The scroll is growing mould, taking a shape that it shouldn’t (aren’t we all) and in danger of being turned into a paper aeroplane by any one of our playful sons. It’s been nagging away at me for years, lying there on top of the chest of drawers, looking as useless as it is in my life at the moment. It’s waiting, like me, for someone to come along and review it. Pick it up, look at it from different angles and in different lights, show it a bit of recognition, just say yes. Yes I see you. Come this way. This one’s for you.
When he asks what I’d like for Christmas I trot out my usual answer.
‘Nothing thanks, let’s just cover everyone else. No need to waste any money’.
‘But you got me something, so that’s not going to work, is it’. Damn.
‘Ok, let me think for a bit’. We have this nonsense conversation every single Christmas. We promise we won’t get anything for one another as it’s not about us, is it, and then I break it, naturally, just some little irresistible thing and then he has to too. Every single year.
‘I have it’ I tell him. We’re out for Christmas pints, all chilled, ish.
‘I know what I want’. He’s looking a little alarmed now. I must have that determined look in my eye. Very scary. Usually I point him gently towards some book or other. A sniff of old perfume perchance. Anything along those lines, love, will do. Not this time.
‘I want a frame. I want you to take the neglected, disintegrating scroll into a frame-it shop, if one exists, and get it framed’. His lack of an immediate gung-ho response says a lot. He’s not too sure about this. It’s dodgy territory. What if something happens to the scroll in transit? Fragile thing that it is. A gust of wind. A cloud burst. What if they lose it in the shop. Christmas chaos and all that it is. What if the frame is wrong? What will the consequences be for him then.
‘That’s it, it’s all I want. I don’t care what it looks like. I’m not exactly going to hang it on display. I just want it to be protected, minded, taken care of, you know?’
He’s still got a little scared look about him which his pint of Guinness is failing to wipe off. He knows as well as I do that it’s about a hell of a lot more than that. That there’s a symbolic parallel game being played. A game about identity loss and the quest for re-emergence. Much and all as the thesis was. Through humour though. Funny that. A frightening game is on the table. A game that needs to be played.
We order another round.
‘I’ll do it’ he says, three gulps in, banging his pint down on the beer mat, sealing the deal. That’s my boy. I like it. A willingness to play no matter how scared. That’s what has got us where we are after all.
Now get this man a whiskey chaser, he’s going to need it.
He does it well, all cloak and dagger sneaking around, plucking marque three to assist him, whisper, whisper, and I am ridiculously excited. A child again. I almost suppress the urge to quiz marque three on his return. It wouldn’t be fair, would it? Perhaps a little question falls out of my mouth. What did you get up to then? But he’s good. Details some things they did, dead-pan, and avoids the trap. On Christmas Eve he summons his dutiful, loyal assistant again and they disappear. I do manage to get other things done, stuff the turkey, dust the mantle-piece, wrap presents and the like, all in a bubble of sweet anticipation. On their return he tip-toes past me up the stairs, smiling a no-peeking smile. He’s enjoying the game now too. Making me wait.
On Christmas morning the kids wait until all are awake. They prod gently-ish at the tired old parents. Then we all go downstairs and they line up outside the sitting room door while he checks to see if Santa Claus has been, and I have my fingers crossed that no-one else has been in to relieve my children of the joy of their gifts. All is well and in we go for the bliss of the discoveries, the whoops, the laughter. An intoxicating hour with the kettle on again and again.
The gift is handed to me. I tear at the wrapping and the bubble wrap and it emerges, mounted, shiny, embraced by natural wood. It exceeds all expectations. I had no idea it could look this good. Beautiful even.
‘We should put it here’ he says whipping down an old picture in the corner of the hall and hanging the gift which I don’t want hung, not at all, until I see it and, fickle creature that I am, agree that it’s a perfect spot for it.
‘And then, every time you leave the house, to pick up the kids or whatever, you’ll pass it and remember who you are, your past and what lies ahead for you’ he says and he laughs, a kind, appreciative laugh. He has played this game far too well. The excitement for what lies ahead drums merrily in my veins. Now get this man a prize.
Thanks to all of you for reading and every good wish for the new year.