When the Bell Tinkles

The bell tinkled. It was the same bell she had heard a thousand times before. The little bell hanging above the front door. The same one that hung in her own mother's door. She knew what it meant. The kids were home from school. She sighed. "4:00pm, there goes the peace and quiet," she muttered. The four kids had barged through the door after walking home from school. Philip, the biggest, had Matthew, the smallest, by the ear, who was screaming at the top of his lungs. Micah and Lucy, the twin girls, were discussing the finer points of the misery of school.

Michelle looked down at her book sitting on the coffee table next to her with longing. "Well, I guess I won't be seeing my book again till tomorrow," she rolled her eyes. Up she jumped and went into action, like every good mum. Time to start the same old pattern for the afternoon: Discover what object of clothing had been lost, clean up the bloodied knee, help with the homework, clean out the lunchboxes, wash the grass stained pants, start preparing the dinner, greet the husband, get everyone into bed, crumple in a corner and try not to cry. "At least when Barry gets home, I'll get some help. Another day, another dollar," she laughed - with a hint of bitterness, "except there's no dollar!"

Michelle had been doing the same thing year in and year out. She looked at the cat, asleep in the sun, and said, "A week of peace and quiet, where that bell didn't tinkle, where I could just finish my book, that's what I desire, puss. Nothing too much, just a week with my feet up, my book, and some chocolate. Sounds like a dream!" The rest of the evening went uneventfully, about as uneventful as a dripping tap; noise, irritation, and nothing useful. Finally, the kid's bedtime had come, peace, quiet, and the book! Michelle walked into the lounge after putting the kids to bed. Barry was glued in front of the television, like a brainless zombie steering at the wall. "Well, at least he won't disturb my book," she thought. When the rugby was on, Barry was about as responsive as a plank. And so closed another day in the life of Michelle.

By the time Friday rolled around, Michelle was about ready to resign. Another long, tap dripping week. She looked up at the clock, 3:55pm, "Well, Puss, let it begin again." Ten minutes later, she looked at the door. "Where are those kids? They better not be annoying the neighbour's dog again". For the next five minutes, Michelle thought of all the various punishments she would give out. She had practised her Mum voice and thought through the speech. Ready to go, standing at the door, she watched and waited. The long brooding of the disciplinary matriarch. A brief minute later in the distance, she heard some footsteps. "Ha, here comes my chance," she breathed. But the steps were not the eight feet of her children she expected. Instead of the tinkle of the bell, it was the firm knock of a firm hand. Confused, Michelle opened the door. It was two policemen. "Michelle Atkinson?" "Yes, sir," she replied. "We're so sorry, there has been a terrible accident with the school bus..." She woke up ten minutes later with the two policemen sitting by. They took Michelle to the hospital. Barry was there. His eyes were red and his face wet. It was clear he had been crying for a while. As he looked up at her with grief like a sledgehammer that had hit him in the face, he stammered out, "Th...th...they're...gone." The world span Barry caught her just in time. She broke down into weeping and darkness.

In the blink of an eye, everything changed. Just as the sun descends and leaves only blackness on a stormy night, so were the following days for Michelle and Barry. There was no light at the end of the tunnel. Just long nights and quiet days. When Monday rolled around, despair seemed to grow. It was like walking through a depressing winter filled with rain and wind, and the summer sun is not on offer. She sat in her familiar reading chair, looked over at her book, “This wasn’t what I meant,” she thought. She looked up at Barry, and wept. She wept until there were no more tears to come. The days blurred into themselves. The funerals took place, the family, friends, and Church came and went. Barry returned to work, and Michelle sat, unmoved, vacant, and lonely in her reading chair, yet with no book in hand. She looked at the cat sitting in its usual sunny spot, then looked up at the clock and spoke, as though someone might listen, "A week of 4 o’clock’s and still no tinkling of the bell". She walked over to the door and looked at the little bell that she had heard a thousand times before. She couldn't help herself. Lifting her arm slowly, with tear stained cheeks, she flicked it with her white shaking hands. Tinkle, tinkle, tinkle, the little bell went. And from what felt like eons ago came flooding, the most graphic memories of children opening the door every afternoon. How she now longed for children to ring the bell. She would give up everything for just one more bell tinkle. She raised her eyes up to Heaven and groaned out the words, "A week of peace and quiet, where that bell didn't ring, just finish the book that's all I said... take my book, take my all, just for another tinkle on that little bell. If only I had really known what I had, now that I know it's too late…and too bad."


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This post was contributed by Logan Hagoort, Pastor at Covenant Presbyterian Church.

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