I’ve been allergic to white Christmas trees for years. They make me itchy, make my nose sting and my eyes tear up.
Maybe it’s the lack of smell. Or the sparkly paint on the stiff dead branches, more glare than glisten.
My fourth grade teacher had a miniature in a pot on her desk, all trimmed out in tinsel and red glass ornaments. I elbowed it to the floor on my way to the pencil sharpener and sometimes, forty years later, I still wake up in a cold sweat, having dreamed of her face in that critical moment.
Fourth grade was brutal.
In 1986 I worked fourteen hour days as slave labor in a greenhouse that specialized in Christmas décor. We sprayed white snow and shiny lacquer on pine branches until we were dizzy with the fumes. I had hives all over my body and fluid in my lungs, and I swore I would never, ever go white at Christmas.
A dear friend had a “life” sized white Christmas tree. Her fiancé had purchased it for her on a post- holiday sale, and he died, very suddenly of a heart attack, before Christmas came around again. I helped her decorate the wretched thing the following December, and amid tears and scattered branches and way too much rum, we finally reached an accord of sorts with the white tree.
“You don’t have to do this,” I said. “It won’t bring him back.”
“He would’ve wanted it,” she sobbed. “He loved white at Christmas.”
“One of these days.” – fanning a branch and sighing - “This sort of thing is going to get easier. For now, we'll just decorate the side facing the living room”
White lights, white pines, white snow, bleh. What about a real tree - big gaudy retro lights, red and green and blue? Candy cane stripes and glitter, homemade ornaments? Or . . .
Ah hell, it’s not about color, is it? It’s not about trees, or cookies or candy canes, and we know this because Linus tells us every year. “ . . . the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, 'Fear not! For, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a savior which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger . . .' "
Probably the baby wasn’t dressed all in white. The swaddling clothes would have been whatever blankets his mother had managed to tuck away for the journey. Maybe the baby himself wasn’t even white. But we know, don’t we, that He shone with a brilliance, a beauty, a love that He would carry with him throughout his entire life and even after.
There it is. He is our “white” Christmas, people – brighter than the Macy’s Christmas tree, shinier than the Chicago Bean. Gorgeous and perfect and wrapped all in love.
And love, after all, is a multi-colored beast, no?
So you want a career in EMS? Both of the rural stations where I work have been hiring. You’ll be called for an interview a week or two after you turn in an app, and then set down in our meeting room amidst four very serious faces and asked a host of enlightening questions. Something like this:
Why do you want to do this job?
Tell us about a moment where your training failed you
Do you consider yourself to have good leadership skills?
Etc etc etc.
Good grief, I say to the hubby (also the fire chief) can you not ask a single question that matters?
Such as . . .
1.) Well, can you lift? And I don’t mean a little. The cot alone weighs a hundred and twenty pounds and the majority of your patients will be something more than petite. They’ll be upstairs, all of them. Or at least those who aren’t in the basement, under the front deck, on the roof, down a well. What they will never be is standing in the front yard waiting for you.
2.) How do you respond to vomit? Projectile. Large quantities. In your hair, on your shoes, down your shirtfront. You’re no help to anyone if the patient causes you to be the second patient.
3.) Can you back up? I know that sounds simple and I’m sure you’ve backed out of your driveway a gazillion times. But here – can you back an ambulance? Down a narrow twisty farm lane in a blizzard? Up a hill, down a tow path and – most important of all – into the bay at your station?
The chief cries real tears if you ding the rig.
4.) You’re not afraid to go back to school, are you? A lot of us go for the paramedic, but even those of us who don’t are training on a very consistent basis. So – meetings, meetings, meetings. Classrooms, skills tests, recertifications. Even when you’re beat, even when you’re just off shift or it’s supposed to be your free weekend (ha). Even when, God help us, there is no coffee to be had at the station.
5.) Which brings us to – are you a coffee drinker? Please just nod yes. Dunkins, Starbucks, Peets, plain old Folgers. It is the all-important elixir of life. You must brew a pot immediately upon reaching the station and then you must keep it going all day and most of the night. If, Heaven forbid, you should break the pot, you’ll need to get somebody to cover your shift while you run to Walmart. Pick up some Dunkins on the way home so we don’t have to wait for the next pot to brew.
6.) Oddly enough – but you’ll get used to this, trust me – the next question has to do with sleep. Can you sleep any time of the day or night? More or less at the drop of a hat? Oh, and can you rebound from said sleep and be at the rig in seconds flat?
Lift, wipe up the vomit, back the rig, go to meetings, coffee-coffee-coffee, sleep-sleep-sleep. That’s about it! If you’re still with us, welcome aboard.
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