My Mother's GiftI grew up in a small town where the elementary school was a ten-minute walk from my house and in an age , not so long ago , when children could go home for lunch and find their mothers waiting.At the time, I did not consider this a luxury, although today it certainly would be. I took it for granted that mothers were the sandwich-makers, the finger-painting appreciators and the homework monitors. I never questioned that this ambitious, intelligent woman, who had had a career before I was born and would eventually return to a career, would spend almost every lunch hour throughout my elementary school years just with me.I only knew that when the noon bell rang, I would race breathlessly home. My mother would be standing at the top of the stairs, smiling down at me with a look that suggested I was the only important thing she had on her mind. For this, I am forever grateful. Some sounds bring it all back: the highpitched squeal of my mother's teakettle, the rumble of the washing machine in the basement and the jangle of my dog's license tags as she bounded down the stairs to greet me. Our time together seemed devoid of the gerrymandered schedules that now pervade my life.One lunchtime when I was in the third grade will stay with me always. I had been picked to be the princess in the school play, and for weeks my mother had painstakingly rehearsed my lines with me. But no matter how easily I delivered them at home, as soon as I stepped onstage, every word disappeared from my head. Finally, my teacher took me aside. She explained that she had written a narrator's part to the play, and asked me to switch roles. Her word, kindly delivered, still stung, especially when I saw my part go to another girl.I didn't tell my mother what had happened when I went home for lunch that day. But she sensed my unease, and instead of suggesting we practice my lines, she asked If I wanted to walk in the yard.It was a lovely spring day and the rose vine on the trellis was turning green. Under the huge elm trees, we could see yellow dandelions popping through the grass in bunches, as if a painter had touched our landscape with dabs of gold .I watched my mother casually bend down by one of the clumps. "I think I'm going to dig up all these weeds, "she said, yanking a blossom up by its roots. "From now on, we'll have only roses in this garden. ""But I like dandelions, " I protested. "All flowers are beautiful-even dandelions. "My mother looked at me seriously. "Yes, every flower gives pleasure in its own way, doesn't it?" She asked thoughtfully. I nodded, pleased that I had won her over. "And that is true of people too, " she added. "Not everyone can be a princess, but there is no shame in that.Relieved that she had guessed my pain, I started to cry as I told her what had happened. She listened and smiled reassuringly."But you will be a beautiful narrator, " she said , reminding me of how much I loved to read stories aloud to her . "The narrator's part is every bit as important as the part of a princess. "Over the next few weeks, with her constant encouragement, I learned to take pride in the role. Lunchtimes were spent reading over my lines and talking abut what I would wear.Backstage the night of the performance, I felt nervous. A few minutes before the play, my teacher came over to me. "Your mother asked me to give this to you, " she said, handing me a dandelion. Its edges were already beginning to curl and it flopped lazily from its stem. But just looking at it, knowing my mother was out there and thinking of our lunchtime talk, made me proud .After the play , I took home the flower I had stuffed in the apron of my costume . My mother pressed it between two sheets of paper toweling in a dictionary , laughing as she did it that we were perhaps the only people who would press such a sorry-looking weed . I often look back on our lunchtimes together , bathed in the soft midday light . They were the commas in my childhood , the pauses that told me life is not savored in premeasured increment , but in the sum of daily rituals and small pleasures we casually share with loved ones . Over peanut-butter sandwiches and chocolate-chip cookies , I learned that love , first and foremost , means being there for the little things . A few months ago , my mother came to visit , I took off a day from work and treated her to lunch. The restaurant bustled with noontime activity as businesspeople made deals and glanced at their watches . In the middle of all this sat my mother , now retired , and I . From her face I could see that she relished the pace of the work world ."Mom , you must have been terribly bored staying at home when I was a child , " I said ."Bored? Housework is boring . But you were never boring . "I didn't believe her , so I pressed . "Surely children are not as stimulating as a career. ""A career is stimulating , " she said . "I'm glad I had one . But a career is like an open balloon. It remains inflated only as long as you keep pumping . A child is a seed . You water it . You care for it the best you can . And then it grows all by itself into a beautiful flower . "Just then , looking at her , I could picture us sitting at her kitchen table once again , and I understood why I kept that flaky brown dandelion in our old family dictionary pressed between two crumpled bits of paper towel. 母亲的礼物我是在一个小镇上长大的,从镇上的小学校到我家, 只需步行10分钟。离当前不算太太久远的那个时代 , 小学生可以回家吃午饭,而他们的母亲,则会老早在家等候着。这一切对如今的孩子来说,无疑是一种奢望了,可是那时的我,却并不以为然。 我觉得做母亲的给她的孩子制作三明治,鉴赏指画,检查他们的家庭作业,都是理所当然的事。我从来没有想过:像我母亲这样一个颇有抱负又很聪明的女人,在我降生之前,她有一份工作,而且后来她又谋了份差事,可是,在我上小学那几年,她却几乎天天陪着我吃午饭,一同打发午餐时的每一分钟。只记得,每当午时铃声一响,我就一口气地往家里跑。母亲总是站在门前台阶的最高层,笑盈盈地望着我--那神情分明表示:我便是母亲心目中唯一最重要的东西了。为此,我一辈子都要感谢我的母亲。如今,每当我听到一些声音,像母亲那把茶壶水开时发出的尖叫声,地下室洗衣机的隆隆声,还有, 我那条狗蹦下台阶冲我摇头摆尾时它脖子上那牌照发出的撞击声,便会勾起我对往事的回忆。和母亲在一起的岁月,全然没有充斥于我的生活中的、事先排定的虚情假意的日程表。我永远忘不了在我上三年级时的那一顿午饭。在那天之前,我被学校选中,要在一个即将演出的小剧中扮演公主的角色。一连好几个礼拜,母亲总是不辞辛劳地陪着我,一起背诵台词。可是,不管在家里怎么背得滚瓜烂熟,只要一上舞台,我的脑子里就成了一片空白。终于,老师把我叫到了一边。她说剧中旁白这个角色的台词已写好了,想把我替换下来当旁白。尽管老师这些话说得和和气气,可还是刺痛了我的心,特别是当我发觉自己扮演的公主角色让另外一个女孩顶替时,更是如此。那天回家吃午饭时我没有把这事告诉母亲。然而,母亲见我心神不定,因此没有再提练习背台词的事儿,而是问我愿意不愿意到院子里散散步。那真是一个可爱的春日,棚架上蔷薇的藤蔓正在转青。在一些高大的榆树下面,我们可以看到,一丛丛黄色的蒲公英冒出草坪,仿佛是一位画家为了给眼前的美景增色而着意加上的点点金色。我看到母亲在一簇花丛旁漫不经心地弯下身来。"我看得把这些野草都拨了,"她说着,一边使劲把一丛蒲公英连根拨出。"往后咱这园子里只让长蔷薇花。""可是我喜欢蒲公英,"我不满地说,"凡是花都好看--蒲公英也不例外。"母亲严肃地看着我。"噢,这么说,每朵花都自有它令人赏心悦目的地方喽?"她若有所思地问道。我点了点头,总算说服了母亲,这使我很得意。"可是人也一样呀,"母亲接着又发话,"不见得人人都能当公主,但当不了公主并不丢脸。"母亲猜到了我的苦恼,这使我的情绪安定下来。我哭了起来,把事情的经过讲给母亲听。母亲专注地听着,脸上带着安详的微笑。"但你会成为一名顶呱呱的解说员,"母亲又说。她说平常我是多么喜欢朗诵故事给她听,还说"从哪方面看,旁白这个角色都和公主那个角色一样重要"。往后的几个星期,在母亲的一再鼓励下,我渐渐地以担任旁白的角色感到骄傲。利用午饭时间,我们又一起念台词,议论到时候我该穿什么样的演出服装。到了演出那个晚上,当我登上后台,心里还感到紧张。离演出还有几分钟的时候,老师朝我走了过来。"你母亲让我把这个交给你,"说着她递过来了一朵蒲公英。那花儿四周已开始打蔫,花瓣儿从梗上向下有气无力地耷拉着。可是,只要看一眼,知道母亲就在外面呆着,回想起和母亲用午饭时说的那些话,我就感到胸有成竹。演出结束后,我把塞在演出服围裙里的那朵蒲公英拿回了家。母亲将花接了过去,用两张纸巾将它压平,夹在了一本字典里。她一边忙碌着,一边笑,想到也许只有我们俩会珍藏这么一朵打了蔫的野草花。我常常回想起和母亲在一起度过的那些沐浴在和煦阳光之中的午餐时光。它们是我孩提时代的一个个小插曲,告诉我一个道理:人生的滋味,就在于和我们所爱的人在一起不经意地共度的日常生活、分享的点点滴滴的欢乐,而不在于某种事先测量好的"添加剂"。在享用母亲做的花生酱、三明治和巧克力碎末小甜饼的时候,我懂得了,爱就体现在这些细微这处。几个月前,母亲又来看我。我特意请了天假,陪母亲吃午饭。中午,饭馆里熙熙壤攘,做生意的人忙不迭地从事交易活动,他们不时地看看手表。如今已经退休的母亲和我就坐在这群人中间。从母亲的表情中,我看得出,母亲打心眼里喜欢上班族这种生活的节奏。"妈,我小的时候,您老呆在家里一定觉得很烦吧?"我说。"烦?做家务是令人心烦,不过,你从来没使我感到心烦过。"我不相信这是实话,于是我又想法子套她的话。"看孩子哪会像工作那样富有刺激性呢?""工作是富有刺激性的,"母亲答道,"很高兴我也有过工作。可是工作好比开了口的气球,你只有不停地充气,它才能鼓着劲。可是一个孩子就是一粒种子,你浇灌了它,全心全意地爱护它,然后,它就会独立自主地开出美丽的花朵来。"此时此刻,我凝望着我的母亲,脑海里又浮现出儿时的我和母亲一起坐在饭桌旁的情景,也明白了为什么我还珍藏着夹在我们家里那本旧字典中的那朵用两小块皱皱巴巴的纸巾压平的蒲公英。 □姜建华译 [NoPage
 

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