Remember The Ladies


This all-points-bulletin appeared in the nursing home newsletter.  And it had never occurred to me; while we were busy attending to our Mother’s needs and wishes, there were people all around her who no longer had family; no longer had friends; no longer would receive a gift on Christmas Day.

YES, we responded to the head nurse’s rallying cry. And a-shopping we went; chocolates and sweaters and books and stuffed animals and comforters and what else do you need when you’re ninety?

You need lipstick, a friend suggested.


Of course; after all, you never lose your vanity.

She was inspired.

But instead of buying a few lipsticks; how about lipsticks for everyone?! And so, in our annual Christmas party invitation, we asked our friends to bring “a lipstick for the ladies.”

And every year, our friends generously purchased not one but several gorgeous lipsticks and carefully wrapped them in beautiful paper with festive ribbons. Together we showered the nursing home with deep reds, shimmering corals and hot pinks.

The response was electric.

The head nurse was effusive: you made our patients happy and when my patients are happy, my nurses are happy.  And when my nurses are happy, I am happy.  You made our Christmas!

She added:  And the ladies noticed the brands; Estee Lauder and Stila and Bobbie Brown and Elizabeth Arden.  You girls are too much!

But actually, it was our friends who were “too much.”  One friend told me that she and a Bloomingdale’s sales assistant both had tears in their eyes as they selected the lipsticks and then added every sample of powder, polish and hand cream they could find. And even friends who could not attend the party sent lipsticks for me to take to the ladies.

I wish they could have seen the smiles.

At the nursing home, an elderly woman approached me:

Are you Hallie Swift?


I am Dorothy.

And out of her pocket she pulled a lipstick and waved it in the air. She giggled; light, melodic, girlish.

I just love my lipstick.  Thank you!

So much for being a Secret Santa…

This year several of my friends have told me they miss the tradition we had grown to relish. For many of us, the trip to buy lipstick became a defining moment of our Christmas season. One friend recently wrote to me:

I say a little prayer for your Mom as I write this, remembering lipsticks of years gone by…

Remember the ladies.


4 thoughts on “Remember The Ladies

  1. well, let’s all send lipsticks! anyone out there who could deliver? or shall we mail a big new year’s box filled with treats for all–just ask and I’m sure your readers would chip in!

    • We are not doing the lipsticks this year but so many of my friends have mentioned how much they miss it; I am thinking of finding a nursing home here in NYC who would welcome our contribution next year! In the meantime, as my friend Donna suggested, perhaps there is a facility in your locale that would welcome a Secret Santa…or a cache of lipsticks…

  2. You can count me in – I am on the West Coast, but it reminds me to make a stop at my local home as well! Thank you and Merry Christmas!

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