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Candy-StripingMay 14, 2008

I was a candy-striper here, twenty-one years ago. I walked these very same halls in my pink-striped pleated dress. I loved that dress. To me, it had the cachet of historical reenactment. I was sure Florence Nightingale had worn something similar, when in fact I was wearing polyester circa 1986. But I loved the way I looked in the mirror. I looked like someone who knew what to do.

We had to wear white shoes with the dress. I was desperate to have a pair of big, clunky, brilliantly white nursing shoes, but I only had a pair of white tennis shoes from the discount store that had a thin red stripe running along the sides. I was ashamed of those red stripes.

The volunteer Auxiliary Ladies frightened me. Most were the age of the average patient, but they were so loud, so lively. Working in their pink pantsuits, monitoring flowers coming in and out, directing people to the right beds: it was their social hour. They had cocktails after their shifts. I wanted to be like them, but I was about sixty years shy of being able to join their ranks. 

My favorite part was pouring water. Keeping the water jugs full. I was good at that. I liked writing down how many cc's I poured, enjoyed encouraging hydration (still do). I liked delivering food trays. I liked the little old ladies who didn't really know who I was but wanted to chat anyway. I was painfully shy (hard to imagine now), but I tried to chat back.

My least favorite part was seeing people in pain, people who somehow thought the fourteen-year old in front of them could actually help them, could give them medical advice, could help them to the commode. I would apologize and scuttle backwards like a candy-cane crab. I'd fetch a nurse and feel stupid.

Mom's still in the hospital today. She has congestive heart failure, atrial fibrulation, and extreme hypercalcemia. She might be doing a bit better today; I'm not quite sure. She ain't getting out of here today, that's for sure. It's hard. Knitting is good. Nurses are even better than knitting, I tell you that (one in the ICU showed me the shawl she was working on in her down-time (Mom was their only patient that night) -- it was good to bond with a knitter).

While I'm writing this, Mom is asleep and I'm showing Bethany how to knit socks on two circs. What do people do in the hospital without knitting? Unimaginable. Thank god Mom doesn't have a roommate yet. Most people, we understand, watch TV in the hospital. I can think of almost nothing worse. Movies, sure. But no TV. It seems like such an assault.

The Auxiliary Ladies are still out in full force, although they're less intimidating now, and now they're the age of my mother. One yesterday pointed out that tiny little mama lying in the bed took up almost no room, and then she commented that she, herself, was about the same age and size as Mom. For four seconds I was fiercely jealous that this tiny 67-year old volunteer was running around delivering flowers and Mom was lying in the hospital bed.

I haven't seen any candy-stripers walking the floor, although yesterday I saw one getting ready for her shift in the volunteer room. Looks like they don't wear dresses anymore, something that they're probably glad about. The girl was about fourteen or fifteen, and she sat alone in the room, wearing a pink striped shirt and white pants. She held up her cell phone and took a picture of herself. She grinned at the camera. If I'd had a cell phone back then, I'd have done the same thing.


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Big hugs to you and your little mama. I hope she is up and about and feeling fine soon.

You, precious Little Mama, and your whole family are in my thoughts. Needles are crossed for a recovery that is far quicker than the time it takes me to knit a pair of socks on 2 circs.

I've walked a ward in my time... Best wishes and thoughts for your little mama and all your family.

Sending lots and lots and lots of love...

rachel, just wanted to let you know i'm thinking of you and your mom and sending you healthy happy healing vibes. take care.

Dude, I hope your little mama is okay. I still remember with fondness the hot cross buns she gave me and Hedi. So delicious! I will be thinking of you, you little cutie, and your mom, of course. And yeah, I read a "young adult" book about candystripers and thought that would be the coolest thing evah. Hang in there!

I bet you were a damn cute candy-striper.

Sending hugs and good thoughts for you and Bethany and your Mom.

Sending get-well hugs to your little mama and to you as well. I hope she gets better soon.

Goodness, that is the sweetest little vignette ever. 'Specially the bit about the present-day candy-striper at the end.

Sorry to hear about the little mama, but I'm glad she's got you guys there with her. Hugs for you all.

Been through the whole atrial fib/heart issues/ICU "fun" with my own dear mother a few years ago. I know how scary all of this is.

Sending love and healing thoughts to your mama and your family.

Praying for your little mama! And for the nurses and doctors and daughters caring for her.

Much love to you and your Mom.

Filling water pitchers was MY favorite candy-striper duty, too! Also I liked delivering flowers and magazines, especially to the new moms.

Your mum is in my thoughts, as is the rest of your family . . . here's to a smooth, quick recovery!

I hate being useless, and all I can do is send up prayers and well-wishes for your mama. You've had a tough go here lately, but your mad skilz as a writer aren't languishing, and today's post was throat-tightening and uplifting all at once (like we didn't know girl's got talent). Please be well, and strong for little mama, and maybe rub some yarn on her fingers, and kisses and squeezes and tell her quiet stories, even when she's sleeping. And keep going. If life were simple, we wouldn't appreciate it nearly as much. xxooxx Cami

Lovely post. Thinking about you here downunder. Knit on.

Sweetpea...keep knitting in the ICU. I made Linus Blanket after blanket when my mom was in there (I had really just started knitting). I think it helped create calm for everyone, including her. My thoughts are with you and your family...

My grandmother was an Auxiliary gift shop volunteer at Stanford for years and years and years (and the Children's Library at the Palo Alto Clinic is now named for her). (And I didn't know about the cocktails afterwards, but it makes perfect sense.) I remember those Candy Stripers vividly from when I was a little girl.

Best wishes for your mama. I'm sure these are hard times.

Damn, I'm mad as hell (from two posts ago). How could anyone ever say anything bad like that to you? I don't know you personally, but I can't imagine you are anything other than an angel. Your mama is in good hands. Give her a big kiss on the cheek.

Rachael: You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers. God bless you and all you do. Thanks for your 911 post - and congrats on Dispatcher of the Year. You're the BEST! hugs - Jennifer

I don't suppose you still have the outfit. Um, just askin' *g*

Best thoughts heading in your direction for you and your lil' mama.

Well, I know that I would instantly feel better knowing that my mom was in a knitter's hands (well at least part of the time) Lots of hugs and prayers coming to you both!!

Very nice post except for the bad part about your mom being there! Best wishes for good healing for your mom. Hugs.

Best wishes for your mother's recovery.
Glad you could be there with her.
I am sure that will help her!

I'm glad to know your mom's doing better, hope she keeps improving! You look beautiful in that sweater, btw! Great job!!!

aw sweetie! my mom had CHF too, and I feel for what you are going through - sending all my good energy and healing vibes to your mama! stay strong and don't forget to take care of yourself too as I know this can be stressful - knitting def helps relieve that !

Bless your heart for writing such a nice well-rounded post, given the trying circumstances. Honestly Rachael, you slay me.

Love + warm hugs to your and your mum. xxx

I loved, loved, loved, loved, loved being a candy-striper back in the early '70's. I was also painfully shy and weighed in at 90 pounds but felt so powerful and competent in my striped cotton dress. Not the forum to share all but thank Dog for hospital knitting. I've a good start on a large afghan. Hope your mom is home soon. g

Striking. Just a striking, striking post. Dude, been there, done that with my wonderful pop-pop. My heart is with you.

Great post. Nicely written. I hope your Mom feels better soon.

I am praying your mom gets better!
And thanks for the vision of the pink and white life you once led, you always complete every picture!

Good wishes, prayers, and thoughts to you, your mother, and the rest of your family!!!

My thoughts are with you. My mother had a cancer scare earlier in the year - guess we are at the age now where our parents will have health problems.

I hope she gets better - sending out good vibes for the little momma.

Lots of love to you and La and the beasts,

My thoughts are with you and your family...I hope that your mom is doing and feeling better very soon!

Delurking here, to send prayers and good wishes to you and your family. I hope your Mum is feeling better soon.

I spent a month (my honeymoon and then some) by my husband's bedside just glad to see him breathe. Food poisoning. I wasn't a knitter yet but got some embroidery to keep me sane. My heart goes out to you.

Today I'm emailing you a photo that I hope makes you giggle.

Rachael - my thoughts go out to you and your family right now. I'm glad you have each other and Lala there. Little Mama is surrounded by LOVE! Knitting definitely helps! Those Aux ladies are amazing - my grandmother was one in Atlanta. They remind me of those ladies that bring the casseroles in times of need. They just do it because that's who they are!

I've been thinking healthy, recuperative thoughts for your mother. I'm so sorry. Hospitals are miserable places to have to be, and the TVs (I wrote TBs first Ha!) are horrific. Knitting is good and important and you can pay attention to your mom while you're doing it.

I'm thinking very good thoughts for your little mama. I honestly don't know what we would do without knitting in a hospital!

Warm fuzzies for you, your little mama, and the rest of your family. Glad to hear you're hanging in there, and have your knitting. (I agree that TV in the hospital is weird. It feels intrusive to me, somehow. I always read or knit.) Hopefully the little mama will get to go home soon.

First, best wishes for a speedy recovery for your mama. Second, as a former candy striper myself, I loved your writing. Very true, very real and a nice ending. Kudos.

Hey Rachael - I just want you to know that I'm thinking about your and your little mama. Best to you both and your family, as well. xo.

One of those posts where you smile and cry at the same time (love the cell phone photo snapping candy striper image).
All sorts of good thoughts and get well wishes and strong karma and anything I can dig up from the bottom of my heart to you and your Mom.

I'm so sorry to hear about Little Mama! I know she's in great hands though - both her family and the medical staff. I too was a candy striper in the mid-80's in NC. Now, in my mid-30s, work at that very same hospital. The 'Junior Volunteers' wear polo shirts and khaki pants without a bit of pink to be found. I'm a little bit sad for them. They missed out on the experience of wearing the pink striped dress and white orthopedic shoes and the little cap. Yep, makes me sad for them.

Hi there.
I've been a lurker on (to?) your blog for a while, starting when Digit returned (the thought of which still makes tears spring to my eyes). I was a candy-striper when I was about 14, too, though we had smocks that stapped under our arms instead of spiffy dresses. I'm glad to hear that you were able to find another knitter to bond with while your mom's not so well...

Sending healing thoughts to you and your mom. Let me know if I can take care of anything for you up here.

And you took the time to write -- really *write* -- this post, which is (part of) why you are so lovely.

Much love to you and mama, of course.

Love and good thoughts coming your way from so many folks - me included.

oh rachael -- i can so totally relate to this -- chf,etc going on with my 69 y.o. mom, too -- haven't been by your blog in a long while and was very sad to read of your mom -- i am so sorry and will pray for you all...

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