Ruth looked around her room and saw that it was still dark outside. She was chilled, so she pulled the bedspread up to her chin. The little pink flowers reminded her of the garden she and her Mama used to have on the farm. They spent hours together working in the garden, while Mama sang songs. Tucked warmly under the covers, Ruth hummed her favorite one, “You are my Sunshine, my only Sunshine. You make me happy, when skies are grey…”
Mama and Papa named her Ruth after a favorite aunt, but they always called her “Sunshine” after her favorite song. Even though it was only the three of them, Ruth, Mama and Papa, Ruth was never lonely. There were always plenty of people working on the farm. Every Sunday, Mama cooked a big meal and invited their workers and neighbors to the feast. Mama was known throughout the county for her famous fried chicken.
While they prepared the meal, Mama laughed about the antics of the week, “Wasn’t that funny when Elmer didn’t close the gate properly and the pigs got out? What a sight! Watching Elmer trying to catch them. Then you and Papa decided to help!”
Lying in bed, Ruth chuckled while remembering the incident. They eventually caught the pigs and returned them to their pen, but Ruth and Papa were covered in mud. Mama immediately sent them to the creek to wash.
Ruth sighed, “That was a long time ago. I miss you Mama.” Then she reached for the buzzer on the nightstand and remembered, “Of course it is chilly, it’s December.” She continued to think about Mama’s garden while she waited.
“Good Morning, Miss Ruthie. You’re up early today,” Lucy bustled into the room, flipped on the lights and opened the curtains, “Goodness, the sun isn’t even up yet! It feels like winter today, even for Phoenix. You’re definitely going to need your green sweater.”
Lucy pushed Ruth’s wheelchair over to the bed, “Shall we get you ready for the day?” Ruth swung her legs to the side of the bed and reached for the wheelchair. “Whoa, slow down there, Miss Ruthie, and give yourself a minute before you leap out of bed.”
Ruth sat on the side of the bed, “Lucy, did I ever tell you about the time the pigs got out of their pen?”
Although Lucy had heard this story multiple times, she responded, “What happened Miss Ruthie?”
Ruth giggled, “It was so funny, Papa and I chasing those pigs with Mama yelling at us. By the time we caught them all, we were covered in mud! Mama made us march down to the creek to wash. She wouldn’t let us step one foot inside the house until we were clean!”
“That must have been quite a sight!” Lucy reached for Ruth’s waist, “Now come on Sunshine, get up slowly and we’ll get you dressed.”
Ruth asked, “Am I expecting any visitors today? Are Amy and Nick coming to see me?”
“Now, Miss Ruthie, remember, your kids live and work the farm in Iowa. It’s hard for them to get away. You and Eddie moved here years ago to enjoy the sunshine, Sunshine. Come on, where is that green sweater I gave you for Christmas a few years ago?”
Ruth looked around the room for the sweater. There were pictures of her family everywhere. Mama and Papa on the farm, Eddie and her on their wedding day, and, of course, lots of pictures of Amy and Nick and their families.
“Lucy, what is Amy’s husband’s name?”
“Why Miss Ruthie, you know that. It is John.”
“Yes, yes, of course. John. And Jack and Beth are my grandchildren.”
“That’s right. And Nick is married to Susan. And their children are Tom, Martha, and Gracie. Tom has a baby now, Sophia. You are a Great Grandmother!”
“A Great Grandmother…”
“Today is a special day because it’s our Holiday Party! Let’s get you over to the dining room. I have a busy day getting ready for your party.”
“Of course, I didn’t mean to take so much of your time,” Ruth put her arm through the sweater and thought to herself, “Lucy gave me this sweater.” It was worn in some spots, but Ruth didn’t mind. She loved the sweater because Lucy gave it to her.
“Don’t be ridiculous. You are my favorite friend. Okay, let me button that for you.” Lucy finished the last button and exclaimed, “Off we go! Today’s breakfast is oatmeal and cranberries! A little holiday cheer to start the day.”
Ruth joined her friends at the table. Just like on the farm, she enjoyed being busy and having people around. There were lots of activities, and there was even a small garden in the courtyard. The staff was friendly, and she loved Lucy.
“Good morning Ruth,” Harriet said.
“Good morning Harriet. Lucy said our party is today.”
“Yes, it’s at 10:00 o’clock.” Harriet was younger than Ruth and lived across the hall. She was born and raised in Phoenix and her family lived in town. Every Sunday after church, her children and grandchildren would parade through the hall to Harriet’s room for a visit. Ruth thought they looked like the march of the penguins, but she probably was a little jealous. After all, Harriet had visitors every week! The grandchildren always smiled sweetly and waved as they walked by. Ruth usually kept her door open on Sundays, so she could watch this weekly routine.
After breakfast, Ruth wheeled herself to the window overlooking the garden. Once again, she was back on the farm.
“Ruth, Ruth! Where are you child?” Mama shouted.
“I’m here, Mama. In the garden.”
Mama walked to the garden bundled up in her warm coat, wool scarf and boots. “Now, Sunshine, what are you doing in the garden? It’s freezing cold and has begun to snow.”
“I know, Mama, but I’m waiting for Santa.”
“Yes, yes, of course. Come inside child. It’s time for bed and if Santa finds you awake, he will skip our house. Hurry now, I have the fire going and it’s warm inside.”
“Okay, Mama. Is Papa home?”
“Yes, he is reading and smoking his pipe. Now, run and put your pajamas on or Santa will pass us by!” Ruth looked at Mama, then raced to the house to get ready for bed.
“Good night, Mama. Good night, Papa!”
Papa looked up from his paper, “Good night, Sunshine.”
“Miss Ruthie? Are you okay?”
Ruth was startled, “Lucy?”
“Miss Ruthie, it is time for the Holiday Party! Let’s get you over to the Rec Room for the festivities!”
Ruth looked longingly at the garden, “Okay.”
There was excitement in the air while the residents and families gathered for the Holiday Party. It really didn’t bother Ruth that her children couldn’t come. Back when Eddie was alive, they had many wonderful holiday celebrations and Ruth loved reliving them. Ruth would enjoy watching Harriet open her gifts from her family of penguins. Lucy would probably have a gift for her and she felt bad because she didn’t have anything for Lucy this year, but Lucy always says that Ruth’s hugs were the best gift of all.
At the front of the room, the Director had a box filled with other gifts to distribute. She started calling out names. “Harold, Betty, Ruth….” Ruth looked around. Was there another Ruth in the room she didn’t know about? The name was repeated a little louder, “RUTH, where’s Ruthie?”
“Go on, Sunshine,” Lucy whispered. “It’s for you.”
Ruth slowly wheeled to the front. A large package wrapped with a red bow was handed to her. Ruth’s eyes were as big as saucers, “For me?” she whispered.
“Yes, this gift is for you.”
“Who’s it from?”
“It’s from some friends in the community who want you to have a happy holiday!”
Ruth put the package in her lap. It was big and beautiful, and she was as excited as a child. Lucy said, “Go on now, open it.”
Very carefully, Ruth took the ribbon off and peeled away the wrapping paper and found a pink and white crocheted blanket. “For me?”
“Yes, Sunshine, it’s for you. Someone knew pink was your favorite color. Let’s wrap your legs with it because it’s cold today!”
Ruth placed the beautiful blanket on her lap while Lucy tucked it around her legs. Her eyes sparkled with joy. For a moment, she felt like a child back on the farm at Christmas. “Thank you,” she said to Lucy.
Lucy hugged her, “Happy Holidays, Sunshine.”