La Canada Literary Corner

"The Gift" Is A Perfect Christmas Read

"The Gift" by Pete Hamill

The temperature has dropped below 0, the dreamy lights of Christmas reflect on the fallen snow of Brooklyn's streets that are stampeded by the hustle and bustle of shoppers, school children and workers heading their way to their local bar for a drink. It is Christmas in 1952 and 17-year-old Pete is home from the war in Korea. The latest letters he had received from his girlfriend Kathleen made his stomach fill with nerves and his anxiety grew worse when he was the only solider off the train without a girl to meet him. Even his parents weren't there, but in those times you were lucky if your family had a telephone and his did not. Pete's father was an Irish factory worker and had always been a distant man to Pete. He had spent his life working nights and sleeping during the day with just one local bar that had known him over all of the years -- Rattigan's. His mother had six children including Pete, and each Christmas was harder to afford with a new baby usually in the house.

Pete sees old friends and even finds $40 for his mother to use on Christmas Eve when all of the toys go on sale and it is on that night that Pete decides to step into Rattigan's. It was in this bar that his father's personal history beat around him where "everybody had a record of his small wins and unmentioned loses, the place where he had boasted and lied and laughed, and was forgiven everything." In this humble setting with beers between father and son and the snow dumping outside, Pete "meets" his father.

Pete Hamill, was a columnist for the New York Post when "The Gift" was originally published in 1973. He went on to become editor in chief of both the Post and the New York Daily News, as well as a celebrated novelist and screenwriter. His widely acclaimed and best selling books include the novels "Forever and Snow in August" and the memoirs "Downtown: My Manhattan" and "A Drinking Life." He lives in New York City.

"The Gift" is a perfect Christmas "read" leaves us to remember that our relationships are the best gift we can receive for the holidays.

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