Magic Stories but Small
DECEMBER 23, 2023

The Gift

The most magical gift of all


Dear Friend, 

For a long time, I tried to find a gift for my mother. 

She claimed she didn’t need anything – she already had everything she wanted – but I knew this was not true. For example, she didn’t have one of those expensive purses all her girlfriends did. And she’d never buy one for herself.

The idea that I might spend a huge sum of money – possibly most of the money I had – on a gift for my mother was thrilling. Naturally I’d never let on the huge burden I had undertaken. And it would all be worth it for her smile.

But would my gift even make my mother smile? Or, when that fateful moment arrived, would I instead detect something else – was that actually shame? – blushing through her cheeks? Would she possibly be embarrassed by a son who had spent on some leather and chain what could feed a hungry child for an entire year? 

My train of thought came to a screeching halt. All of my mother’s passion, I considered, comes from the instinct to feed children. Perhaps I could just make a generous donation to that tax-deductible charity organization?  

Now I freely admit this idea was more ridiculous than the first. The purpose of my gift, I reminded myself, was to bring joy to my mother, not to nominate myself for sainthood.

Still that occasion was approaching and I needed to find a gift for my mother. So I began to think in simple and practical terms. And what could be more simple and practical than the chocolates and flowers I know my mother loves?

But how many others must also know this secret! My mother has touched the lives of many people, and on that day they would surely send those very chocolates and flowers to her. I was certainly not about to participate in that parade. Besides, I’ve always suspected my mother exaggerates how much she actually likes those chocolates and flowers. It’s her way of letting everyone off easy.

As I grew desperate in my search, I found myself looking at lists. All the gifts a mother could possibly want were curated on these lists. I was recommended pajamas, slippers, teas, candles, lotion… Isn’t it strange to buy your mother lotion? 

Next I found an entire category of gifts related to technology – digital photo frames, for example, and robot vacuums – by which children keep their parents up to date and make life more practical for them. But my mother has other children who are experts at this kind of gift-giving, and I wouldn’t be wise to compete.

And so, as the hour of celebration approached, I finally allowed myself to think my most dramatic thought yet…  

Maybe I shouldn’t buy a gift for my mother.

She’d been very convincing, after all, in her claim that she already had everything she wanted. And what gift, besides, was I supposed to give to the one who gave me the greatest gift of all?

So I closed my eyes and consoled myself with such preposterous ideas, hardly realizing what was happening to me – I was falling into a soft haze – at first vague shapes, merely – faded-out colors encountering each other – but then the haze lifting around the memory – a cooking pan – paper-thin bread – a hand reaching over the water – all the boys huddled in the bathtub – waiting with their open mouths. And among them was one boy in particular. 

I strained to bring the boy into focus, but my memory resisted this method. The scene was bathed in haze again. But when I relaxed and let go of my mind, the haze lifted again – and I could see the boy – except now he was the one reaching back from the water – holding out his hand to the figure looming upon the horizon. And what was that in his hand? 

I would give it all away, I thought, if for just one moment I could bring it all back into focus – I would even agree to lose my mind completely if I could just see what that was in the boy’s hand – if I could just participate in that moment one more time – my hand reaching back across the water – giving my mother the greatest gift of all. 

Merry Christmas.



More Magic to Come

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