had even been pregnant, but when I asked, “Would you like to go with me?” they both said yes. I had moral support.

 

 

***

 

 

We walked down a long hallway in silence. As we got closer to our destination, time was pushing me back further. The walls were beige and sterile. The floors were gray and white commercial grade tile that had been shined to look like glass. Marion was on one side of me and Brea was on the other side. We were all walking toward the yellow door at the end of the hall. Within this door, there was a square window that beckoned to me. It was saying, “Come, child…come…there’s someone you need to see.”

 

 

I saw a woman’s head. She was wearing an old-fashioned white nurse’s cap of yesteryear. In her arms, she was holding a handsome little baby boy nestled against her chest, wrapped in swaddling blanket. That baby was you, son. The son who I could not touch. Would never hold. Never kiss. Never hear coo, or cry or smile or talk to or hold my finger or drink my breast milk, or anything a newborn does with his mommy. There’s just that yellow door.

 

 

Son, the only thing they let me do was name you. I looked at the nurse, who held you. I could see you through that window. There you were, so small, very fair, like your father, with brown eyes. With tears in my eyes, I said to my friends, “Doesn’t he look like a five-pound bag of sugar?”

 

 

We cried for you and for me because you weren’t going home with me to be mine.

 

 

I don’t recall leaving the hospital, releasing you from my custody, or going home. I only recall the migraine headaches.

 

 

***

 

 

I could have loved you, but I could not take care of you properly for I was but a child myself. I didn’t even know what I wanted to be when I grew up. But I felt I was being a grown up by giving you to a family who could love you and who needed you. Even though later, I knew deep down inside, I needed you too. I found out, 43 years after you were gone, that my father, your grandfather, had offered to take care of you until I could. Your grandmother told him no. I was not even given that choice. My daddy was good with kids.

 

 

***

 

 

At school, everyone was happy to see me. I was in my favorite spot, my locker on the mezzanine. Another female student, who was well known around the school, came up next to me. She didn’t speak, or ask how I was, she just said, “I didn’t know you were like that.”

 

 

My response probably caught her off guard: “The only difference between you and me is that YOU didn’t get caught.” End of discussion. She looked at me and backed away.

 

 

I went to see Mrs. Rothenberg, the school counselor, the one who had helped me and she said, “I have some good news for you. You have been accepted to Community College of Philadelphia.” I was happy. My counselor hugged me and told me she was very proud of me. I managed to graduate on time.

 

 

After graduation, your great-grand-mom, Lou Ella, came home from Nantucket, Massachussetts where she worked. I was really happy to see her. One morning, she summoned me to her bedroom to talk. She asked, “How are you doing?”

 

 

I wasn’t sure why she was asking, but I had my suspensions. I said, “Did Mommy tell you that they took my baby? I saw him, but they wouldn’t let me hold him. I didn’t tell mommy that I saw him. I didn’t figure she would care.” I felt ashamed and like I had disappointed your grandmother and the whole wide world. Hurt didn’t express my pain. The biggest pain for me, son, was not believing in myself. Not believing that somehow, I could have taken care of you.

 

 

It was your great-grandmom who began talking to me and some of the things she said shocked me. “Yes, your mother told me that you gave your baby up for adoption. They probably didn’t let you hold him for fear that you would become attached. All I have to say about the situation,” she said, “is that you had no business fucking around!”

 

 

“Grandmom!” I hollered. She smiled. Then she said, “You’ll be alright. Your baby is probably with a family who can afford to take care of him.” She hugged me and kissed me on the forehead. She wasn’t angry with me, in spite of what she said before. I was happy. Your great-grandmom had been the consoling voice for my spirit. Your grandmother never said a word to me.

 

 

***

 

 

Son, there was a time when I went searching for you. I really didn’t know where to turn or how to approach the search. I even ran into your father and he asked about you. I’m sure you were as much in his thoughts as in mine. I went back to the adoption home to ask questions which they would not answer. During my search, after I had seen your father the first time, I went looking for him to talk about what I was trying to do. I was able to reach two of your uncles. One of them remembered me even though it had been well over twenty years since he had seen me. All of them apparently had been adopted but as adults they all had gone their separate ways. The oldest brother, I think his name was Bobby, had directed a choir at a local church. He really didn’t remember me until I said that your dad and I, as teenagers, had a child together. Then he seemed to have total recall. I asked how I could get in contact with Jerry. That’s when he shared what I did not expect to hear.

 

 

Bobby explained that Jerry had a habit of going to the local bar after work, for a drink before going home. He did this religiously. One night, he went to the bar as he always did. He sat down at the bar, ordered his beer, and began a conversation with the bartender. There suddenly was an eruption of noise, and yelling, and gunfire. Jerry turned around towards the noise and was shot between the eyes with a stray bullet. Your biological father was killed as an innocent bystander in 1990 at the age of 39 years old.

 

 

I tried to get a copy of the funeral bulletin so I would have a picture for you when we met, but because he was not a member of the church where his funeral took place, they did not keep the bulletins. Bobby said that Jerry was married and had a young daughter. He didn’t think that the wife knew about you or me.

 

 

The last time I had seen Jerry, was, of all places, in the parking lot of the Maryland House when I was on my way to Washington DC. He saw me first, and called out to me. He was still very fair in complexion, still had those large brown eyes, dark brown hair and rosy lips. I think I even recall him having a big smile with space between his upper teeth.

 

 

He was a nice boy and probably grew into a nice man. We only spoke briefly. The last thing he asked me about was you.

 

 

***

 

 

Son, I managed to graduate from Community College of Philadelphia. I received a Secretarial Science Certificate and a Liberal Arts Degree. I have attended Phoenix University, Temple University, and Drexel, just taking courses that were of interest to me. In addition, I worked at Internal Revenue Service for 35 years and took many in-house professional courses.

 

 

You mother is constantly learning things, even at age 64 when this letter was written.

 

 

Photography is one of my absolute favorite hobbies.
Sewing is another hobby I pursue when I am in the mood.
I have written many books of poetry.
I sing in my church’s choir and I am a lead soloist.

 

 

I have had medical challenges in my life

 

 

  • Breast cancer scares to
  • Double foot surgery to
  • Two C-sections to
  • Neck surgery to
  • Pituitary brain tumor removal surgery to
  • Double knee replacements to
  • Pacemaker

 

 

but God has seen me through it all.

 

 

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” All of my adult life, I have silently celebrated your birthday, April 27. Son, before I am ushered away from this life by angels to paradise, I pray that I will see you face to face. Touching your face and giving you kisses on your forehead has always been my wish.

 

 

Simply being able to talk to you.

 

 

Never will I want to be released from your embrace. I will just keep on praying for us and for that day.

 

 

Love

Your Birth Mom—Victoria Huggins Peurifoy

 

 

 

VICTORIA HUGGINS PEURIFOY

VICTORIA HUGGINS PEURIFOY is a retired federal employee. She is a poet, spoken-word artist, author, ghostwriter, photographer, facilitator, student, Uber driver, mother of four, and a grandmother of eight. A native of West Philadelphia, she currently resides in Germantown. She was a member of Rachel Wenrick’s Fall 2015 Creative Nonfiction class.