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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

On PGH duty: Christmas 2004

Christmas is a big family event in our home, with decors usually up soon after All Souls’ Day, get-togethers left and right. But the changing family dynamics over the last four years (my sister’s marriage and my stay in medical school plus my parents' eventual migration to the US) made this day extra special.

With six days to go before Christmas, nostalgia is an unwelcome guest, especially when the vistas it brings are wistful at best. A most memorable Christmas was in 2004. Here’s another blast from my blog past on why that particular Christmas was special.

And I hope I’d be able to endure this year’s…


December 23, 2004, 10.26 am

With most of my gifts left unwrapped, or worse, unbought; my Christmas cards unmailed, or worse still blank; and with the very cruel reality that I will spend Christmas eve for the first time outside of our home sans my family, and worse, in the hospital! since I am on duty from 7am of the 24th til 7am of the 25th: this Christmas is on the verge of becoming the worst Christmas of my life, displacing the current record-holder- being down with the flu while in Las Vegas last year (2003).

But then again, compared with Mary and Joseph’s constant rejection by innkeepers that first Christmas Eve and then our Lord and Savior eventual birth in a lowly manger soon after . . .

Yes, Virginia, I am Joe’s myopic, selfish, humble-pie-eating ingrate of a brain.

(Thank you, God, for the gift of Jesus, the Greatest Physician, the Most Eloquent Wordsmith, the Most Inspiring Leader, the Most Faithful Friend, the Most Obedient Son, the Most Caring Brother. May I become as close to the example He set as possible in my feeble humanity’s attempt to don these hats He’s worn.)


December 29, 2004 5.05 am

While most times I’d HATE it when I’m wrong, this Christmas, however, shooting way off target gave me immense joy and great relief. And how!

I thought going on duty during Christmas Eve was going to be sheer hell. While it still sucked, the timely apparition of my parents- and bearing food for us imprisoned slaves to boot!- did wonders in lifting my dreary holiday spirit. Just when I thought I’ve “outgrown” my need for parental warmth and affection, I received a megadose of TLC that almost wrung tears from eyes. The thirty minutes or so I spent with them that Christmas Eve was probably the most heartening half-hour we’ve had the past year.

And the food- aah yes- the food. My mom’s cooking was the stuff that made our Christmases at home complete. It was one of the major things I expected to be irreplaceable this Christmas. Nonetheless, our team on duty put together a meager dinner table so that we’ll all be as close to home as possible.

Our “meager” banquet- filled with potluck goodies brought with the idea that they should be enough to feed 30 or so people in mind- ended up as a feast that could have rivaled a Presidential State Dinner. Nope, the caviar and foie gras were ostensibly absent but in their stead, we had four different varieties of noodle dishes; delights from home like caldereta and deep-fried chicken; heaps of artery-clogging and corner-of-our-mouths-smearing pork barbecue; and most importantly- varied desserts ranging from ensaymadas, to puto, to chocolate cakes, and of course, the quintessential leche flan.

We had chow enough for us to come back for a second, third, even fourth round of Noche Buena feasting. We were only hampered by two things: One, that we were STILL on duty; thus we did carry on with our work in between trips to the buffet table. And second, we inevitably consumed all disposable spoons, forks, and plates. Then again, what are these hands for?! The feeding frenzy carried on into the wee hours of the morning.

One key factor that allowed us to observe the traditions of the typical Filipino Christmas Eve (read: stuff ourselves silly) was the relative dearth of patients who sought consult at the ER. There was approximately a 50% decline in the number of women who came to the hospital. We were expecting a deluge of women seeking to get the highly economical gift of co-celebrating their kid’s birthday with that of Jesus. God heeded our prayers: He delayed their labor pains for a few hours, enough for us to celebrate His Son’s coming the best way we could. And as for the babies He did give the honor of being born on the day His Son was said to have joined our party on earth- He gave their moms quick deliveries with just minor hitches here and there. For our entire duty, we didn’t list any morbidity or mortality.

As Ara Mina put it succinctly- you can never can tell. With all the good food, great friends, superb family, and safely delivered babies, I probably- unwittingly- had one of my most memorable Christmases ever.

Just 362 days til Christmas 2005.

I can’t wait.

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