A tall thin woman slowly edged her walker into my mother’s room. Her long silver hair was pulled in a braid, revealing bright blue eyes and high chiseled cheekbones
Are you Hallie Swift?
Yes, I’m Hallie.
She reached into her pocket, grasping a shiny gold lipstick tube
She raised her arm high in the air;
giggling as she waved the lipstick back and forth;
her voice light, melodic
Oh Hallie, I just love my lipstick. Thank you for remembering me!
In her monthly newsletter,
the head nurse had issued a plea—
for residents with no families;
she wanted everyone in the nursing home
to find a present under the tree.
My friends and I discussed our gifts
…chocolates and sweaters and books with large print and stuffed animals and baseball caps and comforters and…
Lipsticks for the ladies!
Yes, my friend urged
after all, you never lose your vanity!
But let’s not give just one lipstick–
let’s get lipsticks for everyone!
So we asked friends coming to our Christmas party–
Please bring a lipstick for the ladies!
And with that, a tradition was born.
Year after year
we were showered with
Estee’s gorgeous reds, Chanel’s shimmering corals, Bobbi’s hot pinks;
small rectangular boxes adorned with bright paper and festive ribbons;
our own Christmas cornucopia–
we collected so many lipsticks;
I needed an extra suitcase for
the lipstick express!
On Christmas morning
each resident received
a beautiful little package–
The head nurse was effusive:
my residents are so happy–
And when my residents are happy, my nurses are happy–
And when my nurses are happy…
Well, girls, what can I say?
you made our Christmas!
And they made ours.
For many of us, the trip to buy lipsticks became a defining moment of our holiday season. One friend told me she and the Bloomingdale’s saleswoman shed tears as they selected the colors, then added every powder, polish and perfume sample in the department!
A small box;
a simple gesture;
the electricity of Christmas morning;
under the tree–
she waves her lipstick high in the air
Are You Hallie?
Thank you for remembering me.
A reader in Arkansas has decided to be “Hallie’s Lipstick Girl” (her words) for her local eldercare facility. Thank you for spreading the cheer! And Merry Christmas!
The beautiful woman in the photos is the mother of a friend from grammar school. Thank you for permission to use these wonderful photos and thank you to my friend’s daughter for taking such gorgeous pictures.