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English, Foreign Languages and English as a Second Language

Student Showcase

The Gift

Michelle VanAlstyne

I found a package on the front step yesterday. It was a small, round box, the type a person might put a hat in. I had no idea where the package had come from, but I had a compelling urge to open it. I wasn't even sure if the box was intended for me. I brought the package inside. I checked to see if there were any writings of any kind on the box. All I could find was our address at the top of the box, and the address of a law firm on the bottom. I decided to go ahead and open this strange looking hat box. As I lifted the lid, I got a strong whiff of roses that triggered a string of memories.

Two years ago, while my family and I were on vacation, we met and socialized with a couple who said they were from Canada. We were at a campground in the Adirondack Mountains. We had only been there for a half a day when a man came out of nowhere and asked us for some wood for his fire. He told us he was camping out at the other side of the ridge, and his wife wasn't feeling very well. He didn't want to leave her in order to go into town and get firewood. We gave him enough wood to get them through the night. He thanked us, said his name was Arthur, and then disappeared into the woods.

The next morning, we all went for a hike along the ridge. On the way up the ridge, we searched for Arthur's camp as a way to occupy ourselves during the hike. We found nothing. We were beginning to feel as if we had imagined Arthur being in our camp the night before. When we had finally given up our search and decided to forget about finding Arthur's camp, my daughter, Chrissy, spotted smoke curling through the trees. We decided to follow the smoke to see where it was coming from.

As we walked into the clearing, my first impression was to turn around and go back. I felt I was intruding. This place felt so special. If it weren't for the cabin setting there, with smoke coming out of its chimney, I would have sworn that humans hadn't set foot in this beautiful, idyllic spot in at least a hundred years.

Just as we were turning around to go back, Arthurcame out of the cabin, waving his arms to gain our attention. We walked up to him, apologizing for the intrusion. When I asked about his wife's health, he said she was feeling much better. He then insisted that we come inside.

As we entered the little cabin, it was as if we had stepped back in time. The furniture was all hand-made from local wood. There were hand-made quilts folded over the back of every chair in the place. I didn't see anything that looked like it was from this era or that would be considered a modern convenience. It was the quaintest little place I had ever seen.

Arthur introduced us to his wife, Martha, and set about making tea in the fireplace. From every beam in the cabin there hung a bouquet of dried roses. Martha told me that every time Arthur went to town, he would bring her back a rose. She said she didn't have the heart to throw them away.

For the next two weeks, we went to the cabin every day to visit with Arthur and Martha. Sometimes we would play cards, and occasionally, we would play checkers. Arthur said it had been a long time since he had a good challenge at checkers. Martha would always wind up a beautiful hand-carved oak music box that played "It's a Small World." The music box depicted many different children on the lid. Martha said that Arthur had carved it for the children they wanted but could never have. It was a perfect example of excellent craftsmanship-a wonderful example of a man's love for his wife.

Finally, the day had come for us to leave and go home. I felt sad at having to leave Arthur and Martha alone again, but we exchanged addresses and promised to write. I wrote to them at least once a week without ever receiving an answer. I stopped writing about a month ago.

When I came home from work yesterday, I found the box on the front steps. Inside the box was the most beautiful music box in the world. I lifted the lid, and the sweet, delicate melody of "It's a Small World" began to play. There was a letter inside the music box, and as I started to read, my eyes began to fill with tears. According to the attorney's office, Arthur and Martha had passed away approximately two years ago, shortly after our visit. They left a request that we be sent the music box in return for the friendship and concern we had shown them.

As I run my hands over the fine workmanship of this hand-carved wood, I remember those wonderful days we spent with a beautiful, loving couple named Arthur and Martha.

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