12 Days of Christmas Advent Calendar – December 14

December 14 – Cheryl Paxton


Growing up, I didn’t have the same Christmas experience as everyone else. I was born deaf, so I never knew what it was like to sing along with the songs everyone else knew. My mother signed some of them for me, songs like It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas, Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire, and Winter Wonderland. I understood the concept, and I could see how happy people were when they sang. Groups of people, getting together to be happy? Yes, I could definitely get behind that!


But I never really thought about picking one song as my favorite. All Christmas songs blurred into one big blur of joy and happiness. But one year, I learned the true joy of actually being part of a song.


I was away at college, out on a date with my girlfriend Fiona, when she spotted a Christmas tree lot. Her apartment was nowhere near large enough to accommodate even the smallest offering, but she wanted to try. I humored her. We split up to find the best tree, promising to meet up in five minutes to compare our findings. I was in the midst of this evergreen maze, smelling pine and sap, everything lit orange by the strings of lights marking the aisles, when I felt this deep, shocking vibration in my chest.


I stopped where I was and the music pounded me from all angles. It drummed on my chest and I spun in a circle to find out where it was coming from. I later realized that the lot was next to a church, and they were playing a very authentic version of Carol of the Bells. Actually bells, massive and antique, swinging to the tune of the song.


Fiona found me, and asked me if I was okay. I said I was, and told her I was listening to the music. Fiona took my hand and danced her fingers in my palms. Fiona the dancer, using her fingers as feet, showed me the subtle, tiny sounds of the music while the bells continued their assault on my body.


I’ll never forget that Christmas, or that song. I still sign for the Christmas program at a local church, and I always get a special tug whenever Carol of the Bells comes on. I’ve never felt it in my bones the way I did that first night, but sometimes all you need is the memory.


To wish a merry Christmas: tap your chest twice with the flat of your right hand, moving your hand in a slightly upward motion. Form a “C” with your right hand and move it to the right in a sideways arc, with the palm facing up. And a merry Christmas to you as well.


– Cheryl Paxton appears in the short story Vital Signs published in Khimairal Ink, and will appear in the future novel Silence Out Loud (nothing is written in stone, or even in plaster; stay tuned for updates on this title).