By the time you read this, Santa will (hopefully) have arrived for us. His helpers have certainly been busy. We got the tree up, and finished decorating it just as my mother and our friend arrived to spend Christmas with us. As we decorated the tree, my wife pointed out one ornament in particular, a bell that her parents gave us a few years ago. They purchased it in Harrods Department store in London. At the time, I knew little about the famous department store, other than what I had picked up in watching British TV shows. I had caught a few glimpses of Harrods, such as in “Merry Christmas, Mr. Bean,” when Mr. Bean causes chaos among the staff while doing his holiday shopping, and accidentally extinguishes all the store’s exterior lights while testing a package of lights before he buys them. When I first watched the episode, I didn’t realize that the store was Harrods, I just thought it was an ordinary department store. Nor did I have any reason to believe that Harrods was different from any other department store. In an episode of “Take a Letter, Mr. Jones,” the title character, a secretary played by John Inman, picks up a few items at Harrod’s before he leaves for vacation. He’d hardly shop there, to pick up a few ordinary items, if it were the most extravagant store in London!
As Harrods had been referenced so often in British TV shows, we decided to visit it last year, on our final evening in London. The store is decorated in an Egyptian motif, and while the individual shopping areas are lit well, the common areas, such as the escalators, are cast in darkness. We also found it difficult to navigate the store; we felt as if we were exploring an ancient labyrinth. Suddenly, I knew how Indiana Jones might feel, creeping through an Egyptian pyramid, without a map to guide him. At least we didn’t have to worry about the floor giving way beneath our feet, or spikes hurtling out of the wall to impale us! Nevertheless, our search for treasure had been rewarded, as the prices of everything seemed higher than we could afford, in many cases, extravagantly so. I guess the old saying is true, that you can find about anything you might want to buy in Harrods. Unfortunately, it’s seems equally true that most people may not be able to afford most of the items in the famous store. At any rate, after awhile, we tired of exploring the busy store, and sought escape. But how? We felt so turned around and closed in, and like England’s roads, no signs gave us the directions we craved. Just like Indiana Jones running down dusty corridors, followed closely by flying knives or giant boulders, our pulses raced as we traveled up and down the escalators, ducking into various departments, in a frantic search to get our bearings, and thus find an exit to the street.
Now I know the bell ornament's true worth. My in-laws braved the vast, dark labyrinth of Harrods for us, and paid dearly for such a small, seemingly ordinary item. We shall treasure it all the more.
On this year's trip to Florida, my wife picked up several little shells. These, she said, were called Jingle Shells. Apparently, they derive their name from the sound the shells make when strung together as a chime. More intriguingly, the shells supposedly make this sound when the waves wash over them on the beach. We never heard the jingle sound during our relaxed wanderings, but the shells were pretty. So, even though we have several containers of shells from previous trips, we selected a few and brought them back with us. Perhaps we’ll make a wind chime with them next year. It may not be as dear as our Harrods Bell, but still, it’d be nice.
Wherever you are as you read this, I wish you a pleasant day, filled with family, friends, and much happiness. May your holiday ring with love, laughter, and all the good things in life. May Santa bring you something as meaningful as a Harrods’ Bell, or something as simple, and yet as pretty, as our musical Jingle Shells.
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