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[美文欣赏]爸爸的腌菜罐

[美文欣赏]爸爸的腌菜罐
  As far back as I can remember, the large pickle jar sat on the floor beside the dresser in my parents’ bedroom. When he got ready for bed, Dad would empty his pockets and toss2 his coins into the jar. As a small boy I was always fascinated at the sounds the coins made as they were dropped into the jar. They landed with a merry jingle when the jar was almost empty. Then the tones gradually muted to a dull thud3 as the jar was filled. I used to squat4 on the floor in front of the jar and admire the copper and silver circles that glinted5 like a pirate’s treasure when the sun poured through the bedroom window.

  When the jar was filled, Dad would sit at the kitchen table and roll the coins before taking them to the bank. Taking the coins to the bank was always a big production. Stacked neatly in a small cardboard box, the coins were placed between Dad and me on the seat of his old truck. Each and every time, as we drove to the bank, Dad would look at me hopefully. “Those coins are going to keep you out of the textile mill, son. You’re going to do better than me. This old mill town’s not going to hold you back.” Also, each and every time, as he slid the box of rolled coins across the counter at the bank toward the cashier, he would grin proudly.“These are for my son’s college fund. He’ll never work at the mill all his life like me.”

  We would always celebrate each deposit by stopping for an ice cream cone. I always got chocolate. Dad always got vanilla6. When the clerk at the ice cream parlor7 handed Dad his change, he would show me the few coins nestled in his palm. “When we get home, we’ll start filling the jar again.”

  He always let me drop the first coins into the empty jar. As they rattled8 around with a brief, happy jingle, we grinned at each other. “You’ll get to college on pennies, nickels9, dimes10 and quarters,” he said. “But you’ll get there. I’ll see to that.”

  The years passed, and I finished college and took a job in another town. Once, while visiting my parents, I used the phone in their bedroom, and noticed that the pickle jar was gone. It had served its purpose and had been removed. A lump rose in my throat as I stared at the spot beside the dresser where the jar had always stood. My dad was a man of few words, and never lectured me on the values of determination, perseverance, and faith. The pickle jar had taught me all these virtues far more eloquently11 than the most flowery12 of words could have done.

  When I married, I told my wife Susan about the significant part the lowly pickle jar had played in my life as a boy. In my mind, it defined, more than anything else, how much my dad had loved me. No matter how rough things got at home, Dad continued to doggedly13 drop his coins into the jar. Even the summer when Dad got laid off from the mill, and Mama had to serve dried beans several times a week, not a single dime was taken from the jar. On the contrary, as Dad looked across the table at me, pouring catsup14 over my beans to make them more palatable15, he became more determined than ever to make a way out for me. “When you finish college, son,” he told me, his eyes glistening, “you’ll never have to eat beans again unless you want to.”

  The first Christmas after our daughter Jessica was born, we spent the holiday with my parents. After dinner, Mom and Dad sat next to each other on the sofa, taking turns cuddling their first grandchild. Jessica began to whimper16 softly, and Susan took her from Dad’s arms. “She probably needs to be changed, ” she said, carrying the baby into my parents’ bedroom to diaper17 her.

  When Susan came back into the living room, there was a strange mist in her eyes. She handed Jessica back to Dad before taking my hand and quietly leading me into the room.

  “Look,” she said softly, her eyes directing me to a spot on the floor beside the dresser. To my amazement, there, as if it had never been removed, stood the old pickle jar, the bottom already covered with coins.

  I walked over to the pickle jar, dug down into my pocket, and pulled out a fistful of coins. With a gamut18 of emotions choking me, I dropped the coins into the jar. I looked up and saw that Dad, carrying Jessica, had slipped quietly into the room. Our eyes locked, and I knew he was feeling the same emotions I felt. Neither one of us could speak.


  从我记事时起,那个大大的腌菜罐就放在我父母卧室内梳妆台旁边的地板上。每天晚上,当爸爸准备上床睡觉的时候,他都会把他的口袋倒空,把里面的硬币都投进罐子里。在我还是个小男孩的时候,我对那些硬币落在罐子里发出的碰撞声总是很着迷。当罐子几乎还是空着的时候,它们落进去时发出的是快乐的叮当声。等到罐子快要装满的时候,它们的声音便逐渐变成了沉闷的嘭声。当太阳穿过卧室的窗户照射在罐子里的铜币和银币上时,它们就像被海盗劫掠去的珍宝一样闪闪发光。每当这个时候,我就蹲在罐子前的地板上欣赏那些闪亮的硬币。

  罐子装满后,爸爸就会坐在厨房的桌子边,把那些硬币用纸卷起来,然后再拿到银行去把它们存起来。把那些硬币拿到银行去存起来一直是一项庄重的工作。我们通常是开爸爸的那辆旧卡车去。硬币被整整齐齐地堆在一个小硬纸盒子里,放在爸爸和我之间的车座上。每一次,在我们开车去银行的时候,爸爸都满怀希望地看着我。“那些钱将会使你远离纺织厂,儿子。你的未来要比我好。这个古老的工业小镇不能阻止你向前发展。”每一次,当他把那盒卷成卷的钱推过银行的柜台,递给出纳员的时候,他总是骄傲地咧着嘴笑个不停。“这些是我儿子将来上大学的基金。他这辈子绝不会像我这样在工厂里工作。”

  每一次存完钱,我们都会在冰淇淋店停下来买两客蛋卷冰淇淋庆贺。我的那一份总是巧克力的,而爸爸的则总是香草的。当冰淇淋店的职员递给爸爸找的零钱时,他总会把那些硬币摊在手掌心里给我瞧。“我们回到家,就又可以开始存钱了。”

  他总是让我把第一把硬币投进空空的罐子里。当硬币落到罐底发出快乐的脆响时,我们就相视咧嘴一笑。“你上大学就全靠这些一分、五分、一毛和两毛五的硬币了。”他说,“不过你会上上大学的。我一定会让你上上大学的。”

  许多年过去了,我完成了大学学业,在另一座城镇里有了份工作。有一次,我去看望我的父母。我到他们的卧室里打电话,注意到那个腌菜罐不见了。它的使命已经完成,所以被拿走了。我凝视着梳妆台旁边过去总是放着那个罐子的地方,伤心得不觉一阵哽咽。我的爸爸是一个沉默寡言的人,从来没有给我讲过决心?坚定不移和信念之类的价值观。但是这个腌菜罐却以比任何最华丽的词藻强得多的说服力教给了我所有这些美德。

  结婚后,我把这个不起眼的腌菜罐对于我那个小小少年起到的重要作用告诉了妻子苏珊。在我看来,它充分表明我的爸爸是多么爱我。不管家里的日子多么艰难,爸爸总是坚持不懈地往那个罐子里扔硬币。甚至在爸爸被工厂解雇的那个夏天,我们的餐桌上一星期要出现好几次干豆子的情况下,爸爸也没有从那个罐子里拿出一分钱。相反,爸爸看着坐在餐桌对面的我,把番茄酱倒在我盘子里的豆子上,以使它们吃起来味道更好一些。这时,他那为我谋出路的决心比任何时候都更加坚定。“等你大学毕业后,儿子,”他对我说,眼睛里闪着光,“除非你想吃,否则你再也不必吃豆子了。”

  我的女儿杰西卡出生后的第一个圣诞节,我和妻子与我的父母一起过节。晚饭后,妈妈和爸爸挨着坐在沙发上,轮流抱他们的第一个孙女。后来,杰西卡开始轻声地哭起来,苏珊就从爸爸的怀里接过她。“大概要换尿布了。”她说着,就抱着孩子到我父母的卧室里去了。

  当苏珊回到起居室后,她的眼睛令人奇怪地有些潮湿。她把杰西卡递还给爸爸,然后拉着我的手,一言不发地领着我走进父母的卧室。

  “你瞧。”她轻轻地说,我顺着她的目光向梳妆台旁边的地板上看过去。令我感到惊讶的是,那儿放着那个旧腌菜罐,罐底已经被硬币铺满了,就好像它从来不曾被拿开过。

  我走到腌菜罐旁边,把手伸进口袋,掏出一把硬币,怀着极其激动的心情把硬币投进了罐子。我抬起头,看见爸爸抱着杰西卡轻轻地走进了卧室。我们的目光相遇了,我知道他此时也和我一样激动。我们默视着,谁也说不出话来。
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