Recently, I joined a writing group with a reward/punishment system to create accountability. It started out simply enough. We each had to create punishments to give ourselves in the event that we did not meet our weekly writing goal (most had to do with bringing snacks for everyone else in the group). But then someone had the idea to ring a shame bell every time someone failed to meet their goal. And someone else decided that it would boost morale if people got to ring a success bell every time they did meet their goals. So we unwittingly became a writing group centered around ringing bells and snacks. No, the Pavlovian connotations are not lost on me. Yes, I am cringing a little. No, I won’t give up the bells or the snacks, thank you very much. The man was clearly on to something.
This week two of our members had to drop out of the writing group, and when I heard the news, my first thought was, “But how will they write without bells?” I made it my mission to find some for them, and luckily, I found a whole shelf of bells at the thrift store. The hard part, it turns out, is not finding bells but finding bells that don’t commemorate a significant wedding anniversary. Most of them say 25th Anniversary or have 50 written in huge gold cursive letters, and why is that?
Were they gifts exchanged by couples to symbolize their undying devotion? After all, nothing says love like, “You can ring this bell anytime you need something but don’t want to get out of bed.” (Maybe this seems particularly romantic to me because it’s cold in the mornings now, and the thought of being able to ring a bell and have Devin bring me a warm fluffy robe to make getting out of bed slightly less painful, makes me want to fast-forward to our twenty-fifth anniversary tout de suite, even though, now that I’ve admitted this, I’m pretty sure I’ll never get an anniversary bell.)
My other theory is that these bells were gifts for guests at anniversary parties––ceramic precursors to the dreaded-but-somehow-omnipresent commemorative t-shirts. (What’s the deal with those? Related: what happens to shirts that commemorate something that doesn’t end up happening.)
I don’t think we know enough about the fine American tradition of commemorative consumer goods, and maybe that should be your next writing project? Let me know. I’ll send you your bells.