silver bells

by Chérie B. Stihler

Each year at the holidays I enjoy sharing several stories and creating
seasonal crafts with my students. A few years ago, I arranged a treat for my first grade class.
We had just enjoyed Polar Express by Chris van Alsburg . In the story a little boy is transported
to the North Pole and is given one of the magical silver sleigh bells from Santa's reindeer
as the first gift of the season. We were running a little behind schedule so the students

had to scamper off to gym. While they were gone, I had the school secretary write on
our class' letter to Santa: "Be kind to each other. Mr. C. " Mr. C. of course, is Santa Claus.
Large silver jingle bells on short leather straps were hidden in student pencil boxes,
cubbies and on their journals. There was a bell for each student. I then went down to

join my class at play and create an "alibi" for myself. When they returned, the students
excitedly ran around the room discovering the bells. The note scratched on their letter to Santa
drew startled gasps and knowing nods. For many weeks after this little treat, the tinkling sounds
of those merry bells could be heard in the halls from student backpacks. It was wonderful.

The following year my assignment changed to be a second-grade classroom. Several of my former students
followed me into that class. At the start of the school year, I began to round up the craft materials
and the supplies needed for the first few months. Again I looked for large silver jingle bells.
There were no silver jingle bellsto be found. There were seemingly thousands of gold colored bells.
Undaunted, I extended my search to the Internet and involved family and friends "Outside" and even Canada.
Still we could find only gold colored bells. Weeks and months passed until the holidays were again near.

I was not thrilled at the prospect of using gold colored bells, but I wanted to keep the tradition going.
I went to the craft store to purchase the bells. But there were not enough bells for my class at the first store.
I bought what I could and with a true Alaskan spirit continued on my quest
around town. Four stores later, I was able to scrape just enough bells together for my class.

I was disappointed that the surprise was not going to happen this year:
I could not find an adult "accomplice" to write the note or hide the bells,

the bells were the wrong color, and then that morning a new student arrived in my class.
We were now short one bell. It all seemed to be falling apart.

"Well, at least we can still have cocoa and enjoy the story together. "
I sighed to myself while the students were at gym. I put on the hot water for cocoa

and then discovered that my large can of cocoa was missing. Nothing seemed to be
going well for this project. Shortly before I was to pick up the students from the gym,
a parent arrived to take his child to a dentist appointment. Normally, I am disappointed
when a student has to miss an activity or project, but that day I was almost elated.
I made a note to buy another bell that night for the student who had to leave early ,
said a quiet prayer of thanksgiving, and then went down the hall to pick up the students.

The students watched a brief video of the story while I tied green ribbons onto the gold-colored bells.
During our journal time I began to distribute the bells. The students were delighted to have a jingle bell
like the one from the story. Several students were gathered around my desk giggling and jingling
~ sharing their joy with the bells. It was then that one of the students from the year before

made the observation "Yeah, but last year they were silver - just like the story."
In a moment, another student gasped and stammered in an almost breathless reverence
"Those silver ones must have been REAL!"
The other students, now wide-eyed, nodded in solemn appreciation.
I smiled and continued to tie on ribbons while humming my new favorite holiday tune "silver bells……"


©2001Chérie B. Stihler , first published Chalkdust Online, December 2002

Winner first place - Tanana Valley State Fair - adult humorous anecdote division (2002)