When you’re a kid, time can really drag. When we’re younger, clocks move slower, school years grind on, and months can feel like eons. The idea of something happening 30 years earlier is unimaginable; it might as well have happened several lifetimes ago. Of course, given that that feeling usually has its heyday when we’re teenagers, three decades was a lifetime – and then some!
If you’ve ever had one of those dreams wherein you’re trying to run away from a bad guy or a monster or your homeroom teacher – but your feet seem to be stuck in the mud – you might understand the sluggishness to which I’m alluding. When you’re a kid, that’s how time seems to move. It’s slow. Real. Freaking. Slow.
This effect was most keenly felt during December. As a kid who got really excited about Christmas – for all the shallow reasons, mostly – I, like millions of other kids, woke up every day during the month wishing it was Christmas Eve. In our house, December 24th meant an annual visit to our favorite neighbors’ house around 3 p.m. or so, where there would be games, more soda and other sugary treats than normal, and lots of fun. Then, around 6 or 7 o’clock, we’d head over to my paternal grandmother’s house (the only grandparent I ever knew) for more of the same. All of which was followed the next day, of course, by the piece de resistance. Counting down to that frivolity, though, seemed to take forever.
A Cure for the Rambunctious
My aunt, who lived across the street, knew how anxious, excited (and probably annoying) my sister and I would get around the holidays. Patience may have been a virtue, but it was a virtue we did not observe. Anyway… my aunt was into crafts, and was always making something or another. One year, at Thanksgiving, she brought over what she called “an early Christmas gift” for me and my sister. It was essentially a piece of felt measuring about three feet long. At the top was another piece of felt shaped like a bell. There was even a small “jingle bell” attached for effect. Tied to the longer piece of felt with red and green yarn were 24 individual candies.
Just underneath the jingle bell, a piece of material bearing a short poem was attached, as well. I can still recite the poem by heart:
“December 1st to Christmas
Is the longest time of the year
It seems as though old Santa
Will never appear
How many days ’til Christmas?
It’s mighty hard to count
And so this candy ribbon
Will help tell the exact amount
Untie one candy every night
When the sandman casts his spell
And Christmas Eve will be here
By the time you reach the bell”
Casting aside the questionable wisdom of giving kids a dose of sugar right before bed, my sister and I were immediately excited about the beginning of December! Candy and counting? Well, it was an educational gift… sort of. We loved it.
We still love it. Of the two of us, my sister is the “crafty” one, and it was she who copied my aunt’s design. Though neither my sister nor I have children of our own, we have each continued the tradition of putting up a similar bell in our own homes each December. It’s a fun, delicious tradition. In fact, just this year, my wife and I had my sister make one for our neighbors, who have kids of 16, 14 and 11. They got Lindt milk chocolate candies, while my wife and I opted for dark chocolate for ours. All of us owe a debt of gratitude to whichever home magazine from which my aunt probably got the initial idea.
The tradition lives on. In our house, each recitation of the poem is followed by a tapping of the jingle bell and a brief recreation of the exchange between George Bailey and his daughter during the final scene of Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
ZUZU: Teacher says, every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings.
GEORGE: Well that’s right, Zuzu. That’s right. Thanks, Clarence.
What can I say? I’m a little dramatic. So what? “Ham” is expected at Christmas, right? Ha! See what I did there? So, yeah, thanks Clarence!
Time moves a lot faster now that we’re older, but there’s nothing like slowing down a little during the bustling holiday season to celebrate family, memories and the hope for sweet tomorrows.
Merry Christmas everyone! And to all, a great 24 nights!