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?’
‘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