Sunday, October 31, 2010

The M&M Hotel - farewell to horror

Front entrance and waiting room where we spent hours
Looking for a story for the "horrified" story slam I bumped into an "old friend" and took some pics. Then I recorded my thoughts while sitting in our car, on an errand. In this short digital story, I have combined my thoughts and images with some images I found on line. They were amazing. These photos by Anna Shuelit were the exact mirror of images in my memory from my many visits to and from MMHC as a daughter and sister of mentally ill family from 1968 -- until 1990? Not sure.

The picture of our mother, sitting lost and alone, on our living room couch is seared in my mind.

Since I was not chosen as a contestant at the "horrified" slam,  I am posting my story, warts and all,  here. The Guess Who song "Undun"  in this soundtrack was popular during one of my mother's breakdowns and was kind of an anthem for us.

I was surprised to see this art installation and celebration of mmhc online. Check out the mmhc site and the project at:

The main entrance - all that was left on OCT 26, 2010
The Massachusetts Mental Health Center opened its doors on June 24, 1912. From its inception, the institution has been a partnership between the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and Harvard Medical School. It is one of the oldest public teaching hospitals in the United States and has trained several generations of leaders in American psychiatry. Located three blocks from Harvard Medical School, it is both a state mental health facility and a center of academic psychiatry, combining public service with clinical- and research programs. MMHC serves an ethnically diverse catchment area of about 285,000 people in several Boston neighborhoods, with a mission to care for the seriously mentally ill regardless of their financial circumstances.

The center began as the Psychopathic Department of Boston State Hospital in 1912, under the direction of Dr. Elmer E. Southard. It separated from the hospital and was renamed the Boston Psychopathic Hospital (BPH) in 1920. It was initially created to provide for the reception, diagnosis, and disposition of acute psychiatric patients in Boston, usually admitting patients for short periods only. After diagnosis patients were transferred to state hospitals or discharged for outpatient care. As the institution developed a reputation for active teaching and research in psychiatry, cases from other state hospitals were transferred to it for observation or special treatment.

When a building is closed after nine decades of continuous use, its long history moves from a physical setting to an abstract place in our memory. In the course of closing the Massachusetts Mental Health Center, the people who worked and stayed in this building for years, whose lives were affected - often unconsciously - by its dimensions, directions, and traffic ways, are moved to a new environment."
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Pat Jackson said...

Norah, thank you so very much for this. I had no idea this was happening to the building though I have driven by there somehow without detail recently. I had several friends there and my internist grandfather used to talk about the Boston Psychopathic. I don't know whether he was trained there, or had some subsequent relationship with it.

I am so sorry those had to be some of your memories.



Robin said...

I loved this Norah! Really powerful and moving with the images and the song. I remember reading Wally Lamb's book by the same name and not being able to get the song out of my head. Also interesting that it's Halloween and I'm sitting with the worst PMS I've ever had swinging from rage to sorrow and still it's nothing compared to what your mom must have been experiencing. I'm sure it was not easy to be her daughter either but you sure turned out well!

CarolynStearns said...

An intense detailing of memories once contained, now that they are shared and the images released some of the pain of those memories will dissipate as well I hope. I was so moved by the photography but none more than the pigeon, representing a silouette of a peace dove it is so contrary to the lack of peace in such a place and in the memories. Power in words written, spoken, sung. Testament to your strength, thank you for sharing.

Connecting Stories said...

Thanks all for listening and your was just amazing to see these photos from the mmhc art project. The stairway and the entryway especially. And I also liked the way the pigeon found her way to the end of the song - an artistic bit of serendipity. As for my mom? She was "the girl with the curl" When she was good, she was very, very good, and when she was bad...?

storyspace said...

Stunning piece quietly told , my aunt was in there for some time, we used to visit her every Sunday. The images from your words and pictures brought it all back.Thanks!

Simon Brooks said...

It reminds me of a place I went to years ago to photograph back in the 1980's. Such a great and deep story Norah, thanks for sharing.