I have shared this story before. But any doubts about a reprise were erased when I received this card from one of my friends. Her mom picked out the photo and asked her daughter to include it with her greetings.
When I look at the expression in her eyes, my heart just melts.
I remember my mom’s nursing home at Christmas. The atmosphere virtually pulsated with anticipation. Holiday décor covered every available surface. Young schoolchildren sang carols. Unfamiliar visitors wandered the hallways.
The excitement—and tension–were palatable.
My mom’s fellow residents were lucky. The head nurse made sure everyone would receive a gift. Under her watch, no one would be disappointed on Christmas morning.
And so now, as we make our lists–and check them twice–let’s follow in the footsteps of my favorite head nurse. Please remember the elderly men and women in your community…
Here is our story:
Thank You For Remembering Me
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, crisp, melodic
Oh Hallie, I just love my lipstick. Thank you for remembering me! Merry Christmas!
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…
(her eyes glistened)
Well, girls, what can I say?
you made our Christmas!
But the truth is: 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 colors, then added every powder, polish and perfume sample in the department.
A small rectangular box;
a simple gesture;
the electricity of Christmas morning;
under the tree–
waving her lipstick high in the air
Are You Hallie?
I just love my lipstick!
Thank you for remembering me.
I was so moved when a reader in Arkansas took lipsticks last year to her local eldercare facility. She reports the staff was surprised and grateful for her gifts. She plans to do it again this year.
The beautiful women in the photos are the mothers of two of my friends. I deeply appreciate their permission to use these photos, which say more than I ever could.