Friday, March 9, 2012

A Bell to Hold

One day my dad handed me a bell, a school bell.  It had been his dad's school bell.  Someone I had become fond of, had been intrigued by, and had always wished I would have met.  My grandfather died before I was born, before my father was even married.   As I grew up my dad would tell me stories that his dad had told him and stories my dad remembered about his father.  The stories made him come alive for me.

One day after I had been teaching for several years and had a family of my own, my dad gave me his dad's school bell.  He told me that his dad, as the superintendent,  wrung the bell when the students came to his rural Iowan school each morning.  He told me his dad called each student by name and prided himself in knowing each student's name and something about each.

I took the bell in my hand.  The brass was no longer shining but it was beautiful.  The ring it made was clear and strong.  The handle was slender and black and yet, where my grandfather's hand had held it the black covering had worn off.  I held that bell in my hand as I thought he would.  I was touching something that was his.  Each time I hold that bell I imagine his hand on top of mine.  And at the beginning of each school year and on the first day,  I learn each student's name and something about each in honor of a man who rang a school bell.


  1. What a wonderful tribute to you from your dad. Nothing could be grander than a school bell for a grandchild from a grandparent who was also smitten by education. The teaching legacy will continue through you.

  2. I love how you "imagine his hand on top of" yours and tradition you have in honor of your family. Amazing how a simple object can hold so much meaning to us and change the way we see ourselves and others. Thanks for sharing. Who will you pass your bell to when the time comes?

    1. Kelli, WOW this question blows me away...I don't know. Presently there are no other teachers in my family. Your question makes me wonder. The bell must go to someone.

  3. How wonderful that your dad had this bell and he could pass it on to you. When you held the bell and thought about your grandfather holding the bell reminded me of a part from Polacco's Pink and Say. Lovely!

  4. Tam said it best - There is something so lovely about that school bell being a symbol of a long and meaningful teaching legacy.

  5. That is awesome! I was getting a bit teary-eyed because I have a silver school whistle passed down from my grandpa who worked at a school. It is on my school lanyard everyday. My mom says how proud he would be (if he were still alive) to know that I became a teacher. I get your special connection. Thanks for posting!