The year my niece was born, at Christmas, I gave her a silver bell with the year engraved on it. I imagined giving her a bell each year until she turned 18. Then when she became an adult and had her own Christmas tree she’d have 18 silver bells with which to start her ornament collection.
A few years later, my nephew came along. I decided I must not be gender biased, and so he began receiving bells as well.
By the time my nephew turned five, the kids were on to the whole bell routine and my satisfaction as the gift-giver hit a bit of a low. It wasn’t as if the bells were ever their “real” present from me anyway. I was a pro. I brought Thomas the Train into that house; it subsequently became a years long obsession for my nephew. I introduced Wizard of Oz to my niece, complete with her own Dorothy dress, ruby slippers, picnic basket and Toto. By comparison, the bells seemed to be sort of an unappreciated hassle.
When I checked in with my brother (the kids’ dad) about this, he said, “Ruth, those bells are special. Eliminate all of the other gifts, but if you do anything, stick with the bells.” It was good advice. I can always count on him for wisdom.
So I kept it up. This morning, I ordered bells # 27 and 28 for the family tree. At 15, my niece is receiving her 16th bell; my 11 year old nephew will now have 12 in his collection.
I won’t be seeing them or the bells or the tree in person this year. This is the 2nd time in their lives that I’m celebrating in Los Angeles instead. Time to start a tradition for my west coast home. For one thing, we’ll be lighting the hanukkiah tonight. Andy still remembers how to say the prayers. Yeah, leave it to a shiksa like me to think of lighting a menorah as a Christmas tradition. Joy to the world, it’s Hanukkah. And on December 25th, I’ll have my niece point her lap top’s iChat camera at the big tree so I can see all the silver. Life isn’t the way I thought it would be, but then again, it’s pretty damn wonderful.