i entered the clubhouse of the paradise united methodist church after an absence of four months and found instant warmth and welcome from the five women gathered there. dorothy had invited me to come help make gift bags for the residents of new horizons, the assisted living facility in wild horse plains, montana.
dorothy, betty, and charlotte had gone shopping a few days before to purchase the gift items; the others, judy, mary lou, and shirley were there, like me, to create the bags. dorothy handed me a white gift bag and told me to let my creative juices flow. wow! what fun!
she brought a boxful of sewing notions left over from projects in years past. others brought magic markers, colored pencils, and photos of the two churches in paradise and plains. shirley must have been a stamper in the past, because he brought christmas stamps and ink pads for us to use in decorating the bags. dorothy brought a hot glue gun to use in attaching the various colorful ribbons and balls to the bags.
dorothy had a list of the thirteen residents, and each of us personalized their christmas gift bags. after an hour, the bags were done. then came the fillings--candy, candy canes, an orange, an apple, a cross in your pocket card with a cross, and finally, a red-ribboned christmas bell. we left the red ribbon hanging out of each bag, anticipating how each person would pull that out of the bag first and put it around their neck.
i was saddened when i chose the names of the people for whom i wanted to make the bags, as i had my favorites every thursday when we went to new horizons to sing, talk, laugh,and reminisce.
"why isn't phyllis' name on the list?" i asked, remembering the small 94-year-old witty, bright woman who had captured my heart.
"phyllis died in october," answered judy. my heart sank. i was looking forward to seeing her most of all. i knew phyllis would be fine wherever she was, so i was sad only for myself and the others who will miss her.
soon, our job was completed. we cleaned up and departed for lunch at kathy's whistlestop cafe. we'll go to new horizons on thursday with the gift bags. we'll sing christmas carols accompanied by cliff on his guitar, joke, listen to each other's holiday memories, and i'll become attached to a new resident.
like i said, there's no place like small town montana.