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  • 无论什么时代,童年都是值得回忆的美好岁月
  • 2014/4/15 10:30:39 来源:教育人生网
  •    My brother Tom nudged1) me—hard. He spoke in a low voice. “Walk faster. We have to make it to the front door before Dad sees Mr. Fleming. He’s sitting on a stoop2) across the street.”
    I glanced over my shoulder at our father who walked several paces behind us. He was busy searching through the pockets of his winter coat for the house keys, so he hadn’t yet noticed the man we wished to avoid.
    “If Dad stops to talk to him our lives will be ruined! By tomorrow it will be all over school again that our dad is friendly with a bum3). Remember the last time? I got into that fight at recess because Jim Reed said that Dad was a lowlife just like Mr. Fleming—a miscreant4)—that people of the same kind tend to stick together.”
    I quickened my step in order to keep up with Tom. I didn’t know what a miscreant was, but I figured it was something bad.
    “I don’t know why Dad bothers with him. Mr. Fleming has no job. His family left him. He spent time in jail. He doesn’t even have his own home. He lives in a room he rents in somebody’s house.”
    “Mr. Clements! How are you today?”
    At the sound of Mr. Fleming’s voice my brother rolled his eyes heavenward. Dad halted. So did we.
    Mr. Fleming, wearing a ragged brown wool jacket and too short brown pants, crossed the street. He tipped his battered cap to us before he shook our father’s hand. “Nice to see you and the little ones. Hope your wife is doing well.”
    Although Tom and I cringed5), a smile creased our father’s face. “She’s doing about the best she can with all the changes in our life. I was notified last week that come the first of the year I’ll be out of a job.”
    There was a note6) of genuine concern in Mr. Fleming’s voice when he replied. “I’m sorry to hear that. I thought just the factories were laying off. Didn’t realize things were bad in the corporate world too. If there is anything I can do for you, you just knock on my door.”
    Dad’s brow furrowed as if he was in deep thought before he spoke. “I have a job offer in New Jersey that I’m pretty sure I’ll have to accept. It’s far away, so I’ll only be able to come home on weekends. I’ll need somebody here on a part-time basis to do things such as putting the heavy trash cans on the curb7), shoveling snow and general emergency repairs.”
    Tom realized what Dad was going to do before I did. He interrupted the adult conversation. “I can do all those things! Everybody always says I’m big for my age. I’m strong too.”
    Dad put a hand on Tom’s shoulder. “I know you are, but the only job Mom and I want you to have at this age is that of being a child.” He turned his attention to the other man. “So, Mr. Fleming, if you have the time I would like to hire you to take care of the things here during my absence.”
    Shock, then hope ran across Mr. Fleming’s face. “Are you sure you want to hire me, Mr. Clements? You know what people will say.”
    “Let them talk. I’m hiring you because you are a good man, a hard worker, who made a mistake in his life—a mistake you’ve paid for dearly.”
    The two men shook hands. Tom waited until after Mr. Fleming left before he boldly questioned our Dad’s decision. “You can’t hire him! He’s no good! He’s a jailbird! Nobody will want to be friends with us if he’s around!”
    Dad’s words, when he quoted Martin Luther King Jr., were firm: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” Dad looked from my face to Tom’s. “Do you understand? Just because other people won’t approve, our family shouldn’t be afraid to help Mr. Fleming.”
    Tom vehemently8) shook his head. “We’ll be outcasts!” Pushed into action by the way Tom glared at me, I tugged on Dad’s coat. “Everybody says Mr. Fleming is bad. Are they all wrong?”
    Dad cupped my chin in his large hand. “After the factory laid off Mr. Fleming, his little daughter became critically ill. In desperation, he stole the drugs he needed to help keep her alive. He went to prison. While serving his sentence the child died, and his grieving wife returned to her parents where later she also died. He was left with nothing, not even his dignity.”
    I suddenly felt terrible. I could tell by the way Tom looked at the ground instead of up at Dad that he regretted what he’d said about Mr. Fleming. Without exchanging words the two of us silently agreed to never again say or listen to any gossip about Mr. Fleming.
    The new year brought many changes to our family. We only saw our father on the weekends that flew by too quickly, but we didn’t worry when Dad was away because of Mr. Fleming. He handled everything with a smile, from a broken pipe to a leaky roof. Some nights Mom invited him to stay for dinner during which his tales of travels during World War II held our rapt9) attention. And it was Mr. Fleming who carried a bloody Tom four blocks to the hospital for stitches10) when he fell off his bike.
    Despite the good Mr. Fleming did for our family, some people continued to shun him—and now us. Mom was dropped from several committees. Tom and I were not invited to classmates’ parties. Strangely enough, we found that none of this bothered us as much as we thought it would.
    Dad eventually found a job close to home and Mr. Fleming found employment on the other side of the country. We didn’t keep in contact, but he did send a Mass card11) when Dad died the year I was eleven.
    The years passed, and life went on. Every girl dreams of her father walking her down the aisle on her wedding day and I was no different. I ached with emotional pain and whispered, “Oh Daddy, how I wish you were here.”
    On the morning of my wedding mother placed a box before me as I sat at my dressing table. “This is from your father. I promised him I would give this to you on your wedding day. He said you would know what it meant.”
    I opened the gift with trembling hands. Inside the tissue lay a brass ruler with my dad’s initials engraved on it. In that special place in my heart where memories dwell I heard my father’s voice, loud and clear. “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
    In a roundabout way I was granted my wish, and received the best advice a father could give his daughter on her wedding day. Dad’s brass ruler remains with me to this day, reminding me to always stand true to myself regardless of circumstances or consequences.
    哥哥汤姆用胳膊肘使劲地顶了顶我,压低嗓门说:“走快点儿,我们必须在老爸看见弗莱明先生之前赶到门口。他就坐在街对面的门廊上。”
    我回头扫了一眼,爸爸走在我们身后,离我们只有几步远,正忙着在他的冬装大衣口袋里摸来摸去找家门钥匙,所以还没注意到那个我们不想遇到的人。
    “如果老爸停下来和他说话,那我们就完蛋了!到了明天,学校里又会传开了,说我们的爸爸和一个流浪汉交朋友。还记得上次吗?我课间的时候和吉姆·里德打了一架,就因为他说老爸是个像弗莱明先生一样的下流坯——一个恶棍——还说什么‘物以类聚,人以群分’。”
    我加快了脚步,以便跟上汤姆。我不知道“恶棍”是指什么,但我猜它不是什么好词。
    “我不明白老爸干嘛要为他费那个神。弗莱明先生没有工作。他的家人也离开了他。他还在牢里待过。他甚至连自己的家都没有,只是在别人的房子里租了一个房间住。”
    “克莱门茨先生!您好啊!”
    听到弗莱明先生的声音,哥哥翻了个白眼。爸爸停了下来,我和哥哥也停了下来。
    弗莱明先生穿着一件破破烂烂的棕色毛呢短外套和一条短了一大截的棕色长裤,穿过马路走了过来。他先摘下他那顶破帽子朝我们打了个招呼,然后与爸爸握手。“很高兴看见您和小家伙们。希望您太太也一切都好啊。”
    汤姆和我感到有些难堪,往后缩了缩,但爸爸脸上却露出了笑容。“家里出了些变故,她正尽力处理好这一切。上周公司通知我,明年年初我就要失业了。”
    弗莱明先生回答爸爸的话时,语调中带着真切的担心:“听到这个消息我真为您感到难过。我还以为只有工厂在裁人呢,没想到公司里的情况也这么糟糕。如果有什么我能为您做的,您尽管来找我。”
    爸爸眉头紧锁,好像在沉思什么,之后他说道:“新泽西州的一个公司给我提供了一份工作。这份工作我必须得去做,这一点我很清楚。但那地方很远,我只能周末回家。我需要在这边找个人兼职帮我干点家里的活儿,比如把很重的垃圾箱搬到路边,铲雪,家里应急修个东西什么的。”
    汤姆比我先意识到了爸爸要做什么。他打断了大人们的谈话,插嘴道:“那些事儿我都能做!大家总说按我的年龄我的个头都算大的,而且我也很强壮。”
    爸爸把一只手放在汤姆的肩膀上,说:“这些我都知道,但妈妈和我都希望你在这个年纪只做孩子应该做的事。”然后,他把注意力转到了弗莱明先生身上,“那么,弗莱明先生,如果你有时间,我想雇你在我去工作时帮我打理家这边的事情。”
    弗莱明先生脸上的表情先是惊愕,继而转成了希望。“您确定想雇我吗,克莱门茨先生?您知道人们会说闲话的。”
    “让他们说去吧。我雇你是因为你是一个好人,一个努力工作的人。你在生活中犯过错,但你已经为此付出了惨痛的代价。”
    两个男人握了握手。汤姆一直等到弗莱明先生离开后才敢大胆地质疑爸爸的决定。“你不能雇他!他不是好人!他坐过牢的!如果他在我们身边,就没人愿意和我们做朋友了!”
    爸爸引用了马丁·路德·金的话来回答,语气坚决:“我们衡量一个人的根本标准不是看他在舒适和安逸中如何表现,而是看他在挑战和争议中有何作为。”爸爸看看我的脸,然后又看看汤姆,说:“你们明白吗?我们不能只因其他人不认同就不敢去帮助弗莱明先生。”
    汤姆使劲地摇头:“我们会被别人排斥的!”汤姆两眼瞪着我,催我也做点什么,于是我扯了扯爸爸的外套,说:“每个人都说弗莱明先生是坏人。难道他们都错了吗?”
    爸爸用他的大手托着我的下巴,说:“工厂解雇了弗莱明先生之后,他的小女儿病得很重。实在走投无路,他就偷了治病所需的药,只为让女儿活下去。他因此进了监狱。在他服刑期间,女儿还是死了,他的妻子悲痛欲绝,回了娘家,后来也去世了。他失去了一切,甚至连尊严也没有了。”
    我心里突然感到一阵难受。汤姆低头看着地,没有抬头看爸爸。从他这副样子,我能看出他很后悔刚才说了弗莱明先生的坏话。我俩谁也没和对方说话,但心里却默默地达成了一致:以后再也不会说或听任何关于弗莱明先生的闲话了。
    在新的一年里,我们家发生了很多变化。我们只有在周末才能见到爸爸,而周末总是一眨眼就过完了。但爸爸不在家的日子我们也不用担心,因为有弗莱明先生在。不管是管道裂了还是屋顶漏了,他总是面带笑容地把每一件事都处理得妥妥当当。有时,妈妈会邀请他留下来吃晚饭,席间他会给我们讲他在二战期间的游历故事,我们总是听得全神贯注。有一次汤姆从自行车上摔了下来,流了好多血,正是弗莱明先生背着他跑了四个街区,把他送到医院缝针。
    尽管弗莱明先生为我们家做了那么多好事,但有人还是见他就躲着走——现在这些人对我们也退避三舍了。妈妈被好几个委员会开除了,同学的派对也不邀请汤姆和我去参加了。但非常奇怪的是,我们发现这些并没有像我们以为的那样令我们烦恼不已。
    最后,爸爸终于找到了一份离家近的工作,而弗莱明先生也在这个国家的另一端找到了工作。我们没有跟他保持联系,但爸爸去世那年,他给我们寄来了一张弥撒卡,那一年我11岁。
    一年又一年过去了,生活就这么继续着。每一个女孩都梦想着在她婚礼的那一天父亲能牵着她的手沿着教堂的通道走向神坛,我也一样。内心的悲伤令我痛苦不已,我低声对自己说:“哦,爸爸,我多希望你能在我身边啊。”
    婚礼那天的早晨,我坐在梳妆台前,妈妈将一个盒子放在了我的面前。“这是你爸爸留给你的。我答应他会在你结婚这天将这个盒子交给你。他说你会明白它的意义。”
    我用颤抖的双手打开了这个礼物。一把铜尺躺在一层薄薄的绢布里,上面刻着爸爸名字的首字母。在我心里那个存放记忆的特殊地方,我听到了爸爸的声音,响亮而又清晰:“我们衡量一个人的根本标准不是看他在舒适和安逸中如何表现,而是看他在挑战和争议中有何作为。”
    虽然绕了个圈子,但我还是得偿所愿,得到了一位父亲在女儿的婚礼上所能给予她的最好忠告。父亲的这把铜尺直到今天还一直留在我身边,时时提醒我:不管环境或结果如何,一定要坚持真我。

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