A Gift From a Mysterious Stranger

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She came to the library each afternoon. I should say, rather, that she drifted into the library. She was very slender, but she still seemed to enter sideways, to avoid, perhaps, entangling her long strings of beads on the doorknob.

I didn't know her name, for she never checked out books; she came to read the classified ads. Then, trailing her scarves, she wandered to the desk to talk.

Following her conversation was a challenge, for she never quite finished a sentence. Looking off in the distance, she would begin with a wave of her hand and then suddenly be reminded of something else and with a wave of her other hand veer off in another direction.

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She focused, however, once she discovered that my last name began with a "D." Soon after, she appeared with a box containing a crystal pitcher monogrammed with the letter D plus six glasses, also monogrammed. I can't remember how much she asked for these, perhaps double what she had paid, but I thought it reasonable. We were always breaking glasses at our house.

This was long before the time of garage sales, so she likely attended moving or house sales. I doubt that she could have found the courage to speak up at an auction.

Her next offering was a small box of butter knives, also marked with a graceful D. I bought them but never used them. While cleaning out the basement recently, I came upon the box and am now using them every day. I can't think why it took me so long.

The staff teased me whenever they'd seen her at the desk, demanding to see what I'd "foolishly bought now." I remember a scarf and a box of notepaper with a large blue D, which I inflicted on my sister whenever I wrote.

Then, one afternoon, she appeared with a gift. "You aren't to buy this," she said. "I know you like plays, so I thought this would be right for you." She gave me a program printed in red on yellow satin for the opera "La Belle Helene," on Sept. 21, 1891, at the Alvin Theatre (70 fire exits).

I was touched and framed it. I only wish now that I could tell her how valuable a collectible her program has become. We were friends that summer, and as I use her monogrammed pitcher and knives, her face, her smile, is engraved in my memory.

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