The smell of pines. The warmth of sunshine breaking through the trees. The sounds of birds in the branches calling to the morning. A path, carpeted with pine needles, led to a one and a half-story white stucco building, a homey place smelling of freshly baked bread. A psychiatric hospital for older women. In a dayroom, twelve ladies, secured in their tray-chairs and dressed in their best Sunday cottons, were waiting for me, sound asleep.
Except for Greta and Tryntje.
“Hoitie, Hoitie, you’re here today!” Greta welcomed me at the half-door, her black hair pulled back tightly into a bun, shoulders rounded, Bible pressed against her chest.
“Hey la-a-a-y-dee. Hey la-a-a-y-dee,” Tryntje sang from the right-hand corner. She sat straight up on a vinyl-padded armchair, legs stretched out on a stool. Her short gray bob framed a child-like grin.
“Morning, Greta. Morning, Tryntje.” I grinned as I turned my key in the door; their simple joy was contagious.
A day later [after students had been let go], a note in my student mailbox summoned me to the office of the director of the School of Nursing. I took my time going through the archway to her office in the hospital. She sat, stiff and starched, behind her desk in her white, impeccable, long-sleeved uniform and winged cap, facing me. Her voice was soft. “Miss Hoitenga, your instructors aren’t sure you should be here.”
Wham. I’d survived the purge, but now that I’d decided to stay, were they going to humiliate me by sending me home? What would my folks say?
“I hear there’s a problem with your attitude on the ward.”