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May. 22, 2022 | Sunday
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Writers’ Circle: The Gift — Irma’s solution
(Sourced photo)

Hermine Steinberg/Special


In the previous installments of The Gift, I shared the story of five friends who encountered a magical spirit. She gave them an enchanted tea that could transform the women to the idealized version of themselves at half their age. They were given three days to decide whether they would accept the gift. This is Irma’s story.

Irma burst through the front door with her two golden retrievers in tow. She was out of breath and perspiration was running down her face despite the cold weather.

“Are you alright?” David, Irma’s husband, rushed up and grabbed the dogs’ leashes.

She threw her coat on the hall bench and kicked off her boots. “I’ve got to find my journal, write it all down before I forget.”

“Did something happen?”

“It certainly did!” Irma hugged David. “I’ll tell you all about it at dinner, after I write it down. I want to remember every detail.” She ran upstairs to her study.

“I made reservations at The Irish Harp for 7,” he called after her.

“Plenty of time,” she yelled down to him.

David poured himself a scotch and plopped down on his favourite leather chair. He smiled to himself, shaking his head. Irma was always full of surprises.

When they got to the restaurant, it was bustling with Friday night regulars and tourists. There was a young man fiddling up a storm on the corner stage. Irma asked for a table in the back room.

“We’ll start with onion rings and lager,” Irma told the waitress. “Then fish and chips for both of us.”

“This must be some story,” said David. “We normally reserve the onion rings for special occasions.”

Irma reached into her purse and retrieved a leather-bound journal with 2019 tooled in gold on the cover. She had been recording her experiences, ideas and short stories for nearly 55 years. Her older sister, Sarah, bought Irma her first journal for her 10th birthday. It became a tradition. Until a few years ago, Sarah gave her a new one every birthday, each with a unique cover and the first page containing a personal letter to Irma.

By the time Irma finished reading her account of what happed in the Commons to David, they had finished their pints and there was nothing left on the platter but crumbs.

“You know, if it was anyone but you, I’d think you were out of your mind,” said David.

“I wouldn’t totally discount that theory if I were you.”

The waitress brought their main courses and for a few minutes they ate silently. David then put down his fork and looked across the table to his wife. “Honey, if you want to do this, I’ll support you a thousand per cent. After all, this just might be an offer too good to refuse.”

“You know, we’ll be celebrating our 40th anniversary next year. The other day I was thinking about how lucky we were to find each other and what an incredible life we’ve had.”

“We have had a wonderful life. You’re my best friend and I couldn’t have dreamt up a better partner than you. That’s why I want you to have this chance.”

Irma sat back in her chair. “I won’t lie. As I was writing down my experience, the thought occurred to me that if I could be an idealized form of my younger self, perhaps now … now that we’ve already experienced so much and I might be physically able to, I could be a mother.”

“Are you sorry we decided not to adopt?”

“No, after years of trying to have a child, we made the right decision to just live our lives to the fullest, design a career around our desire to explore the world and all its wonders. I wouldn’t have traded those years, that life for anything.” Irma took David’s hand. “And what I realized after thinking about the possibility of being a mother now is that I didn’t want to do it alone or with anyone else but you.”

David’s eyes welled up. “Are you sure? What then?”

“I also discovered something else. I got so excited about what happened, realizing that there are magical forces in this world, that a veil had been lifted and I now knew this other reality existed, I started emailing people we knew that had done research in this area, could analyze what is in the satchel, and imagining a series of podcasts where we would track down other people who have experienced similar things. Monday morning I’m meeting Ray Chelmsford at his lab so he can test a sample.”

“Are you saying you want to unretire, go back to work, and let this gift go?”

Irma’s eyes twinkled as they always did when she came up with one of her great ideas. “Well, maybe in my case, the gift was realizing I wasn’t really ready for a life of leisure, lunches and volunteer work. It sparked my imagination, injected me with a second lease on life, one we could experience together if you thought we were up to it.”

David laughed. “You have no idea how relieved I am! I didn’t want to say anything because you seemed so happy. But I’ve been just itching to take on a new project.”

“I also have another crazy idea. The memory the tea conjured up for me was when I went to the doctor with Sarah and we learned that she had Alzheimer’s. Reliving that day, now knowing how quickly it has progressed since then, was absolutely devastating.”

“Do you think it will work on her?” David got up and sat next to Irma on the bench seat. He put his arm around her. “What’s the plan?”

On Monday afternoon Irma and David went to visit Sarah. On Tuesday they returned home with their 35-year-old research assistant whom they just hired to begin their new venture – In Search of Magic.

To be continued ...