Thursday, June 7, 2012



At times when young folks in our family, or friends, ask about some of the happiest times in my life I often tell them about my first Christmas in hospital. They look at me in disbelief. How could it be anyone’s happiest time? But believe me it was.
I had polio very bad as a child and had a few trips to hospital, but this was my first Christmas in hospital. The year was 1940 the time Christmas Eve and I was twelve years old.
The ward was large, long and spotlessly clean, but like something out of a Dicken’s story book. Large french doors overlooked well-kept lawns and gardens. The windows were long and narrow and the floors were highly-polished, black and wooden.
The ward had about sixteen patients. At one end of the ward near the door was a large desk where the night sister sat. As it was winter the ward had a big, open fire-place that always had a fire going on cold nights. This Christmas Eve was such a night.
My bed was at the best end of the ward I was later to find out, as all the activity happened near my end. I was closest to the fire, the entrance to the ward and the night sister.
As I lay on my bed I was thinking about my family. Our house would all be lit up inside with a large pine tree in the lounge which would also be lit up. Fairy dolls dressed in tulle and tinsel, made by my mother, would be on the tree. You would be able to smell the pine tree all through the house and fires would be lit in all the fire-places downstairs. It always looked like fairyland to my sister and me. I was feeling a little lonely and sad. Then I heard voices coming along the large wide hall leading into the ward.
Five nurses and student doctors walked in carrying a lamp. They spoke very softly to the night sister who nodded and smiled. I was rather intrigued by what was happening. Then very softly they started singing Christmas carols.
The nurses in those days wore navy and white dresses, white crisp aprons, wide navy belts and red capes. The lamp they carried was old-world looking with coloured glass. The lamp seemed to just shine around them.
They sang about four carols. Then very softly as they had come, they spoke to the night sister and filed out to the next ward. I felt a wonderful warm feeling and I remember thinking that there were not many children on Christmas Eve who were having carols sung to them.
As I looked across at the night sister writing her nightly reports, her face bent over her books, the ward in darkness and the desk light shining down making a glow around her. I thought that’s what angels must look like. I felt safe and cosy. Then I looked at the large, round clock above the fire and noticed it had just gone midnight. It was Christmas Day. Looking at the fire burning, I fell asleep.


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