Monday, February 24, 2014

Red Nail Polish and Blowing Smoke Rings

My mother and her older sister graduated from a nursing school that was part of the hospital. Back then there were two local nursing schools. Both have since closed. I recently found a handwritten speech my mother must have given during Class Night prior to their graduation. This surprised me because I never saw my mother in that light-giving speeches-but then-she was my mother and mothers have sides their children never see. Some of what she wrote I couldn't read as it was written in pencil in 1939.
She started out with a class history-stating that "three years prior, on September 11th, twenty-six young and ambitious girls entered training in the Hepburn School of Nursing. Everything was so different. It took us several weeks to become accustomed to the routine. During the first year, four of our girls left for other vocations." She explained that near the end of October, they were placed 'on duty.'  That meant they carried water and maybe helped an older student make a bed. In a list of "trials and tribulations" she includes, ".....and imagine yourself sitting enjoying a good forty-cent movie when suddenly you sneak a peek at your watch and find that you have eight blocks and eight minutes to get there." I loved when she listed her classmates and areas of the hospital and equated a song of the era to each. 4th floor-home to the Nursery-she listed "Got a Million Dollar Baby"; the OR-"I Can't Fail the Mission."
She also mentioned unforgettable moments-like the time she found herself in trouble with the nuns. She was in so much trouble for following through on a dare that she had to clean all the bathrooms with a toothbrush for two weeks. Despite that setback my mother graduated as did her older sister. Both proved to be excellent nurses.
I remember sitting with my brother in the back seat of the car when our father drove our mother to the hospital. She worked the evening shift. Before she'd leave, she'd feed us and give us our baths. We were always in our pajamas on those short drives. Once we dropped her off in the circle driveway-we'd sit and wait for her to get up to the second floor where she'd look out the window and wave good-bye. I can still see her there-smiling-her crisp white uniform ironed to perfection; her white cap starched and immaculate, held in place with bobby pins; her white stockings and polished white duty shoes always flawless. She took great pride in her uniform. I remember her stockings soaking in the sink; her cap stretched flat on the counter. By the time my mother retired from nursing, she was in charge of the ER at night.
Included in that Class Night speech she writes-'red finger nail polish was never seen on duty.' Maybe that's why later on in life her nails were always manicured and polished with the reddest of reds polish. She also mentions how some of those classmates were 'reprimanded for blowing smoke rings on state property.' I never saw her blow smoke rings-but then as I previously stated, mothers have sides children never see.

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