They sorted through the bags looking for the tags, checking the numbers. This year they can read the numbers on our Advent calendar themselves.
22 . . . 19 . . . 18 . . .12 . . .9 . . . 11 . . . 8 . . . 6
Even before the book is out of the cloth bag, jolly with gingerbread men, they start exclaiming, the little one peering over the big one’s shoulder.
“Oh, I LOVE that book!”
“Me too! I luv it”
And then “Can we read it now?”
I sit on the couch and snuggle in on either side of me, a red head resting on one side, the a blond one on the other. I melt into that middle.
“On Christmas eve, many years ago,” I begin.
My big girl half shivers next to me, anticipating the rest of the story, and leans in a little closer. I smile and keep reading.
I heard the bell for many years, but then nothing. I worried that I’d never hear it again, that Christmas would be quiet and dim in our house.
Even though this month is still full of shadows, light has returned—the gentle glow of the Christmas tree, the warming light of the fire, the dancing excitement in my girls’ eyes.
They run around the house sometimes singing “Jingle Bells” and shaking the bracelets they made with tiny bells pipe cleaners. It’s a tinny sound, but in that enthusiasm, I can almost hear the richer, magical tones of that other bell.
When I’m done reading, we sit for a minute in the warmth and light and quiet before, I prompt them, “Time to get ready.”
The sky, and with it the room, has brightened. The bus will be here soon. In the bright kitchen, I stir oatmeal and call out to the girls to get dressed, but throughout the day there is that moment of peace and warm light and maybe a little magic.
Do you hear the bell at Christmas?
In the comments, share something that gives you comfort or joy this time of year.
I signed my kids up for the summer reading program at the library today. K wants to log enough hours for a small stuffed dog. Last summer it was a hula hoop. I don’t remember prizes when I was kid. I do remember coloring 50 segments of a dragon poster, one for each book I read. I finished it easily. Now, reading 50 books (if I don’t count picture books read over and over) in a full year is a feat.
My current stack: a mix of memoir, YA, fiction, mystery, and writing guide
When my girls were infants, I read more than I expected. I was sitting for hours a day feeding a baby, and I could read while I did that. When K was a baby, I reread childhood favorites mostly: Little House on the Prairie, Little Women, A Little Princes, The Secret Garden . . . When E was born, I jumped around reading gardening and food books, memoirs, and mysteries. I read late at night when I should have gone to bed and during nap time and in the pale dark morning light. Then they grew and started to interact and move, and my reading slowed down again.
Still, I keep a stack of books by my chair. Usually at least one has one of E’s watercolor bookmarks in it. I read at night, and if it’s a particularly gripping book, I keep reading in any spare moment I can find. I had just wrapped up Unbroken before vacation, but the beach has not been book friendly to me for years.
Then came last week. My sisters stacked beach chairs and boogie boards in the car, while I made sandwiches and packed up the towels and sunscreen. I don’t know what made me do it, but I tucked a book in my bag, shoving it under a towel as though I didn’t want anyone to see it.
Last year, I couldn’t imagine ever reading at the beach again. And yet this year, I packed a book—and I read a chapter.
I chose carefully, mind you. Molly Wizenberg’s Delancey has short chapters. It isn’t deep or complicated. You don’t need to follow a complex narrative. It’s interesting but not so gripping you can’t put it down.
I read a chapter of a book at the beach, and it felt like a small miracle. I’m coming out of a time when I couldn’t imagine reading the beach or making dinner while my kids played outside or writing several times a week, all things that I’ve settled into this year.
Looking ahead to this vacation, I was excited to get a dose of the ocean. As I drove, I realized too that I was also looking forward to having help. My kids would run with their cousins instead of telling me they were bored. My sisters would deal with a meltdown while I got dinner on plates or send somebody back to bed while I organized stuff for the beach the next day. We’d all see what needed to be done and step in and do it. So even though I was still figuring out meals and changing the little girl who wet the bed, even though I was packing for the beach and finishing the grocery list, it felt like vacation. I got a little break. I laughed. I was in one of my favorite places with my clan. And I got to read.
What are you reading this summer? (Or what’s in your want to read stack?)