It was the day before Christmas Eve, a Friday. There was a bite of snow in the wind as Paul pushed through the revolving door of the department store, finding the bright light and warmth inside a relief from the darkening afternoon’s chill.
“At least I’m early this year,” he thought, looking around for the jewelry section. He dreaded shopping, no matter what time of year. But Christmas was always the worst. Julie had gotten used to his last minute, quick in-and-out-grab-whatever dashes to get her gift. She could always tell. No matter what he bought he knew she would return it for something she really liked or needed.
Because of the late summer miscarriage Julie had had a rough couple of months so his gift had to say something special to her. He had given it a lot of thought; still, that didn’t make this trip any easier. As he got to the jewelry counters he remembered all over again why he hated shopping so much. He could never make choices; there was just too much stuff to sort through. Fortunately the salesperson was busy with another customer so he had time to circle the cases and countertops, hoping for what he called an “Aha!” moment by finding just the right thing; maybe a necklace with a single teardrop pearl and matching earrings.
He walked slowly but saw nothing that spoke to him. The salesperson was still tied up so Paul kept looking. He had stopped a moment, trying to catch the price tag on a silver and pearl necklace when he noticed a little girl behind him, squatting and pointing at something on the lowest shelf of another case.
“Hey, Mister, look at this. Isn’t it beautiful?” she said, not taking her eyes off what she was looking at. “I wish I could get it for my Mom.” Paul went to look and saw a simple but elegant, silver and gold, thin-wire brooch; a snow angel with wings of thin, red and green glass. In his excitement he turned to catch the eye of the salesperson. He did and she held up a finger, mouthing, “I’ll be with you in a moment, sir.”
Paul turned back to the case to look again at the brooch. He said to the little girl, over his shoulder, “You have a wonderful eye.” But when his glance followed his words, she was no longer there. He stood quickly to scan the area but she was nowhere to be seen. Dressed in a white snowsuit she must have melted like a snowflake in the crowd.
“Strange,” Paul thought as the saleslady asked, “Have you found something you like?”
“There was a little girl… She…she found it for me…” Paul’s eyes were still sweeping the area.
“A little girl? Was she lost?” the saleslady asked.
“No, I don’t think so. She was looking for something for her Mom and pointed to that brooch there on the bottom shelf.”
The saleslady unlocked the case and retrieved the brooch. “Oh,” she said, “I haven’t seen this before. It is quite beautiful.”
“I was going to buy two and give one to the girl but…” Paul looked around, then back again. “May I see it, please?” Paul held the piece and knew it was perfect for Julie. It even felt warm in his hand. What a wonderful moment; a truly real “Aha!”
The saleslady said, “I’m afraid that is the only one we have. It’s odd I cannot remember selling anything like it. And I see no price tag on it. Let me check with the manager.”
Paul knew he would pay whatever price was quoted. The manager hadn’t seen the piece before either but was too hassled to check with purchasing. He pulled a price out of the air which seemed more than reasonable. The saleslady wrapped it carefully and Paul headed to his car. All the while he continued to look for the little girl.
As he pulled into his driveway, Paul realized he had two very special gifts for Julie this Christmas: The snow angel brooch, of course, and a story Julie may never believe but, he knew, would understand far better than he ever could.