‘Tis The Season: Authors Talk Holidays 2017 with Annie Cardi

‘Tis The Season: Authors Talk Holidays is a special seasonal feature on Pop! Goes The Reader in which some of my favourite authors help me to celebrate the spirit of the season and spread a little holiday cheer. So, pour yourself a cup of hot chocolate and snuggle in by the fireside as they answer the question: “What does the holiday season mean to you?” You can find a complete list of this year’s participants and their scheduled guest post dates Here!

About Annie Cardi

Annie Cardi is the author of The Chance You Won’t Return, which was named a Bank Street College of Education Best Book of the Year for 2015. She likes running, baking, podcasting, and spending way too much time on the internet.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterTumblrPodcastGoodreads

To me, Christmas Eve means mystery. It means anticipation. It means the cold, quiet, starry night filled with endless possibility.

It means bells.

I’ve never been a musical person. When a neighbor tried to teach me piano at age five, I could barely remember what notes matched with what keys from lesson to lesson. Until the age of seven, I assumed I was a naturally gifted singer who was carrying the rest of my less talented classmates in music class. Then I not only realized that they sounded perfectly fine without me, but my off-key enthusiasm was probably bringing everybody down.

Not that that stopped me from joining my church’s handbell choir when I was eleven.

Handbells are pretty much what they sound like – bells with handles attached, each ringing a different note, from the very small high G, to the deep bass bells that were so big, they had to be rung with two hands. The bells are generally arranged according to the scale, along a foam-padded table, with a ringer responsible for two to four bells. We’d wear white gloves, hold our bells up to our collarbones, and choreograph our ringing to make a song.

It’s pretty high up there on the scale of dorky things I’ve done in my life.

But I loved it. I learned to read sheet music well enough to get by, and struggled to follow along for a while because I wanted to be part of this weird musical group. The ringers consisted of a mix of adults and teenagers. While the adults were usually people who were involved in the church choir, the other teens were all great musical nerds. One girl was studying opera and hoped to sing professionally. Another boy was a piano prodigy and looking to attend the Boston Conservatory when he graduated from high school. Under the direction of Brother Roger, we had practice every Thursday night, up in the choir loft, when the rest of the church was dark and quiet. We played for occasional masses, on Easter Sunday, and (my favorite) at the Christmas Eve Midnight Mass.

Midnight Mass was a big deal. Despite the late hour, the church would be packed with people who wanted to celebrate Christmas the moment it began. The altar was decorated with a dozen poinsettias, at least three Christmas trees, and an almost-life-size Nativity scene. The priest would talk about the birth of Jesus and hope and the goodwill and humility and sacrifice. In the pews, parishioners would listen and respond, pray and kneel and sing at appropriate points.

In the choir loft, things felt different. I’d been raised Catholic but it always felt more like something I happened to be than something I really was. At mass on Sundays, my mind would wander, and I didn’t think about religion much in my daily life. But I loved the secret feeling of being up in the choir loft during mass. It reminded me of being in the wings during a school play – helping to create an experience for other people to enjoy.

My favorite part of Midnight Mass was after Communion, when everyone was seated again. The lights would dim so only the candles on the altar and the lights on the tree were glowing. Outside, the world was dark and cold and quiet.

Inside, we’d start to play “Silent Night.” First the bells, ringing the familiar notes. Then the choir would join us, voices hushed at first–silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright. Then the pianist would join, and we’d all play together for the parishioners, sitting in the soft glow of the Christmas lights.

I loved that first moment of ringing the bells, beginning the song everyone knew in their hearts. For a moment, I felt like a part of the great, beautiful mystery of Christmas Eve. I was helping to share this feeling with the parishioners below – people I didn’t know, people I couldn’t even see. But for those first few notes, I felt like we were all together, gathered in the bleak midwinter darkness, letting the light and the music and the endless possibility of hope fill us all.

Title The Chance You Won’t Return
Author Annie Cardi
Pages 352 Pages
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Published April 22nd 2014 by Candlewick Press
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChaptersThe Book Depository

When your mom thinks she’s Amelia Earhart, navigating high school, first love, and family secrets is like flying solo without a map.

Driver’s ed and a first crush should be what Alex Winchester is stressed out about in high school – and she is. But what’s really on her mind is her mother. Why is she dressing in Dad’s baggy khaki pants with a silk scarf around her neck? What is she planning when she pores over maps in the middle of the night? When did she stop being Mom and start being Amelia Earhart? Alex tries to keep her budding love life apart from the growing disaster at home as her mother sinks further into her delusions. But there are those nights, when everyone else is asleep, when it’s easier to confide in Amelia than it ever was to Mom. Now, as Amelia’s flight plans become more intense, Alex is increasingly worried that Amelia is planning her final flight – the flight from which she never returns. What could possibly be driving Mom’s delusions, and how far will they take her?

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