Sunday, May 11, 2014

Miss Marian and The Crippled Children

In loving memory of my mother, Miss Marian. 

Happy Mother's Day to one and all.

Shriners Hospitals for Children in Greenville, South Carolina
Circa 1962 according to the reverse side of the postcard
Shriners Hospital for Crippled Children
Greenville, SC

It's Mother's Day and it's pouring down rain. The heavens are crying, my heart is crying.

I miss my mommy.

Boo hoo hoo.

She died way too young.

Don't they all?

She was the greatest woman on earth. I loved her dearly. It wasn't until years later I realized what a rough time she had during certain periods of her life, but she persevered through thick and thin.  She had tremendous pride.  She would also drop everything to run to someone's aid. She was a generous giving person with an ample bosom that gave wonderful cuddly hugs.

I am sure that around the world are full grown adults who wonder what became of Miss Marian and remember as children,  her loving attention and soft enveloping  hugs. (Much to my dismay, I did not inherit her massive bosom, instead my chest resembled my father's much of my life.)

When I was  4 or 5 years old, my mother began volunteering at Shriners Hospital  for Crippled Children in Greenville, South Carolina. Yes, that was the exact name of it in those days and times. It first opened it doors on September 1, 1927 on Pleasantburg Drive, surrounded by country roads and trees. Now that address is a booming bustling business community.

My mother was known to the children she loved and helped as Miss Marian even though she was married and obviously had a last name.   The Shriner's children that came and went in her life, were as much a part of her heart and soul as her own children.

Over the dinner table, numerous times, I heard her describe hundreds of children by first name, what was wrong with them, where they were from, why they were there and whether their family was able to visit them much or not.

She was such a beloved volunteer, she eventually became a salaried employee.  At that point and time, children came from around the world to live there for months while numerous surgeries and therapies were performed. My mother taught the younger children, because obviously they weren't able to attend school. Many had never been in school as the school's used to make it nearly impossible for the handicapped to attend. Thankfully schools have radically changed their policies in this day and age.

Some days she was consoling children who were in tears over the pains of wearing various orthopedic braces or learning to deal with new prosthesis  that were helping their young bodies to heal or adapt. She described children that hadn't seen their families in months, because they were far away or too poor to travel to the hospital.

She took me  to the hospital on several  occasions. I clearly remember my first visit at Christmas when I was 5 or 6. I saw children born with numerous physical maladies and children recuperating from horrific accidents or bound in casts or braces or both. Some had prosthesis for legs or arms. Others couldn't leave their beds, which were wheeled into a great hall where some of the children  were participating in putting on a Christmas show. Many were in wheel chairs or on crutches or using tiny walkers.

I had been pressed into service to help out with the Christmas Show. I thought my little job was of omni-importance and I did all I could to make my mother and others proud of my help.

On the stage was an artist's easel with a big pad of paper. My mother or someone had written various titles  in large letters on the huge pages, announcing each scene. It was my job to turn the pages as the show progressed.

Before the show began, I realized my mother had "other children" as they squealed in delight at her mere presence and called out her name for attention. "Miss Marian!  Miss Marian!"  She knew every child in the hospital by name. It seemed they all wanted her attention, hugs and devotion all at once.  Over and over she introduced me by name, explaining, I was her little girl that lived at home with her. I remember many children being surprised to find out my mother had a young daughter at home.

Strangely, I wasn't jealous. My mother had told me long before my first visit there, how lucky I was to be born without any birth defects. She explained that other children were not so lucky, but Shriners Hospital was working hard to improve their lives.  Since she had already described to me children with missing or malformed limbs, I wasn't intimidated when I saw them. The first child she introduced to me  had arms that stopped at the elbows but with tiny fingers on the nubs that reached up to hug my mother.

One of the greatest life's lessons my mother taught me, was to never discriminate against others based on their looks or beliefs or race or anything. It was a valuable lesson that has probably greatly contributed to my laid back lifestyle and ease with traveling into different cultures or being comfortable around folks that are radically different.

Over the years, many of my toys would vanish while I was at school and my mother went on one of her  spring cleaning rampages throughout our home, leaving it seriously organized in her wake. I would come home from school to find my bedroom and closet cleaned up and out, with many of the toys having been donated to the hospital or other charities.

Shriners Hospitals for Children in Greenville, South Carolina
I found this old postcard for sale on line.
No idea of the year, but note that it is a painting and not a photograph.

Shriners Hospitals for Children in Greenville, and the entire Shriners Hospitals for Children system, have not only kept abreast of the leading medical technologies available, but have become pioneers in their fields.  They are recognized world-wide for their expertise in spinal cord injury, burn, cleft lip and palate, plus orthopaedic care.

In the 80's a new hospital was built across town,  but the old building still remains with new tenants. At some point, perhaps in the early 70's,  it was no longer politically correct to use the word "crippled" for  physically challenged patients, so the name was simply changed to Shriners Hospital for Children. I remember when the sign was updated out front. I joked with my mom, "Does this mean the children aren't crippled anymore?"

Shriners Hospitals for Children in Greenville, South Carolina
I don't know if the -32 means this was a depiction of the hospital in 1932 or if that means something else. The road out front is now six lanes, but they mostly encroached  from the other side of the road, so as not to take much from the hospital property. 

Shriners Hospitals for Children in Greenville, South Carolina
This postcard of the hospital was postmarked 1941. 

Now through modern miracles, many children only stay for a few days then return home, continuing with out-patient care. But during the 60's and 70's when my mother worked there, they often moved into the hospital for months at a time, often far away from their families. 

I am sure that today on Mother's Day, my mother, Miss Marian,  is being greatly honored in the hearts and minds of the thousands of children, now grown adults, that she loved, hugged and taught during their stays at the hospital.  

Happy Mother's Day, Miss Marian. You are loved, missed, honored and cherished by me and so many.  

(This article first appeared May 13, 2012 but I reprinted it because I miss my mother dearly and I am just too sad to write anything else today)


  1. What a generous mother you had... and generous of you to share her with those who needed her so badly.

  2. I'm sure your Mother is surrounded by those children on a cloud somewhere, waiting for you. What a wonderful story to tell for Mother's Day.


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