Michelle shuffled forward, shivering as the cold biting wind pierced her loose tattered clothing.
Snow swirled around her as she clutched a small box in her coat pocket.
She managed a smile, thinking of how happy her daughter would be when she opened the gift.
“She’s really gonna like this …” Her thought was interrupted as a rescue van passed, siren blaring and lights flashing, sliding to a stop a block away.
“Goodness. It stopped in front of my apartment building.”
Her heart raced as she quickened her pace and joined a group of people watching on the sidewalk. Paramedics worked feverishly on a young girl lying motionless on the cold dark street.
“What happened?” she asked, putting her hand to her mouth.
“The little girl was hit by a car,” a bystander said.
“Oh, how awful,” she sympathized, “and on Christmas Eve.”
“Mommy!” a voice called from behind.
“Becky,” she replied as her young daughter raced for a hug.
“Mommy, is that little girl gonna be OK?”
“Don’t know honey. I hope so,” Michelle answered worriedly.
The little girl was carefully moved onto a stretcher and then placed into the rescue van. The doors closed and the van sped away.
“Come on Becky, let’s get out of this cold,” Michelle said.
They retreated to the relative warmth of their sparse small one-room apartment.
“Why don’t you go and put the paper ornaments we made on the tree while I fix dinner,” Michelle suggested.
Becky proceeded to put the homemade ornaments on the small green Christmas tree.
A few minutes later they sat down at the kitchen table and stared at the small portion of ham, mashed potatoes, and green beans.
“Mommy, I’m not hungry,” Becky said in a subdued voice.
“Why not?” Michelle questioned.
“Because I keep thinking about that little girl, mommy.”
“I’m not hungry either,” Michelle agreed. “Why don’t we sing Christmas songs?”
They struggled to sing Jingle Bells.
“Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells … sigh,” they started and then stopped.
“I’m just not into this,” Michelle stated, “I keep thinking about that little girl.”
“Me too, mommy.”
Complete silence blanketed the room.
“I have an idea,” Michelle blurted out, “I’ve got a present for you.”
She walked to the closet to get her gift for Becky.
“Close your eyes,” she requested as she smiled.
She unboxed the gift and set it in front of Becky.
“Open your eyes!” Michelle happily commanded.
Becky looked and smiled as she saw a beautiful miniature carousel sporting brightly colored horses and playing soft-spoken music.
She took the gift into her hands and marveled at it.
“Thanks mommy,” she beamed.
The brief happiness soon passed as sadness returned.
“Honey, what’s wrong?” Michelle asked as she frowned.
“Mommy, what if that little girl is hurt bad?”
“It makes me sad too,” Michelle said empathetically.
Becky looked up at her mother.
“Mommy, let’s go to the hospital and see if she’s OK.”
“Please mommy,” Becky continued.
Michelle thought a moment. “It’s cold and windy, and we’d have quite a walk. And I’m not sure she was taken to the hospital down the street.”
Not having a phone, Michelle realized it was either go to the hospital or worry.
“OK. Put your coat on and we’ll go see,” Michelle decided.
They began their journey down the cold deserted street. Becky clutched the carousel in her gloved hands.
After about twenty minutes, they reached the hospital and approached the information desk.
“May I help you?” the receptionist asked.
Michelle replied, “hello. I came to see about a little girl who was hit by a car a few blocks away and maybe brought here.”
“I heard about that,” the receptionist responded. “Go down the hallway to the end,” she said pointing to the right.
They walked down the white neon-lit corridor toward a sign that read ‘Emergency Room’. She approached a tall thin man in a white coat.
“Excuse me sir, I was looking for a little girl who was maybe brought here tonight. She was hit by a car.”
“Yeah,” the man replied, “a little girl named Lisa. Came in a while back. In pretty bad shape though. She’s upstairs for tests and X-rays.”
“Do you know how she is?” Michelle inquired.
“Nope. Are you family or friends of hers?”
“No,” Michelle sighed, “just wondering how she’s doing.”
“We’ve been trying to contact her parents or a family member,” he added, “someone told us that both parents are in Europe for the holidays.”
“Too bad,” Michelle reflected.
Becky tugged on her mother’s coat.
“Mommy, can we see her and wish her a Merry Christmas?”
Michelle looked at the white-coated man. “Could we see her?”
He thought a moment. “Why don’t you go to the waiting room. I’m the emergency room doctor tonight and when I get a moment I will see what I can do.”
As they sat in the almost empty waiting room, Becky took the carousel out of her coat pocket. She wound it up again and the soft soothing music seemed to be a blessing to the somber silence before them.
After nearly an hour, the doctor in the white coat returned.
“You can come to Lisa’s room for a few minutes,” he offered.
They stood up and followed the doctor down another corridor.
Entering one of the glass-enclosed rooms, they saw Lisa lying motionless, eyes closed, with wires and tubes attached to her small bruised body.
Michelle approached and touched her hand.
“The next few hours are critical for her,” the doctor said in a low voice.
“Can she talk, mommy?” Becky asked.
“Not right now, honey,” Michelle replied.
Moments later, a man dressed in a black tuxedo appeared at the door.
“Hello, I’m this girl’s uncle. How is she?”
“It’s touch and go right now,” the doctor said, motioning for everyone to leave the room.
Lisa’s uncle and the doctor talked for a few moments as they walked out into the hallway.
“Who are those people?” the uncle asked, looking in the direction of Michelle and Becky.
“They were concerned about Lisa,” the doctor replied. “They walked quite a distance in the cold wind and snow to come here to see about her.”
“They look like beggars, dressed like that,” the uncle said with an air of arrogance.
Michelle, with Becky in-hand, approached them.
“We best be going now,” she said.
“Mr. Doctor,” Becky asked innocently, “would it be OK if I gave this Christmas carousel to Lisa?”
The doctor looked at Michelle and then back at Becky.
“Sure, but you want to give it away?” the doctor questioned. “Looks like a really pretty carousel to me.”
“Maybe it could help her get better,” Becky offered.
“It’s OK with me,” Michelle said.
“Why don’t you put it on the table beside Lisa’s bed.”
Becky wound up the carousel, set it on the table and left, as the soft and simple carousel music played.
“We’re gonna go. Hope everything will be OK,” Michelle said as they turned and walked away.
The doctor turned to Lisa’s uncle.
“They seem like two really nice people.”
“Yeah, I think maybe you are right about that,” the uncle agreed. “When I first saw them I admit I was a bit harsh. It’s been a long day.”
The doctor added with a smile, “it’s people like that who remind guys like you and me what is really important.”