Jennifer Z. Major
Silver Bells, Silver Bells, it's Christmastime in the city...bummer I'm so sad...
Why the song Silver Bells gives me the shivers...
When I was little, maybe 6 years old, we moved from an idyllic spot in the country, to a grey, damp apartment in the city. I had no idea of the grown-up reason we left a place where we only had to come inside once the sun was going down. All I knew was, I was a very sad and scared little girl.
For some reason, it seemed to me that it rained more in the city. Even though we were at most, an hour by car from our old place, where it was sunny all the time.
As our first Christmas in the city approached, my little heart grew heavier and heavier. There was nowhere to run free and play. Just streets, cars, and concrete, everywhere I looked.
We went to a small school, and it was a bit of a hike, literally uphill all the way. As our Christmas holidays approached, so did the school concert. Our class practiced “Silver Bells”. I cannot tell you how much I hated that song. I still loathe it. Seriously loathe it.
So, why did I hate that song? Our little apartment didn’t twinkle and shine like our old place in the country. I knew Santa would never find us in all that concrete. And I was heartbroken. Yes, I knew my mom was doing her best. She and my grandmother and us 3 kids, all soldiering on in the big, ugly, wet city.
I don’t remember the concert. I remember walking home, all alone. I still don’t know why my siblings weren’t with me. I think they went on ahead because I was too slow. Anyway, I was carrying a giant stack of crafts, ones that I’d lost myself in during their painstaking creation. I had them in a brown shopping bag with raffia handles. The problem was, it was raining sideways. The bag, and my pretty costume, probably made by my very gifted seamstress mother, were all getting sopping wet. As I trudged down the busy street, past the car dealership and the other businesses, I got splashed by uncaring people who drove through giant puddles. By the time I neared the bottom of the hill, and the last long block to our apartment, I was a wet rat with long red hair and a useless bag of ruined crafts.
ALL I could give my mom for Christmas was what was in that bag. I was inconsolable. Everything was within an inch of being ruined.
I saw two rich looking ladies on the sidewalk. They had fur stoles, arms full of bright shopping bags with pretty patterns, and they smelled like old lady powder and diamonds.
I planned on going around them. But I guess it’s hard to ignore a red-headed Arabian princess in her baggy, sopping wet, yellow satin princess pants and her cardboard and fabric pillbox hat stuck on a head of long wet red hair.
They squealed when they saw me and demanded that I stop and show them my costume and all my crafts. When they realized that my brown paper bag was falling apart, they were all a’flutter about giving me one of their pretty bags. So in no time, I had a big new plastic bag, with handles and everything. They fussed and coo’ed over me like I was Beverly Sills and had only minutes to spare before I appeared onstage at The Met to wow the world. They sent me on my way, but before I left, I asked them why they were standing there in the rain.
I distinctly remember one saying “Oh, we’re just waiting for the bus, dearie. Off you go. Run along. Have a Merry Christmas.”
I made it home, and in no time was drying out by the radiator. But not too close so I wouldn’t burn myself. My grandmother peeled me out of my wet costume, and hung up my wet crafts so they could dry and not be ruined.
Weeks later, on my way back to school one sunny morning, I walked back up the hill and stopped where the rich ladies had been waiting for the bus.
Only, there wasn’t a bus stop there. No sign, no bench, no worn out grass from being trod upon by people waiting…nothing. Not anywhere on that block. The closest one was at least two blocks up the hill.
I stood there, staring at the sidewalk, feeling like I’d been jolted by electricity.
Never doubt, my friends, that God will meet your deepest need. For me, it was two angels dressed like rich ladies, who fussed and bothered over a sad little girl, and who gave me a shopping bag to keep my treasures safe. A pretty bag to bring colour to a rainy day.
And every time I walked past that spot, I remembered that God said hello during my first “Christmastime in the city”.