How I Found Your Christmas Gift

by The Cowl Editor on December 7, 2019


Photo courtesy of

by Sarah McLaughlin ’23

I found myself shopping for you in Barnes and Noble, of all places.

I never realized a bookstore could be such a shit show, but hey, I guess it’s Christmas Eve.

I’ve never been much of a reader; you know that. You’re the smart one. I just pay the bills.

Kidding. But, seriously, a PhD in English? Did you really think that was going to get you anywhere besides submerged inside a volcano of debt?

Anyway, I procrastinated all my shopping until the last minute, as usual. I was so sure that you were already done by now, especially with gifts for me, and I was freaking out. So I did what all respectable adults do in stressful situations and called my mom.

She advised me to make a list of your favorite things, stuff that you use all the time. First thing I thought of was a spatula. She almost hung up on me. Next I said sweaters, and she said you have enough of those. Also, I think that’s probably what she’s buying us, and she didn’t want me to steal her idea.

But that got me thinking—what don’t you have enough of? Money, sure, but I don’t think you’d appreciate me wrapping up my Christmas bonus and sticking it under the tree. Socks, maybe, because of those damn dryer goblins, but who wants to find socks in their stocking? And then it hit me like the one you whacked me with yesterday when I interrupted your reading. Books.

You’re always complaining that you don’t have enough good stuff to read—which is insane, considering you spent eight years learning about the pinnacles of literature—so I figured that would be a safe choice. All I’d have to do is check your shelf to make sure whatever I bought wasn’t already on it. Maybe chat with a librarian, too. But there was bound to be something on the New Releases table that would pique your interest.

Cookbooks caught my eye first—all shiny and glittery with big pictures of food on the covers—but I know I’d get more use out of one than you ever would. Sure, you like to cook, but more in an experimental sort of way. That’s why I’m in charge of dinner.

Then I saw some romance-y looking novels, and I was so, so tempted to snag the sauciest one I could find, because it’d surely get a good laugh out of us both when you unwrapped it, but I wanted to be a little more mature than that. Joke gifts were better saved for birthdays or Valentine’s Day.

It was after deciding this when I turned and spotted it. The reflectiveness of the gold- edged pages caught my eye; then I noticed the dark red leather binding and the shiny etching on the cover.

Okay, so the New Releases table wasn’t the place to look. Maybe I should’ve anticipated that you wouldn’t fancy anything loud and gaudy with enticing pictures on the front. But the children’s shelf was the last one I expected to end up perusing.

It was perfect, though. I knew it instantly. Standing there, gaping like a complete idiot, I reached out to grab it. I would’ve picked it up, too, had another hand not landed on it at the exact same time.

“Oh! Sorry.” Normally, I would’ve jumped away and carried on, but I couldn’t let go. I gripped the spine like I’d glued my fingers to it.

Great, I thought. I’m about to get myself into one of those Black Friday-type brawls. I’m gonna be on the evening news. I’m—


I finally had the sense to turn and glance at whose hand it was.

I blinked twice. “What are you doing here?”

You smiled. “Shopping. And you?”


You nodded toward the book we both still held. “Looks like we had the same idea.” Then you looked back at me with a grin. “You know me too well.”

I bit my lip. “I’m sorry. I saved buying your gift for the last minute. I didn’t know what to get. But then I saw this, and I remembered how you said it was your—”

“Favorite book growing up,” you finished. “Yeah.”

“I’m sorry,” I said again.

You shake your head. “No need to be. Hey, look, I saved your gift for the last minute, too.”

“Really? You were going to buy this for me?

You gesture with your free hand. “Well, yeah. You said you never read it, so…” I smiled. “Let’s buy it, then. For both of us.”

You nodded. “I like that idea. Less work.”

“It’s a win-win situation, really.”

So, together, we picked it up.