This quotation, and its festive triologism, haunts me for the closing sentence which yields the book’s loving title: The time of gifts.  I liked the simple gifts these girls gave Leigh Fermor, and his regret at not having anything suitable with which to reciprocate.

Yes, the time of gifts.  Isn’t that a reasonable description of a life well lived?  Imagine Saint Peter questioning you as you enter (for surely you would be admitted):

‘And what can you tell me about your time on earth?’

‘Gifts.’

‘Gifts?’

‘Yes, it was the time of gifts.’

‘The smallest of the daughters gave me a tangerine and a packet of cigarettes wrapped beautifully in tinsel and silver paper.  I wished I’d had something to hand her, neatly done up in holly-patterned ribbon – I thought later of my aluminium pencil-case containing a new Venus or Royal Sovereign wound in tissue paper, but too late.  The time of gifts.’

 

Source: Patrick Leigh Fermor, A Time of Gifts (London: Penguin Books, 1977), p. 66

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