Lucretia’s rubber-soled shoes squeaked slightly as she made her midnight rounds. She filled a water glass for the thirsty patient in Room 2A and picked up a fallen magazine next to the bed. With only six two-bed units in the mountain hospital and two units empty, it didn’t take long to complete her tasks. Back at the nurses’ station, she was absorbed in jotting a few notes in her patients’ charts when a loud sigh distracted her.
“What’s that about?” Lucretia directed her lifted eyebrows toward the night aide whose sigh it was.
Bernice rolled her eyes, “I can’t believe we’re stuck here on Christmas Eve. Why did I ever think it was romantic to work in such a deserted place as this little mountain town? And that winter wonderland out there has me wondering if we’ll even get home in the morning.”
Lucretia took in the scene outside the window. The yard light glowed through a thick curtain of falling snow. The miniscule parking lot held just three vehicles—hers, Bernice’s, and Harry’s, the night janitor/security guard. In the couple of hours since their shift began the snow had shrouded them in several inches. It really was a beautiful sight but she understood Bernice’s concern. They all had families expecting them around the Christmas tree.
The dark hours passed and the white blanket grew deeper. Lucretia was thankful that all of their patients were well on their way to recovery and she did not expect any situations requiring a doctor’s immediate attention. Between hourly checks on the patients, she and Bernice reminisced about their past yuletide seasons.
“I remember my first Christmas tree after I was married,” Lucretia said and made a mock pouty-face. “Growing up, my family hadn’t had Christmas trees in our home so I had no ornaments to take with me. So I made some using a bread dough recipe and cookie cutters. My husband helped me paint the shapes and coat them with a moisture-proof spray. They looked really nice hanging by red yarn on our wee Christmas tree.” She smiled, “One of my favorites is a simple round one, painted white with the words ‘Happy Birthday, Jesus’ in red on it.”
Bernice nodded, “I like home made ornaments best. Each year at Thanksgiving my mom sat us down and we had an ornament making party. My favorite is the set made out of felt for the twelve days of Christmas. Each piece has a front and back and we embroidered the features on it.” Her hands gestured as she spoke, “We sewed the two sides together and stuffed them with batting.”
“Sounds cute,” Lucretia said. “Do you think you could show me how to make those sometime?”
“Sure!” Bernice sighed again. “Why didn’t we think to have a Christmas tree put up here at the clinic? I’m sure I have plenty of ornaments we could’ve used. And if we can’t get home in the morning, it’d cheer me up a bit. Bet the patients would’ve liked it too.”
“Wish I’d thought of it,” Lucretia agreed. “Maybe it’s not too late.”
Bernice shot her a quizzical look as Lucretia pushed her rolling chair back from the desk and stood up. “I’m going to go see what I can find,” she said.
A few moments later Lucretia trundled an empty IV pole into the nurses’ station. Bernice grinned in anticipation and understanding. Together they set to work, joined by Harry when he came by for a cup of coffee.
By the snow bright light of Christmas day the nurse and her aide brought good tidings to each patient. Bernice carried in breakfast trays while Lucretia escorted an IV pole gaily festooned, from room to room, eliciting laughter from one and all. Green catheter tubing hung in layered loops from the top of the pole down. Paper clips shimmered from the loops. Latex gloves, blown up and resembling cows’ udders and decorated with a red felt pen, bobbled at random. Steel wool scouring pads pulled apart served as tinsel. At the top perched an upside down Styrofoam cup with cotton ball hair and gauze wings, an angel truly in disguise.
The snowplow cleared the pass by noon, bringing change-of-shift personnel and releasing Lucretia and Bernice to their own more traditional and somewhat less unique family Christmas trees. As they hugged each other in parting, Bernice chuckled, “Now we have one more story to add to our Christmas tree recollections!”
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