Editor’s Note: Erma Bombeck is one of my all-time favorite writers. I was a huge fan of her columns which ran in our local paper while I was growing up & to this day, one of the highest compliments I can receive on a piece of my writing is that it reminds a reader of Erma. Her self-deprecating humor not only provided many smiles but also comforted those of us who didn’t feel like we lived up to the Beaver Cleaver images of family & motherhood. When she passed away in 1996, I felt like I’d lost a family member.
While I have several favorite “Erma” essays — and many can be found in her book Forever, Erma: Best-Loved Writing From America’s Favorite Humorist — the one below is my all-time Christmas sentiment. Merry Christmas, Everybody!
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Christmas Chimes ~ by Erma Bombeck
Everything is in readiness.
The tree is trimmed. The cards taped to the door frame. The boxes stacked in glittering disarray under the tree.
Why don’t I hear chimes?
Remember the small boy who made the chimes ring in a fictional story years ago? As the legend went, the chimes would not ring unless a gift of love was placed on the altar. Kings and men of great wealth placed untold jewels there, but year after year the church remained silent.
Then one Christmas Eve, a small child in a tattered coat made his way down the aisle, and without anyone noticing he took off his coat and placed it on the altar. The chimes rang out joyously throughout the land to mark the unselfish giving of a small boy.
I used to hear chimes.
I heard them the year one of my sons gave me a tattered piece of construction paper on which he had crayoned two hands folded in prayer and a moving message, OH COME HOLY SPIT!
I heard them the year I got a shoe box that contained two baseball cards and the gum was still with them.
I heard them the Christmas they all got together and cleaned the garage.
They’re gone, aren’t they? The years of the lace doilies fashioned into snowflakes … the hands traced in plaster of paris … the Christmas trees of pipe cleaners … the thread spools that held small candles. They’re gone.
The chubby hands that clumsily used up $2 worth of paper to wrap a cork coaster are sophisticated enough to take a number and have the gift wrapped professionally.
The childish decision of when to break the ceramic piggy bank with a hammer to spring the 59 cents is now resolved by a credit card.
The muted thump of pajama-covered feet padding down the stairs to tuck her homemade crumb scrapers beneath the tree has given way to pantyhose and fashion boots to the knee.
It’ll be a good Christmas. We’ll eat too much. Make a mess in the living room. Throw the warranties into the fire by mistake. Drive the dog crazy taping bows to his tail. Return cookies to the plate with a bite out of them. Listen to Christmas music.
But Lord … what I would give to bend low and receive a gift of toothpicks and library paste and hear the chimes just one more time!