For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to find the magic shop. You know the one I mean: the one heaped with treasures like a vial containing seven tears of an angel or a battered purse of gold coins that is never empty, the one that is there one day and gone the next. To my lasting disappointment, I have never found it, although I have found occasional intimations of it in occasional antique stores and book shops. But this fascination explains why this afternoon found me at the Circle Craft Christmas Market, treading every inch of the seemingly endless aisles of artists and artisians.over and over – even though, this year, the fascination was muted.
What I like about such events is the diversity. Usually, I spend very little – usually less than $100. But the diversions for the eyes seem endless. Jewelry, purses, saris, wooden game boards, rubber stamps, glasswork with streams of color running through it, woven Metis blankets, cedar hats, soup mixes, ,keychains, wallets, children’s songs, carved wooden bowls, clocks with slate faces, fudge from Calgary, soup mixes from Saltspring Island, vinegars as exotic as wine, CDs of children’s songs, lamps made from spirals of wood, Christmas cake, silk scarfs, birch bark bitings, canned salmon, chocolates, jellies, james, woven cedar roses, china flowers, table place settings – even with all the booths of women’s clothing, the variety seems impossible to summarize.
The fact that many of the items seem too unique for everyday use, if not outright useless and unnecessary only adds to the glamor. There is a kind of glorious excess to such displays, and some of the exhibitors seem to be present largely to share their delight in their own creations, although I know that others are counting on their sales at such markets for their winter income.
However, this was the first craft fair I had visited since I was widowed. As a result, my enjoyment was diminished by the fact that I no longer had someone to buy for. Several times, a set of earrings caught my eye, and I picked them up, weighing it in my hand as I studied its engraving, only to put it down again as I remembered I had no one to give them to. “Trish would like this,” I would think, fingering a purse, only to remember that she had no more need of one. I would imagine her describing a curve in a wood sculpture with her hand, or how she would have lingered over the racks of spice mixes or the gauzy scarfs hanging around a booth like a curtain, and suddenly, the enchantment would falter. Suddenly, I would find that I was not in the magic shop at all, but a cavernous convention center, where there were very few obscure corners in which I could sit and regain control of myself.
The enchantment never faded altogether. I came home with a vegan belt (so-called because it contains no leather) that fitted a silver buckle I bought months ago. And, remembering our habit in recent years of filling Christmas stockings with gourmet food, I also crowded my bag with bread dips and mustards and sauces and candied almonds.
But although a chance-met friend walked me to the station, it was a cold and dark ride home on the Skytrain, with an empty townhouse waiting at the end of the line.
A good thing the fair wasn’t the actual magic shop, I kept thinking, because now I had no one with whom to share the discovery.
And somewhere during the day, I had lost faith that I ever would find it now.