Silver Bells

I’m writing Christmas cards while rewatching the film, Carol, on Netflix. It’s not a Christmas movie, but takes place around Christmas. (I’m actually not a fan of Christmas movies but do enjoy movies with that holiday as a backdrop.) While the film is a beautiful depiction of a forbidden love affair between two women in the 1950s, it speaks to me for another reason. The film has a strong sense of time and place. The younger woman works in a department store, the kind my grandmother shopped in when I was a child. In the film, the women take a trip together and stay in roadside motels along the way and in a luxury hotel in Chicago. The older woman’s white suitcases even remind me of those my mother owned, which were probably a wedding gift.

During one scene in the film, the Christmas song ‘Silver Bells’ plays on the radio. The first time I watched this scene, in the movie theater, I felt an overwhelming sense of longing for the Christmases of my childhood and missed my mother so much it hurt. Mom made Christmas so special. I remember sitting in our living room one night just before Christmas … the room was decorated to perfection, as always. The lights were low. Candles were lit and had a pine scent (or maybe that was the tree). A Christmas album was playing. It felt so cozy and warm. I just sat there alone on the sofa and absorbed it all — the twinkling lights and the Christmas smell and the music — and I wanted time to stop. In fact, it felt like time had stopped for me. It was an idyllic moment. I felt happy.

Mom at Christmas, mid-1970s

An earlier Christmas, playing with my brother, with my Dad’s train layout in the background

For many years, I didn’t really celebrate Christmas. I didn’t decorate my various apartments or mail cards or enjoy carols. The holiday just wasn’t the same without my mother. But for the past eight years, I’ve been decorating, listening to my favorite Celtic Christmas music, and sending holiday cards to friends and family. This year, my husband and I got a bigger Christmas tree (but still small enough to fit in our apartment), and I came up with a color scheme that’s whimsical yet stylish. Now our apartment is cozy and warm and inviting, just like the home of our family Christmases all those years ago. And even though I feel sad that we can’t have a family gathering this Christmas, just looking at the tree fills me with joy and reminds me of holidays when we were all together.

Christmas 2020

Author: polishamericangirl

I'm a librarian and amateur historian who runs a women's memoir book club. I'm working on a memoir project about my own family.

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