We chose the Monday after Thanksgiving to visit the light display at Peddler’s Village, a quaint shopping district in the country about 20 minutes from home. Every year, thousands (millions?) of colored lights sparkle from trees, around the doors and eaves and roofs of shops, spinning around a working water wheel and forming an arched tunnel we can walk through, a favorite for family photos. After strolling along the pathways, popping into a toy store for a Christmas jigsaw puzzle and a stuffed toy for a toddler we know, we chanced upon the annual gingerbread contest display. Inside a small building, we walked among edible miniature versions of historic buildings, movie and TV sets, schools and churches and traditional gingerbread houses.
We saw, we bought. And now I wanted to eat. We had passed a pub on the way in and read the menu: burgers, lots of burgers. I have a burger maybe twice a year, but that night I wanted one. I was cold and hungry and the pub was bright and warm. Inside, many other shoppers had the same idea. The wait for a table was half an hour – unless we sat at the bar. Why not?
A glance at the menu convinced us to get the pub special – burgers with cheese, bacon, lettuce and tomato. We exchanged smiles with two loud and happy couples at the end of the bar. Among the rows of bottles on display in front of me, I spotted one labeled “Writer’s Tears.” I poked Steve and pointed it out. “I need that,” I joked. The man to my right asked if I’d ever had that whiskey (I had not) and soon he was lecturing us on its merits. Learning I was a writer, his wife said “Then you should have some.” She wrote down my name and the title of my book.
As often happens at bars (as if I would know), the conversation turned to where we all were from. They were from Scotland, Emmaus, PA and Asbury Park. NJ. So the conversation, rightly, went to Edinburgh, the Orkneys, British TV dramas, and Bruce Springsteen.
We enjoyed our burgers, they sipped their drinks, and then the bartender presented me with a small finger of Writer’s Tears. “A gift from your friend,” pointing to the Scottish woman. “You have to try it,” the woman said, “before you buy it.”
And then they left, all of us wishing each other happy holidays. If we hadn’t gone to see the lights that night, if we hadn’t chosen that pub, if we’d gone home instead, if I hadn’t noticed the whiskey and said I was a writer…I would have missed a gift from a stranger, for no reason other than she saw that I wanted to try something new. And she thought I should have it.
Have you ever received a spontaneous gift? What was it and who gave it to you?