The Gift of the Magi

the gift of the magiThere are few of them left: the kind of used bookstore with old, over-stuffed wooden shelves, literate staff, and stacks of volumes crowding the aisles. The kind of used bookstore that plays the Canadian Broadcasting Company in the background. I was in one of these stores, the Bookman in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island on the night before Christmas Eve 2001. My wife and I had just moved to Japan, a gorgeous, colourful, inviting place where it is briefly winter and never Christmas. We were missing “home,” though it had not been home for some years, so I surprised my wife with tickets to PEI for Christmas.

I love my in-laws, but you always need a little space during the holidays. So I found myself in a kind of second home: a used bookstore.

I rarely buy anything, and I don’t remember if I did that night. But as I was browsing I heard the beginning of a story on CBC radio. It was Alan Maitland’s deliberate voice. Do you remember that broadcasting voice from another generation: a voice of certainty, crisp diction, unrushed and careful and filled with words from the past? I had not heard “Fireside Al” for years–perhaps a decade. I stopped to listen.

I missed the set up, so I did not know the title of the story or who was writing it. But I stood there in the Bookman hovering between Philosophy and Religion with Science Fiction at my back and Mythology at the end of the aisle, listening to Jim and Della sacrifice their greatest gifts in the foolishness of young love. It was then that I began to love folly. And I wondered who could possibly write like this.

It was O. Henry. And the story was “The Gift of the Magi.” CBC’s “As It Happens, the show that  Al Maitland hosted, plays his reading each year on Dec 23rd.

Merry Christmas Eve, and I encourage you to explore foolishness this Christmas!

About Brenton Dickieson

“A Pilgrim in Narnia” is a blog project in reading and talking about the work of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the worlds they touched. As a "Faith, Fantasy, and Fiction" blog, we cover topics like children’s literature, apologetics and philosophy, myths and mythology, fantasy, theology, cultural critique, art and writing. This blog includes my thoughts as I read through Lewis and Tolkien and reflect on my own life and culture. In this sense, I am a Pilgrim in Narnia--or Middle Earth, or Fairyland. I am often peeking inside of wardrobes, looking for magic bricks in urban alleys, or rooting through yard sale boxes for old rings. If something here captures your imagination, leave a comment, “like” a post, share with your friends, or sign up to receive Narnian Pilgrim posts in your email box. Brenton Dickieson is a father, husband, friend, university lecturer, and freelance writer from Prince Edward Island, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter, @BrentonDana.
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7 Responses to The Gift of the Magi

  1. Jeremy D. Johnson says:

    A lovely Christmas tale. Thanks for sharing!

    As a native New Yorker, I have some fortune enjoying these tiny bookstores. They’re dwindling in number and variation, but you can still find them tucked into Manhattan streets and basement level stores. Plus, there’s always The Strand.

    Loved your description of standing surrounded by science fiction, religion and philosophy, and mythology. A happy place indeed!

    Merry Christmas my friend.


    • I SO wanted to go to the Strand last time i was in Manhattan,but I was there for my family and lugging books around didn’t work. We walked miles on that vacation.
      I think the Bookman has a particularly good cluster of those books. Merry Christmas!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. sdorman2014 says:

    we were there in 2006 and found /surprised by laughter/ by Lindvall/. happy holidays!


  3. jubilare says:

    It’s a great story. *hugs* Happy 2015, my friend!
    I will do blog-catchup over the next week or so. I was sick, and otherwise busy with family (no, I am by no means apologizing for that, it was lovely 🙂 ) over the holidays, thus the utter silence. I was also writing like a fiend. Apparently my muse liked this Christmas season.

    We have a surprising number of those old bookshops in my home city (four that I can immediately think of), for which I am very grateful. Rhino has 2 branches, one near my house, and is delightfully Pratchettean… both branches have a cat, too… Charlotte at one, and Orson at the other. Orson is fat and looooooves attention. Charlotte is still young and bouncy, and likes to attack the printer.

    Liked by 1 person

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