When I was a kid, I read the story “Gift of the Magi,” by O. Henry. I was very confused by his name; I thought it was a candy bar, but I digress. I found the story of two people giving up that which they each loved most in order to give each other a gift for Christmas quite touching. I wondered: how would I feel, if I were in such a situation?
This Christmas, I found out.
This has been an extremely hard year: little work, poor pay, no benefits, minimal-paying writing jobs and no prospects for the future. When it came time to buy gifts for Christmas, I was careful to select those I thought best. Yet, there was something special I wanted, but had no money to buy it. I drew on my few remaining resources. I had some coins, I had the money I’d earned from selling my short stories and there was one other little thing.
There was my last Star Trek collectible.
It was a small ceramic item, Captain Kirk fighting the Gorn Captain, and it meant the world to me. I’d bought it many years before, and I kept the box, so I could keep it safe from harm. Well, with time short, and my money even shorter, I faced the prospect of not getting a final gift for my wife. I couldn’t sell my comics or other collectibles; I sold these items long ago. No, it was this item or nothing.
I found a fellow Trekkie who offered quite the fair price for the item, and we made the deal. I felt a sense of loss at its departure, and yet also one of elation. I headed to the store and found the gift I wanted, and I was walking on air. I’d done it; I’d gotten something that I knew my wife would love, and that was enough for me.
Returning home, down on my luck, there were none to buy. I slipped into the spare bedroom and started wrapping. I was never one for accuracy when it came to hand-eye coordination; I tended to cut paper at an odd angle. So, some of my wrapping didn’t go so well. Still, I got everything wrapped and put with the other gifts. We didn’t have a tree this year; our apartment is rather tight and tiny and the ceiling low, we gave our tree to Goodwill. We were sure some needy family would love such a beautiful silk tree. It almost looked real and it had served us well since our first Christmas together, as man and wife. It became another casualty of our “downsizing.”
Come Christmas morning, we began to open the gifts. A new computer game for me, one for our daughter, and we went on from there. I made sure the special gift was aside until the end. Finally, after all others gifts opened, I handed it to my wife. She opened it.
At that moment, when I saw the delight in her eyes at the sight of that gift, I know, truly knew, how those characters in O. Henry’s story felt. It felt good.
May your Christmas be as full of love as was ours, this year.
Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.
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