Silver Bells, Red Buckets, White Gloves

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.

Church Bells

Church Bells (Photo credit: ishyam79)

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.

Raising Xmas fund for Salvation Army (LOC)

(Photo credit: The Library of Congress)

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.

Categories: Music | Tags: , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

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9 thoughts on “Silver Bells, Red Buckets, White Gloves

  1. Kathy

    Found myself thinking those very words in that song as I drove to my part-time job in an elementary school Monday morning, as I passed pink ribbons that lined the road Emily Parker’s family would drive into town to bury her after Newtown’s tragedy forever changed their life. That last verse is so very reassuring! Beautiful story, Kami. I’m eager for this book…I want the full story. And I liked the “sibling surprises” what a way with words!


  2. The Poets in our past really knew how to write well. Glad someone put that one to music. Hope is inherent in so many songs of the season. I’m happy to know that our hometown of Ogden has embraced the Parker’s in as many ways as they can. Thanks for being such an observant and caring reader of my work. I’m eager for it to be finished as well, looking forward to see how it ends myself.


  3. Leanne

    Thanks for sharing, Mom. I needed this!!!!! And I’m thankful for those small handfuls of coins you gave to Lori and I to give. I’m trying to do the same with Anilee. 🙂


  4. It’s nice to know that there are some people left who still enjoy Christmas carols.


  5. Mama Jo

    As usual, your writing has almost brought me to tears. I too, am very anxious to read your book when it is finished. In fact, I hope it is finished before it is my turn to part this life. At my age, that is something I always wonder about – how long that may be. Hopefully a good many years with your Dad and my loving husband. Thank you so much for your choosing to do a blog. It lifts me up each time I read one. Love, Mom


    • I’m working through it. I hope you’re around another 25 years or more. I think you and dad are healthier than I am, actually. I’m glad you’re enjoying the writing. I’m enjoying doing it. Love ya!


  6. Pingback: Carol of the Bells, Boston Pops « music for the soul

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