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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Countdown to Christmas/Advent (10/23/08)

TITLE: Home for the Holidays
By Gini Branch


“How does that go again? I keep forgetting how many geese and maids a-milking there’s supposed to be.” Jan said.

“Beginning to wonder if this song is a good choice for the group or not. If you can’t remember it, will all those little old ladies be able to?” Greg stood back studying the song list they had worked up for the senior center. “We’ll give another couple of days and see if it goes any better.”

Jan nodded in agreement. She wanted this program to be the best ever. Especially since her mom now lived at the center. Her stroke wasn’t bad, but it still left her with some problems with her memory and speech. This year just wouldn’t be the same for the family without Mom.

She leaned back in her metal chair, sighed and started the tape again.

On the first day of Christmas…

Jan’s thoughts drifted again to the things that made Christmas special in her childhood home. She watched her mother flit around the kitchen singing this song. First to the old white enamel cabinet in the corner for the flour and sugar, then over to the fridge for the eggs. Back to the counter where that gray crockery bowl waited, butter softening into a yellow ball. “Jan, you come on in here. We’ll cut them out together in a minute.”

“Jan, we’ll never be ready if you don’t get a move on.” Greg walked back into the room and switched off the tape player. “What planet were you on just now?” he asked.

“Just… nevermind. I think I’m done for the day.” Jan jerked the player’s cord and the plug flipped back toward her. She reached up and snatched it out of the air.

“Don’t do that. It’ll mess up the wire or something and we need that fossil for all those old tapes.” Greg’s frustration showed through his normally patient character.

“Sorry. It’ll be better tomorrow. I promise. It’s just getting ready for this reminds me of so many good things that aren’t anymore. I miss my mom and the way she used to be.”

“I know you do. This has to hard for you, but we gotta get this together. We’re only a week out now. And,” he sighed, “It’s just not coming together the way I’d hoped.”

“You’re just a perfectionist at heart.” Jan grinned and patted Greg’s arm. “It’ll be ready. You’ll see.”

“Well, Jan, here we go. It’s show time at the center.” Greg said as he flipped through the script one last time.

The staff wheeled the last of the residents into the dining hall. The sea of blue gray permed hair and bright knit afgans added to the decorations around the room. The tree lights twinkled, the red crepe bells hung from the ceiling amid the gold garlands. It was indeed show time.

“We’d like to wish you all a very happy holiday season this year. And to start off we thought we sing the Twelve Days of Christmas. Now, Jan here has had a time remembering the words, so I hope you will help her with this. We have a few props to hand out. When she gets to yours just hold it up or call out what it is.”

Jan handed the cards to those that had been pre-picked by the staff to help. Her mother did not get a card. Jan hugged her on the way by and headed back to the front.

“OK everyone, here we go. Hit it, Maestro.” Greg said. He motioned for Jan to start the tape. “Who’s got the partridge in a pear tree? Good. Hold it up so Jan can see it. When we get the next one, turtle doves, hold it up. It is turtle doves isn’t?” Those that heard what he said agreed.

Jan began to sing with the music. All went well until the ninth verse. Jan couldn’t remember what there were nine of. She faltered. The person with the cue card had dozed off. From the side of the room a little voice called out, “It’s nine ladies dancing.” Jan looked around to see who had remembered the words. Her mother beamed at her. “Merry Christmas, Jan.” she said with a big smile and outstretched arms.

The staff applauded and dance around her mom. The other residents applauded. Jan wept with joy.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Sunny Loomis 11/03/08
I like this story. It can be a challenge to get older people to do something together. Jan's mom came through in a pinch! Great ending. Very nicely done.
Marlene Austin11/04/08
A heart-tugger. I wasn't sure why her mom couldn't spend Christmas with the family - nursing homes I've worked at allowed home visits with family - ? Anyway, glad this couple was willing to put on a show for all the patients. And, glad "mom" provided a moment of joy to Jan. :)