Hearing the bell (by Billy Coffey)

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The irony of Christmas (at least on the purely materialistic level) is that one waits all year for something that’s over in five minutes. Or rather, four minutes and thirty-seven seconds. That’s how long it took for my children to rip through the wrapping paper that covered their gifts. It looked like a blizzard of gold and green.

This wasn’t lost on the kids, whom afterward sat among the empty boxes and shredded paper wondering aloud if there was more. There wasn’t. Both were fine with that—their gifts were more than they expected, and neither have ever been the greedy sort. They simply wanted to stretch the moment out as long as possible.

I couldn’t blame them. As dramatic and exciting as the days leading up to Christmas can be to a child, the moments afterward can border on the depressing. Soon, the tree and the outside lights will be taken down. The snow will melt. School will resume. Life as they knew it would begin again in all its pall color. The magic would be left behind.

For a brief moment, I saw those thoughts on their faces. And I felt them on my own.


They’ve been watching The Polar Express a lot this year. It’s the new classic in the house, worthy of placement alongside A Charlie Brown Christmas and Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey. If you’ve never seen it, the plot revolves around a boy who has lost his belief in the magic of Christmas to the point where he can no longer hear the bells on Santa’s sleigh. It’s a fantastic movie, and quite spiritual in some places. At the end, the boy’s sense of magic is restored. Santa grants him the honor of receiving the first present of Christmas, and he asks for a bell that’s fallen from a reindeer harness. A bell he can hear ring once more.

I say that to say this:

When I walked upstairs on Christmas night to get some writing done, sitting on the top of my desk was one last present for me.

A bell.

No one would take credit as the Giver. Even now, two days later, I have no idea whose idea it was. But I’d like to thank him or her for it. It’s a reminder that Christmas doesn’t have to end on December 26th. The giving and the joy can continue on through the weeks and months.

I believe that. I do.

I will keep this bell here on my desk as a reminder. On those lightless days when the world seems drear and heavy, when the words will not come, I’ll pick it up and give it a good shake.

I figure as long as I can hear the bell ring, I’m okay.

To read more from Billy Coffey, visit him at at his website, follow him on the twitter at @billycoffey, and visiit his author page on Facebook.

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12 Responses to “Hearing the bell (by Billy Coffey)”

  1. Sharkbait December 27, 2010 at 2:53 am #

    Oooh. Anonymous bells?


  2. Wendy December 27, 2010 at 8:22 am #

    That is one ingenious gift!

  3. A Simple Country Girl December 27, 2010 at 9:34 am #

    I used to unwrap my gifts very methodically and slow, placing bows in a neat pile and re-folding wrapping paper for later use. It drove my younger sister batty, but it helped drag out that wonderful anticipatory feeling.

    And you are so right about the year-long joy–Christmas is just the beginning!


  4. Joanne Sher December 27, 2010 at 11:16 am #

    Love it. When I get that dreary feeling, I’ll think of your bell too 🙂

  5. Rebecca December 27, 2010 at 11:40 am #

    My kids and I have never gotten into the movie version of “The Polar Express,” but we love the book and the concept of the bell. We have a special one for our tree that my daughter loves to ring before hanging. After on the tree, it reminds me of Clarence in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” but before that it’s a symbol of hope and faith…on the other hand, maybe it is afterward, too. 😉

    Nice of someone to give you a symbol of hope and faith, as well, Billy. 🙂

  6. Maureen December 27, 2010 at 11:52 am #

    Great gift!

  7. laura December 27, 2010 at 12:09 pm #

    A very special gift–a wonderful reminder of the magic of Christmas. I don’t know, Billy…but you seem the kind of guy who will always be able to hear the bell.

  8. jasonS December 27, 2010 at 12:32 pm #

    Such a great lesson: to hear what can’t be heard or what others choose not to hear. Wonderful, Billy. Thanks.

  9. Melanie Gillon December 27, 2010 at 1:22 pm #

    Such a great gift and magical as to how it appeared. I love bells! I’ve wrapped gifts, especially for children, with a bell taped on the outside with candy canes instead of using a bow, it gives them something to play with or hang on the tree. Mine used to go around ringing their bell and say “every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings”. Thanks for the wonderful story, Billy. I love reading your posts. Happy New Year!!!

  10. Jeanne Damoff December 27, 2010 at 3:53 pm #

    Lovely! Merry Two-Days-After Christmas, Billy and Katdish. And a jingling New Year to you both.


  11. karen December 27, 2010 at 8:48 pm #

    Billy: I keep the Velveteen Rabbit near my desk to remind me that God loves me in my very worse state. I may have to tie a bell around the rabbit’s neck now.

  12. Helen December 28, 2010 at 8:54 am #

    There are 12 days of Christmas, Billy. You all can watch Polar Express for 9 more days!

    Happy Fourth Day of Christmas!

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