“Mrs. Giggy,” the nurse’s aid announced her presence as she knocked lightly
on door number 57. “It’s time for your medicine. I could hear you coughing down
the hall and thought I’d try to make you more comfortable.”
Dora woke from her cat nap and acknowledged Sally with a smile and a nod.
“Oh, thank you, dear. You all take such good care of me.” The white-haired lady
cheerfully rewarded her helper with a pat on the hand and a flash of her lively blue
“I just wish all our patients were as agreeable as you,” Sally chuckled. “By the
way, some carolers from the Shore Mennonite church will be visiting in a half hour.
Do you want me to keep your door open or closed?”
“Oh, I love to hear the old Christmas carols. It reminds me of my days in the
one- room school. The children and I used to sing them from Thanksgiving till
Christmas break. Please, leave my door open so I can enjoy the music.”
After the aide left, Dora gazed out the window into the courtyard. Snowflakes
fell softly, covering the evergreens with a blanket of white. Red and blue lights
provided welcome relief from the fading afternoon gloom.
Weary from coughing, she once again closed her eyes and drifted back to that
classroom of fifty years ago.
“Children, do any of you have a tree on your farm that would be suitable to
decorate for Christmas?” the schoolmarm’s eyes twinkled in anticipation.
Hands flew up in response. “I do, I do!” the voices of the Amish children rose
in chorus, competing for their teacher’s attention.
“Well, let’s see, Eli, you live close to the school. Do you think your papa would
mind cutting one of your evergreens down and hauling it over next Friday
“Yes, ma’am, I’m sure he can!” From her experiences of living with the local
families, she knew that Mr. Bontrager would be glad to hitch up his team for their
Later the next week, the children stared in awed silence as Eli and Mrs. Giggy
steadied the Douglas fir into the red metal stand. Even bare it added life to the drafty
Depression years were difficult ones. Dora had saved every bit of tin foil she
could get her hands on. She passed out her little treasures to circles of children,
who twisted the foil into sparkly ornaments to decorate the tree. Next, she set a
large cast-iron kettle on the wood burning stove to pop some corn for stringing.
Nellie broke into the first verse of “Oh Christmas Tree” and they all joined in.
Even without accompaniment, they sounded like angels in her memory.
When the tree was adorned with all the festive ornaments, Leroy, the tall eighth
grader was picked to put the star on top. He hadn’t seemed too excited about the
Christmas project until she called his name for this special task. His eyes lit with
pleasure; Dora knew her students and what would motivate.
As she cherished this long ago Christmas, the sounds of “God Rest Ye Merry
Gentlemen” wafted down the nursing home hallway. Tears trickled down her
wrinkled cheek as she mouthed the familiar words. Ninety-eight years had brought
many Christmases, but none were quite as special as those spent with the Amish
children back in her one-room country school.
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