How does Sally always know what is on my mind? Reflection has been the biggest part of what has been taking up so much of mine lately. I have enjoyed the photo journey we have been having all year. Due to rapidly deminishing abilities of my body to get around as I would like, and not wanting to bore you with pictures of the "same old, same old", I have turned my thoughts to the other love I have had throughout my life. Writing, not that I am the next Pulitzer Prize winner, by any means, but it has always kept my mind active.
This is my offering for Week 46 of Reflect (sorry I have been MIA for the past couple, but literally had nothing to offer.) It is a true story of my much younger life and I humbly submit it for you now.
|The Christmas Pencil|
It was the Holiday Season of my last year in nursing school. As upper classmen, my fellow classmates and I were enjoying the perks given to this stage in our development toward Graduate Nurses. My block of friends and co-strugglers on our journey had started our pediatric rotation. Not one we relished, since it meant working with sick kids during the time meant for them to be home and enjoying their families, more than any other time of the year.
Rising to the occasion, our Clinical Advisor gave us a challenge. The four most coveted days of the rotation, for being “off”, were Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day. She knew we all wanted them, something that could not be, so she offered barter. If just one of us volunteered to work one of each of the four, the rest of the block would be off the schedule. It sounded great until it was time for hands to be raised. I can’t recall, but doubt, there were any benevolent takers, which led her to plan B.
Just as a person determined not to be swayed from accomplishing her task, she put everyone’s name in a bowl, and drew out four of them. The classroom was quiet as many silent prayers were offered up. Of course, she had a caveat to her rules. If each of the four did not fulfill their assignment, the entire deal was off and everyone would be on full schedule for the remaining days.
Now you know I had never won anything in my life before that day, but oh yes, I won the grand prize. Assigned to Christmas Day! It meant I had Christmas Eve off to spend with my family, but then I would have to leave early to get back to the residence before curfew. I, one of the only ones with no car, and parents who did not drive, left wondering how much earlier I would have to leave with public transportation being on a holiday schedule.
The snow started falling early that December 24th, slowly and softly as it always did, causing excitement in the sure prospect of a White Christmas. Throughout the day it built up more and more, getting the neighborhood kids giddy, but not so with me. How bad would the roads get? Will the shortened holiday bus scheduled be cut even more? Would I be stranded at home that day? A scary thought, more so in the fear of the retribution I would be facing for causing the “Holiday Schedule Deal” to go down in flames, than the road conditions. And so it happened, a check on the phone to the transit service confirmed my nightmare in the middle of the day. All service cancelled.
My hand still on the phone, thinking of my next call to the school to tell them of my unappreciated predicament, and seeing my classmates’ faces, froze my fingers from dialing. Instead, I did what I considered the ultimate sacrifice and called for a taxi. The residence was a mere 10 miles, and 20 minute drive on a normal day. That day, in all its splendid whiteness, which seemed to grey out as the hour ticked by, the mercifully empty but eerie roads, and the houses all lit with the joyful colors of the season, seemingly not as bright as I had noticed before, left me at the door, empty of wallet, and holiday cheer as the driver wished me the same. I picked up some snow, formed a tight ball and flung it to nowhere, thinking it felt more like a lump of coal than what it was.
Midnight Mass came soon, which the nuns, who ran the hospital and school, certainly expected those of us in residence to attend, without question. I can still recall the priest praising the few student nurses in the pews for our sacrifice in being present to those suffering in the hospital, but it didn’t seem noble to me. I had no choice. The after Mass repast of warm apple cider and cold ham and cheese sandwiches set out for us, by the appreciative nuns, did nothing to improve my mood.
Morning Line Check was cancelled, another gift from the nuns, seemingly to give us some extra free time, but in my mind, they didn’t want to have to go through the mundane on a day when they had other Holiday happenings to accomplish. Sure, extra time for me to contemplate the happy faces of my family waking at home, sans me, to all the joys of Christmas morning. I walked the empty halls, and rode the elevator to the pediatric floor, in my noiseless white shoes, thinking of the others not there, who were enjoying the same waking, and finally deciding I was being the noblest of all.
Once on the floor, I strode up to the charge desk, and mumbled Merry Christmas to the Charge Nurse, another recent graduate who would be assigned to passing out meds, and the cherubic Nurse Aide who had spent many a year on that Pediatric wing, and was treasured by all for her devotion to it, who happily responded to me. One look at the bed check list and my thoughts turned back to darkness. A board that was almost always filled to capacity had only three names. An asthmatic child admitted the evening before, who most likely would be discharged that day, a young boy, still recovering from too recent surgery, and Linda. With three professionals to cover them, was I really needed?
The Charge Nurse instantly recognized in my face, the resignation to my fate and said as soon as I finished my assignment, I could leave early, instead of staying the whole shift. Gee, another expensive cab ride home! My assignment, Linda, was in the room directly off the nurse’s station with a window on the wall so as to keep its occupant in constant view. All who worked at that time knew of her story.
Linda was a sweet, honey haired, blue eyed girl with a smile that would light up any room, from the picture of her mom and her, sitting on her bedside cabinet. Unfortunately she didn’t resemble that picture now. Drawn, pale and devoid of hair, shaved after unsuccessful surgery to remove a tumor, and still in a coma afterwards, she seemed almost lost in the bed sheets. Resigned, I set to my tasks, checking each piece of medical equipment, making sure they were all in functioning order, tidying up the room, from the obvious visitor’s trappings of the day before, and gently giving her a bed bath, and back rub, prior to placing crisply laundered sheets on her bed.
I talked to her constantly, not so much for her sake, or to keep my mind on my duties, but rather to keep the tears that wanted so easily to well up. I told her what I was doing each step of the way. I talked about the pile of presents sitting next to a miniature tree on the counter, each wrapped by a dear family member, who so hoped she would have the chance to enjoy them. I talked about the bright and sunny day made even brighter glistening off the new snow. I talked of the group of boys outside her window, giddy with excitement, with what was obviously a very timely Christmas gift of a new sled, and sliding over and over down the hill.
Just as I was finishing up smoothing out the blanket on her bed, I heard the sound of footsteps in the hallway. A small group of Brownies appeared at Linda’s door. Faces, smiling at first for finally finding someone after passing several empty rooms, changed to trepidation about entering a room so full of frightening looking machines and medical equipment. Their leader said they had the idea to bring simple Christmas gifts to those less fortunate. I thanked each one for their sweet concern, reached out and took their offering.
It was one of those fat, striped pencils with a plastic Santa on the top where the eraser normally would be. As they continued on their way, I stared down at it, and thought, “Well, isn’t this just what she needs?” Wanting to put it aside, I looked over to Linda and saw that her eyes were opened, and she too was attempting to see it. I could not decide what to do. Should I run and tell the Charge Nurse to call her family and tell them of their Christmas miracle, or pick up the pile of presents and plop them down on her bedside table so she could take them all in. I held that pencil up instead, so she could get a clearer look, and asked, “You like this?” In an almost whisper of a voice, and with the slightest of a smile on her face, she replied, “I’m gonna give it to my brother. He loves to draw.”
I still don’t know if it was a taxi, mass transit, or a cloud of awakening that brought me back home that day, but as I opened each of the gifts, meant so lovingly for me by my family, my only thoughts were of a pencil. In the years that followed, each of my children in turn, found a fat, striped pencil with a plastic Santa on the top where the eraser normally would be, in their stocking. A gift not so much for them as for me, since I am sure they did not realize the significance behind it.
I write this story now, so that they will know, and perhaps continue my Christmas Miracle with their children.
Now please take some time to visit the others in this weekly blog hop at: The Studio Sublime.