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December 21, 2014

Brenda Novak: The Bell Still Rings for Me

Posted by emily

Not only is Brenda Novak a bestselling, award-winning author, she’s also a first-rate fundraiser. Her latest book, THE HEART OF CHRISTMAS, is the seventh in her popular Whiskey Creek series and brings us back to the small Gold Country town just in time for some Christmas magic. In her Holiday Author Blog, Brenda shares a lesson she learned from her son when he was only six years old: Magic can be anywhere, so long as we choose to see it.

When my youngest son was only six, a cousin, older by five years, slipped into the attic and ferreted out the presents I’d put there at least a month before Christmas. Armed with the knowledge of what those presents were, he seemed to take some kind of perverse pleasure in destroying Thad’s fantasy of Santa Claus. He told Thad everything he was going to get --- and let him know that my husband, Ted, and I had bought each item and tucked them all away until December 25th, when we’d pretend that Santa had come down the chimney and left those things for him.

When some children learn the truth, they get angry with their parents for perpetuating this myth. Thad didn’t react that way. He was angry with his cousin for destroying the magic we were trying to keep alive for him. He wasn’t ready to let that go. But I’d bought Thad something for Christmas this cousin failed to mention, probably because, in his mind, it was “just a book.” I have to admit that on Christmas Day, Thad didn’t entertain himself with that book right away. It wasn’t until later in the day, after the excitement of playing with his other toys had worn off a bit, that he and I sat down together to look through THE POLAR EXPRESS by Chris Van Allsburg.

The book had come with a tape we listened to. I remember both of us being a little awed by the beauty of the illustrations and the way the words rolled off the narrator’s tongue as that tape played --- “Hot chocolate thick and rich as chocolate bars…” Sometimes I still think of that line, even when the situation has nothing to do with Christmas. But it was this gift that turned out to be the one I was most grateful I’d purchased, because the story helped my little boy get beyond the disappointment of losing Santa Claus. He took the same ride as the protagonist, who goes to the North Pole and is lucky enough to receive the first gift of Christmas. Thad shared that boy’s wonder and his joy when he received a bell from the harness of Santa’s reindeer, which was supposed to help him believe in the magic of Christmas. Thad also shared in the character’s disappointment when the bell was lost, and he was elated when Santa spared the boy that loss by leaving it under the Christmas tree. Somehow that book softened the jarring blow of reality because it taught Thad that even though there may not be a jolly man dressed in a red suit delivering toys to all good girls and boys, the magic of Christmas is real --- as long as he chooses to believe.

Now I’m much older. But, like the narrator of that book, I can say, “The bell still rings for me.” I hope Thad will always be able to say the same.