The following post is a tiny excerpt from my novel in progress. What blogger do you know doesn’t have a novel in progress? Contrary to the example here, my book isn’t a Christmas story. I just thought this little section was a timely blurb to share with you.
This ornament was a simple round disk with a raised image of two Christmas Bells in mid-ring, a ribbon flowing between them. She ran a finger around the bottom edges of the bells, which in real life would be heavy brass and cool to the touch. She smoothed her hand over the characteristic arching shapes, a goblet shape turned upside down. She imagined a velvety bow draping around the body of the bells. Her hand rested lightly on the small ornament, her eyes closed. Her breathing deepened, her muscles unwound. She appeared as if she were pronouncing a blessing on the object in her hand, but she felt as if she were receiving one.
When she had painted this bell ornament she had hummed to herself the tune to “Silver Bells,” and thought of the lyrics, which paint a peaceful backdrop to the hustle and chaos of the holiday season in the city. As she painted she had slipped into a reverie of chimes and music and calm.
Just the idea of church bells ringing to celebrate, warn, mourn or call had always fascinated her. Henry Wordsworth Longfellow’s poem turned hymn had always been a favorite. “Christmas Bells,” speaks of a man feeling the hopelessness of war, who hears the bells, and as Longfellow writes, “then pealed the bells more loud and deep, God is not dead, nor doth He sleep. The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, good will to men.” The bells spoke to a man’s bereft heart. She believed church bells would speak to her given the chance, but there were no churches with bell towers in her hometown.
When she had visited in the South, on nearly every corner in the bigger cities it seemed there was a massive stone church with a bell tower. She imagined Sunday mornings when those bells might have summoned parishioners, Christmas’s when heralding midnight mass, Easter’s chiming rebirth, the somber dong of death and, of course, joyous wedding bells clanging.
When Bell Carolers became popular she secretly dreamed of being one of those white-gloved bell ringers. She could picture herself gracefully ringing her select notes in perfect time and harmony to create a sound that filled every hearer with a sense that all was right with the world. Such dreams!
As a child she was also fascinated by the bell-ringer on the corner with the red kettle, as she and her mother would cross slushy Main street while Christmas shopping for sibling surprises. Later, as a young mother herself, when money was scarce at Christmas, the Salvation Army bells seemed to populate every sidewalk and storefront. Her own children were curious too, as she had been.
As a young, struggling family, with few resources and even less money, she resented the tinny, almost whiney ring.
Then, one year, she decided to change her tune. She planned to always carry coins and a few one-dollar bills in her pocket or an outside section of her purse. Then she could easily slip some money into the palms of her children and let them drop some coins into the red bucket. “Merry Christmas,” they’d say and the bell-ringer would echo back. As corny and prosaic as it sounds, it was still true that the tone of those bells changed from tin to gold that year.
Over a month’s span of shopping, she might end up sharing ten or twenty dollars in change and small bills, nothing difficult when it goes out in such small increments, even in a tight year. What she got in return was intangible and somewhat fleeting, but it was a small good thing amid the chaos and stress.
Christmas holidays, for her, were defined by the music. What would Christmas be without Bing Crosby’s crooning, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s harmony, Nat King Cole’s tender bass or the sound of a bell on a street corner? It would just be another month to slog through. But with its distinctive music, Christmas held a magic no other holiday possessed.
With this small bell ornament in her hand, a talisman of sorts, time seemed to slow slightly. She thought perhaps there was a chance for peace, if not “peace on earth,” then perhaps at least, peace for her.