So they prepared a list for a Christmas potluck. Kevin was bringing pot roast; Army-Clairea, cassava cake! My slot I did not fill initially because there was a big chance of me getting floated to a different ward. It was my turn, and believe me, if I do go, I rarely return, not even for food.
It wasn’t that I did not plan on bringing my portion at all. I confided with Tomoe that I intended to prepare something.
‘What?’ she asked.
‘Beef soup.’ I revealed. ‘I don’t know what it’s called in English, but I’ve prepared it before, well more like experimented. I don’t cook; I experiment.’
‘Well, it might be hard to do if you work the night before because of time. Do you work the night before?’
‘I do. You’re right. I may just buy something.’
But what exactly, I didn’t know then and didn’t decide until Christmas Day, when most restaurants were closed as I found out with a start. Oh man! I thought they have special hours during holidays but they never answered my phone calls. Out went the idea of bringing pork barbecue on-a-stick (kabob, but not exactly) of the window. Now, I will feel the disdain from the other nurses. Piercing stares will be all about me searching my soul like the seven Spirits of God in the book of Revelation whenever I put food into my mouth. I needed to bring at least something, — apple pies, tortilla rolls — anything.
Driving along Valley View, a big blue and bright sign caught my attention — Albertsons® (Wahhhhh resounding angelic choir)! Why not? It looked like they were open and so I parked my car and into the grocery store I went.
I made it to work half an hour early. I was not sure how to feel upon learning that I didn’t need to float after all that night. It was a classic case of mixed emotions. I went straight into our little break room and put my groceries in the fridge. When I came out, I saw the other night nurses marching in, carrying huge bags and tin foil trays. I felt small, smaller than Army-Claire who looked so burdened with the tray she was porting!
One night nurse happened to pass my way. After an exchange of salutations I said, ‘Oh, I brought two ice creams. Break room. Can’t miss it. Albertsons® bag!’
‘Whaaat?! Hehe … we already have so many ice creams in there.’ came the reply.
Further down I shrunk, and that was when I took a yellow piece of tape and wrote the words I have no food to bring parapa pom pom,— clearly a corruption of the Christmas song — affixed it next to my name to remind myself what a fool I’ve been.
After the 23rd hour was when the feast started. I appreciated and enjoyed the food they brought or prepared. The roast beef was well done and savory. The cassava cake, overlaid with flan, was top-notch. The ham was at least not salty. I didn’t feel like eating tamales that night but I overheard someone said that it was delightfully provoking to the tastebuds, a praise for its piquancy as I found out the next day when I took some home. I was never a fan of egg rolls; to me it’s a taste one taste all sort of thing. I only stared at the noodles trying to figure out which shade of yellow it would fall on the yellow color gamut, and the ramen salad? A better question is, ‘When was the last time I had salad, period?’
After all that dining, they came together for the white elephant game which I later found out was a type of gift exchange. I side lined myself because, for one thing, that’s what introverts naturally do when people start to congregate. The more compelling reason however was that I didn’t bring a white elephant. Nevertheless, I still received a gift at the end! Imagine that! I mean in life, things seldom fall in place for me, but they did that night. What can I say? The magic of Christmas, I guess.
And so there I was sitting by myself while the gab and the cackles (for that’s how some of them sounded like after the big meal) carried onward next door. Suddenly, somebody dropped a white box on my table. ‘Here!’ came a solemn voice. It was our relatively new supervisor, who had his role upgraded shortly following our dear Ms Debbie’s resignation. ‘Gee thanks, captain!’ I said, addressing him as such because of the way he runs the ward — yes, like a true captain. There was none else more deserving to take up such a mantle. He left without saying a word or at least, I did not hear a reply, — bad hearing, you know. I already knew what was in the box, however. You see, long before the spirit of the holidays haunted the ward, Melvin already asked each of us our shirt sizes. It followed then that out of the goodness of his heart, he desired to gift us tees. ‘Twas a no-brainer. He was following the footsteps of his predecessor, who used to endow us this time of the year greatly with gifts which, for my part, I felt I didn’t deserve. Other co-workers as well who had already received such shirts two nights ago were quick to post on Facebook, making what was already a given more predictable.
I opened the box. The scent of the new shirt rushed unbidden into my nostrils. It was delightful! Atop the folded gray shirt rested a small white envelope, no doubt a card within. This, I didn’t expect. I felt my heart beginning to pace a bit; my blood rushed inward and up. All my senses were in a heightened state. I opened the envelope and saw a simple red Christmas card. I took it out and hastened to open it. There was a brief generic holiday greeting printed on the card withal the names of the captain and his she-captain handwritten below. I turned the card over, shook it, and checked for secret pockets. Nothing. I thought that perhaps the object of my search was hidden somewhere in the shirt and so I proceeded to unfold it. It was all in vain.
‘Well, where is it?’ I quietly asked myself. ‘Where is the money?’ After I came to grips with reality, I stepped outside and grabbed a piece of yellow tape from the nursing station. I then stuck it as shown below.
Of course this was aimed as a joke. I was — still am — grateful for the gift! Musing upon what happened this year, with the captain’s promotion and now the gifts, I cannot help but be reminded of uncle Ben’s famous line:
‘What the hey,’ I thought as I sat there. ‘I bet I can tweak it a bit to fit the context.’
And tweaked it, I did.
aNot their names, but that’s what I call them. It’s rather endearing, if you ask me; I’m not sure if they quite agree.