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散文佳作108篇 第58期:A Gift of Dreams 梦寐以求的礼物




A Gift of Dreams(Excerpt)


George H.Brooks


Christmas Eve, 1994. I was a sailor in the U.S. Navy, on a one-day leave in San Francisco. Ihad won ' 300 at poker that ordinarily would have burned a hole in my pocket, but I couldn'tshake an overwhelming sadness.



Scuttlebutt had it we'd be pulling out before the New Year for the South Pacific. I'd just receivedword that another friend had been killed in Europe. And here I was, an 18-year-old alone in astrange city. Nothing seemed to make any kind of sense.What was I going to be fighting for,anyway


I spent most of the day in a mental fog, wandering aimlessly through crowds of laughing,happy people. Then, late in the afternoon, my vision suddenly focused, and for the first time ascene registered.


There in a department-store window were two electric trains chugging through a miniature,snow-covered town. In front of the window was a skinny boy around nine years old, his nosepressed against the glass. He just stood there, fixed on those trains.


Suddenly the boy was me nine short years before, and the store was Macy's in New York City,my home town. I could see, could feel the same longing, the same desperate hoping. I couldhear the sigh of resignation -- the frail attempt to hide the disappointment that Dad couldnot afford those trains. And I saw the reluctant turning away and then the one last look.


Not this time l I don't know what came over me, but I grabbed the boy by the arm, scaring himhalf to death.


My name is George, I told him.


Jeffrey Hollis Jr., he managed to reply.


Well, Jeff Hollis Jr., I said in my best grown-up voice, we are going to get us those trains. '


His eyes grew wide, and he let me lead him into the store. I knew it was crazy, but I didn't care.Suddenly I wanted to be nine again and have a kid's dream come true. The salesclerk looked atus suspiciously, a scruffy black boy and a black sailor in ill-fitting dress blues.


Those trains in the window, I blurted before he could speak. The whole setup. How much is it


His snorting response was interrupted by the arrival of a much older man wearing a warmChristmas smile. One hundred and sixty-five dollars and sixty-three cents, the elder manreplied, delivery included.


We'll take it, I said. Right now if we can.


Jeff Hollis Sr.'s reaction reminded me of what my own father's would have been if I had shownup with a stranger and a whole lot of gifts.I could see he was a hard-working man, breaking hisback to make ends meet and knowing he couldn't give his family all he wanted.


I'm just a sailor a long way from home, Mr. Hollis, I said respectfully, explaining how I had seenmyself in his son's longing gaze at the store display.


You couldn't have spent the money any other way he asked gruffly.


No, sir, I replied.


His face softened, and he welcomed me to share their table. After supper, I read to Jeff Jr. andhis sisters until they went off to bed.


I guess you know we've got a lot to do before morning, Jeff Sr. said. His words startled me fora moment. Then I understood. I was no longer a child; I was a man now, with adultresponsibilities. So I joined him at what turned out to be nearly an all-night job of getting thetrains put together and set up. His wife, Marge, made sandwiches and coffee and kept metalking about growing up in New York. At midnight we paused to wish each other a MerryChristmas, then went back to the task of making a boy's dream come true.


Dreams, I thought sleepily, kid dreams. I guess I dozed because the next thing I knew it wasfive o'clock, and Jeff Jr. was shaking me. He had remembered I had to be back by eight.


For about five minutes Jeff Jr. ran his train. Then, abruptly, he stopped and, without a word,left the room. He returned with the presents he had bought, a look of pride on his face. He'dhad some help, but he'd made the choices himself.


I thought he was finished when he turned to me with a package in his hand. Merry Christmas,George, he said quietly. I was totally surprised. The gift was a comb-and-brush set, along witha case for other toilet articles. He held out his hand, then changed his mind and hugged mewarmly.The moment of parting was bittersweet, for ] knew I would probably never see theHollises again. Jeff Sr. and Marge thanked me, but I was the grateful one.


As I made my way to the station to catch a bus back to the base, I realized I had no morenagging doubts. I had found more in this experience than I had received from all the pep talksand patriotic speeches I had ever heard.


For me, it was a revelation. I knew now what this war and all the fighting was about. It wassomething at once wonderful and simple. This country, my country, was a place of dreams..,and of dreamers who had the faith and the will to make dreams come true.


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