Every week in CATCH court, women tell their stories, say how many days they have been sober, discuss their lives, have all kinds of activities and talks and lessons. Like every week, last week love and peace were everywhere: women striding in their parade to hug a crying member, B.Y. saying this was the first Thanksgiving meal she could remember, V.A. saying to a sister, “Please, come to us when you start feeling the call of the street–we know it’s hard to call, but I’ll feel good if you call me. It’s not like, ‘Oh, let me call you back in ten minutes,’ none of that! Call us for anything. Call us when you get that first $40 gift card–we can teach you how to shop. Forty dollars goes a long way if you know how to shop!” She went on, “I was scared at first, because I’ve never gotten along with women. But now I have more women–more real friends–than ever before.”
G.G. is gearing up for culinary school, was jumping and blushing with excitement of her dream come true just as she’s turning 50. R.N.’s mom told R.N. that she loved her–this was the first time since childhood. M.Y. is getting her own apartment at the end of the week (the ladies done with in-house care live in a building together with separate apartments). G.G. attended the funeral of a biker friend. She said, “It was really nice, to be there, and to look around at all those people and think, ‘Oh God, I don’t miss this at all,'” and we all laughed with her.
And of course, Judge Herbert’s words are so full of love and kindness. He thanked the ladies for a book of poems and letters they had written and bound for him. He said, slowly and quietly, “That booklet is one of the most precious possessions in my life, and I know I will have it for the rest of my life.” He was going to take his dad out to dinner and show him the book. Judge introduced several people new to the courtroom–an intern, Judge Janet Jackson, the man who runs an Ohio rehabilitation program (“Oh, Talbott Hall!” Y.E. called out. “Hey, we frequent there, frequently!”). Chick Fil-A donated a yummy lunch.
Things do seem to slow down, settle in for the afternoon when the new women come, in shackles, to consider and be considered for CATCH. They shuffle in thin and sickly, in handcuffs and prison garb. Sometimes they’ll walk in with their heads bowed–that’s normal, then they’ll see the semicircle of strong survivors radiating out from the judge, they begin waving to see old friends from prison and the streets–have you ever seen a woman go to wave excitedly to an old friend, and suddenly remember she’s wearing handcuffs? They end up making little waves with both hands, like fast talking shadow puppets.
M.A. came in handcuffs last week, thin and tall and tomboyish, with a long silky cinnamon braid, amber freckles on an unturned nose. She held mouth mouth tight until she saw familiar faces, then she was all smiles, exclaiming “Oh!!” and “Hey!” and “I wondered what happened to you!” She then talked with the judge, that little woman standing under the big man with a robe and a hammer. The judge asked M.A. to “tell us why you think you’re ready.”
M.A. got serious, looked at him, around the courtroom, back to the ladies. She said, “Well, you’re in jail. You do dope, run and get more money, end up in jail–I just got out and I’m right back in. I’ve got 13 convictions and I’m 30 years old.”
The judge said, “Any special guys out there?” “Nothing I can’t get rid of,” she said.
The judge did his favorite thing–showing a girl a drawing of a man. When tilted on its side, the man’s face forms the word “Liar.” “If you’re in CATCH court,” he said, “We examine all your relationships, ok?” She nodded in that silent, just keep your head down and get it over with way. The judge invited the ladies of CATCH to speak.
B.E was bubbling over with excitement… “M.A., so good to see you! You are so intelligent, so talented and artistic.” M.A. was silent and G.G. added her encouragement, “I know you can get out and do such good things.”
M.A. just kept her head down until B.E. said, “M.A.? It’s me, B.–but you don’t know me as B., you know me as M.I..
Whoa did M.A.’s chin come up! Like staring happily at a ghost, “Oh my god,” M.A. said. “Oh—you look good! You look so good, I didn’t recognize you!” You could simply feel every CATCH woman resonate with those words and it’s true–they are the most luminescent women in Columbus, Ohio.
There are a million other little kind words from that day…B.Y. called CATCH court “a job with benefits,” there was a serious talk about how parenting out of guilt could result in relapsing. B.Y. was having a rough time one night, worrying she was going to relapse, and God whispered in her ear, “I didn’t get you this far for you to go do drugs again, you’ll be okay”. But her child, now 19, was born addicted to drugs, her mom feeling guilty and worried now in her sobriety. So she cried– but the hugs and encouragement came, rows of arms into a big group hug.
They leap and inch forward with such faith.