Symbol Of Appreciation
We find John sat at his desk, surrounded by stacks of papers, hastily scribbling away in a battered notebook. Pen scratching as he writes. He hears a shout from down the hall,
He slumped back in his chair and let out a large sigh. He pushed his glasses onto his forehead and rubbed his eyes. John hadn’t been back here for a long time, the guest room where he had set his work station was his childhood bedroom, his posters of KISS and Iron Maiden had been replaced with oil paintings and his stacks of magazines had been replaced by stacks of boxes, somehow overflowing from the already ample storage in the house.
“Coming dad” He called down the hallway, pushing himself out of the chair and making his way to the door. Just as he was about to twist the handle to open it he spun on his heels and rushed back to scribble a quick note in his battered notebook. As a successful writer John had quickly learnt the art of preserving his passing thoughts by routinely scribbling them down any time one came to him. This time the words, desperate to be put to paper were as follows:
And then without any say in the matter, the beautifuldelicate frail summer’s eve will always succumb to the inky darkness of the night
Before he could scribble any more, another call rung down the hall. John lay his pen down across the notebook and made his way towards the summons.
“What’s up dad?”
His fathers room was overflowing with paraphernalia, collected over a lifetime of interest in multiple-lifetimes of experiences, there were all manner of things, from fossils to telescopes, from microscopes to mounds and piles of old maps, books and newspapers. The whole room was bursting with a passion for knowledge. There were rusted scientific instruments, globes whos pictorial representation of land masses were cracking and breaking along continental lines and a distinctive smell. The smell was a combination of dusty old books, damp and worn leather; never faltering in it’s ability to extract John from any current preoccupation and illicit a profound return to his younger self, consumed with wonderment within his father’s jungle of edification.
“Oh John, thanks for coming, can you get your mother in as well please?”
“Mum’s gone dad, she died 5 years ago,”
“Oh, erm, yes, quite right, 5 years… yes…”
“Are you alright dad? You seem a little distracted?”
“No, no, I’m fine, I just had a gift for you, I wanted to give it to you before you headed back to university”
“I’m not at university. I’ve not been at university for 17 years. remember, I write now”
“Oh, erm, yes, quite right, and your brother? He’s at university?”
“No dad, Mike works in London now, he works for our cousin, Ellen’s company? Remember?”
“Oh, yes, quite right, Ellen’s company, George must be so proud of her, you know George always spoke so highly of Ellen, she could never do anything wrong, always going to succeed. Remember when we were in Devon camping and George announced him and Ruby were expecting, ever since then he always said the little baby would go far”
“No dad, I don’t remember that, you were down there with just mum and Uncle George and Aunty Ruby,”
“Oh yes, that’s right, sorry”
“Anyway, what was it you wanted to show me?”
“Show you?” His dad looked around the room, scanning the towering boxes, overflowing with fabric and camera equipment, trying desperately to look for something that would remind him of what he had called John in for,
“You called me in here to give me something?”
“I’m sorry John, I can’t remember, I’ll give you a bell if I do, have a safe journey back to University”
“I’ll just be down the hall dad”
On his way back to his room John managed to knock into a stack of boxes 4 foot high, as they tumbled over the contents of the top box lay sprawled across the floor, it was photos of his mum and dad, young, fresh faced and adventuring across the world. One caught his attention, they were at the edge of a lake, a magnificent backdrop of mountains dwarfed their small figures. His dad had 2 cameras slung over his shoulder and what looked to be a book stuffed in his pocket. John’s mum was stood next to his dad, with her arm over his shoulder. She was turned away from her painters easel, paintbrush in hand, a quick pause from her delicate capture of the mountain scape. John paused to admire their effortless smiles. He had been inspired by his mother love of art, his fathers pursuit of capturing, chronicling and seizing the world. He had been even more inspired by their love for one another.
John quickly gathered up the scattered photos and tucked them into his pocket,
“It must be… somewhere in here…. Somewhere…”
His dad was up out of his chair, head in a box, rummaging around. John could hear clinking of metal and rattling of rocks,
“Ah here it is, yes, this is the one”
He lifted his head from the cardboard box,
“I’m here dad, no need to shout” John replied giving his dad a jump. It reminded John of when he was young and would hide around corners to pounce on his dad with a “booo”
“Woah. John, I remembered what it was I wanted to give you” he said with a chuckle,
“What have you got for me then” John was well accustomed to his dad’s idea of a gift, and to express that his expectations were low of quantity would be an over statement,
His dad reached out his arm, holding his fist out. John reached his hand out, palm face up. His dad opened his fist. A small, solid object drop into John’s hand. He bought it closer to inspect it. It caught a slight gleam form a rare strip of sunlight. The sunlight had slipped in from the window and danced between the boxes and obstructions to catch the golden object John was inspecting between his thumb and forefinger. A golden pineapple, exquisitely crafted, beautifully delicately intricately elegantly detailed.
“It’s a pineapple,” his dad’s excitement tore out of him, “it’s a sign of affluence, of grandeur, of specialist skill. Each shrub would only bear but a single fruit. Their rarity, their complexity of cultivation and their high value all meant if you were gifted a pineapple, it was a sign of huge appreciation. I wanted to gift it to you, as an everlasting token of my appreciation for all your work”
“Dad, I don’t know what to say… that’s beautiful”
As John lifted it to the sunlight again, the gleam, the soft golden glow, warm and gentle but strong and deliberate. John would hold that gleam close in his memory, effortlessly close but firmly in place. For it was a gleam he had only seen once before, in his father’s eye. Alive, glowing and charged with a passion for the world around him.