The Modern Gift of the Magi

Five dollars and eighty-three cents. That was all. And three of those dollars were in nickels. Cents and dollars saved one and four at a time by searching under the cushions and in the hospital kitchen. Five times Cassidy counted it. Five dollars and eighty-three cents. And the next day would be Cassidy and James’s one-year anniversary.

There was clearly nothing to do but to flop down on the hospital bed and scream into a pillow. So naturally, Cassidy did just that, which brings you to the conclusion that the moral reflection of life is full of sobs, storms of rage, and smiles, with the storms predominating.

While the young teenage girl passes through the first stage to the second, take a look around the dreary setting. A hospital room furnished like all the other 245 rooms in the building. It did not exactly have a description of wealth, but who needs luxuries in a patient room?

In the waiting room below, was a nurse who had yet today (and yesterday) let a family visit the poor teenage girl. The mother and father bearing the last name of “O’Leary.”

The name “O’Leary” had never been full of wealth, but the household at one point was close to making the average American income. When their one and only daughter was diagnosed with Leukemia hard times fell upon the family. Mr. and Mrs. O’Leary both had to get two jobs. Then Mr. O’Leary lost his first job. So, Mrs. O’Leary had to get a third job while her husband was looking for another source of income. But whenever Mr. Dean O’Leary came home to his wife, the financial worries were lost in a sea of certainty.

Now Cassidy had a man to call her own, a man named James Abbott. They met in tenth grade and had been dating for almost a year. This was why she needed a gift for her boyfriend. Cassidy finished her tantrum (which the nurses would later scold her for because it was not good for her condition) and wiped her two waterfalls with the back of her hand. Her heavy crying had created red, puffy marks under her eyes. The tears had spilled over her eyes like waves and surfed her face until they reached the sand or the pillow, which was pressed against her sullen face. She moved into a sitting position and looked around her room, which she had resided in for the past few months. Her parents could barely afford the grey wall, which she stared at, the grey tiles the nurses claimed she was not allowed to walk alone on, and the dull grey sheets of her even more grey bed that she had to be in every hour of every day. The only time she was allowed to leave her uncomfortable bed (which gave her a stiff back) was when she was going to another room to get poked at with shiny utensils that reeked of disinfectant spray. The nurses, doctors, and even her parents tried to hide the fact that she was dying. But she knew; it was her body after all.

Her mother and father felt guilty because they could not provide the money to keep her alive. Cassidy felt bad about this, because it really was not their fault.

Cassidy looked to her left and saw the IV that peeked from under her pale skin. Her reflection shined in the metal tube that held the bag. Her eyes were shining brightly, but her face had lost color weeks and weeks ago. Rapidly she looked down at a charm bracelet resting on her wrist.

Now there is one possession that Cassidy was proud of. It was a bracelet that her great grandmother, grandmother, and her mother had sported before it was passed down to her. It was a diamond-encrusted chain with four small charms on it. A charm had been added by each owner, except for Cassidy. Had Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain checked into the room next door, every time she was wheeled to surgery Cass would make sure to dangle her charms just to depreciate Her Majesty’s numerous articles of jewels.

Now James had a possession of his own. His father had given him the extravagant and expensive family ring. James would joke that if Bill Gates were his housemaid, he would drool at the idea of how much money that ring costs.

So now as the dying teen dangled her charms, she knew what she had to do. She faltered for a minute, but she knew the consequences. She picked up her ancient iPhone 3 (which was her first and only phone) and dialed up someone who would take her into town.

Thirty minutes later, James’s mom entered her room. Her parents were working their multiple jobs so they could not come. But Mrs. Abbott would do anything for Cass (who she claimed was her daughter) and going into town was a wish she would grant. The reluctant and skeptical nurses signed Cassidy out but warned her to sit and rest if she felt out of breath. Cass rolled her eyes and promised with little to none enthusiasm.

Cassidy relished the smell of fresh air as she stepped outside. She never feels the direct daylight anymore, but a distorted version shines through the old windows that never seems to cheer her up. She could have jumped for joy at the sight of the sun, but she did not have the energy. In other words, this was the best day ever.

“Cass, dear, where do you want to go first?” asked the older woman.

“A place where I can sell this…” the teenager pulled out the box in which a familiar bracelet was kept.

“Honey! You cannot sell that! You love that thing!”

“I do not care, I have to get something nice for your son. And I do whatever it takes to get something for loved ones!”

When they arrived at the store a dingy sign read “I SELL CASH FOR GOLD”. Cass sighed and opened the door. A middle-aged man sat on a stool behind the glass cage. His hair as greasy as a deep fryer. His eyes flashing with excitement at the box in her hands. Cass summoned all the courage she had in her weak body and walked all the way into the shop.

“Hello, I would like to sell my bracelet,” she stated.

“Well, you came to the right place. Now let me see,” he rubs his hands as she takes it out, “Ah, this is very nice. I will give you four hundred dollars for it.”

“Four hundred? I will take that!” Cass exclaims.

For the next hour or so, Cass enters shop after shop, but cannot find anything for her dear James. James’s mother convinces her to rest before they head to another store. Cassidy stresses that time is running out, but the older woman will not hear it. As they sit on a bench the younger girl wants to cry in frustration. She surveys her surroundings for something to buy. She is losing daylight and she knows it. An adorable toddler waddles by, clinging onto his mother like she is a lifeline. Cassidy watches the child until he passes a store she never saw. There it was, the perfect gift for James. It was a simple but had a quietness and value that was much like her boyfriend. It was perfect. James always complained that his ring was going to fall off when he played a sport but never got around to getting a chain so he could put it around his neck. She had finally found a good chain for him. Upon further inspection, she realized that she could add a message on a thin metal circle that attached to the silver chain. She quickly bought the gift and the two women hurried to the hospital.

The next day James walked eagerly into the room. He surveyed the dull room until he saw the spark that was Cassidy. She looked as radiant as the stars to James. But one thing looked off to him, she was not wearing her bracelet.

“James!” She smiled, “you are here!”

“Hi Cassidy,” he walked over and gave her a hug.

“Open this…” she shoved a velvety purple box at him. James opened the box to find the chain. He knew what it was for and it really was perfect, but his eyes held regret.

“What is there something wrong? Is the engraving wrong? I can return it if you do not want it,” Cass rapidly exclaimed when she saw his face.

“No, it is perfect, thank you,” he smiled, “but I sold my ring to buy you a charm for your bracelet and to…”

“Oh, James! That is super nice and all, but I sold my bracelet to buy you your present.”

James enfolded Cassidy in a tight hug anyway. For ten seconds, they stare at a trivial object that faces the other way. Five dollars and eighty-three cents or a million dollars- what is the difference? A mathematician or genius would give the logical, yet wrong answer. The magi brought valuable gifts, but that was not among them. This will be explained later.

James handed Cassidy her present and she opened it. It was a beautiful charm that Cassidy had told James she wanted. It was diamond-encrusted heart and on the back was the letters “C+J”.

“This is beautiful,” Cassidy cried, “but I no longer have my bracelet.”

“And your chain you gave me was beautiful, but I no longer have a ring,” James replied, “Cass let’s put our presents away for now and keep them for a while. They are too nice to use at the present. But I have to tell you something.”

“Alright I will save my present. But please tell me!”

“I had extra money from the ring…I am going to pay for your medical bills!”
At this moment Cass bursts into tears. Instead of sobs and storms of rage, smiles are predominating. She was going to be alright. She pulled James into a hug and they cried for a long time.

Years before you, Cass, James, and I were put on the earth, there were three men who brought gifts to baby Jesus in the manger. The three men are known as wise men or the magi. Because of them, the art of exchanging Christmas presents was born. The magi’s gifts were sensible and caring indeed. The point of this story is to retell the modern tale of two children who are in love that most unwisely gave away their greatest possessions for each other’s happiness. But let the most experienced of them hear this. Cass and James are the wisest when it comes to giving and receiving gifts. In every situation, time, place, or hospital room they are the wisest. Cass and James are your modern magi.



Emily Mahaffy is in seventh grade and loves to read. Her favorite book series include Harry Potter and The Mysterious Benedict Society. She also spends most of her free time playing field hockey. She lives with her younger sister in Haddon Heights, NJ.