A hopefully heartwarming entry to the 12/05/18 writer's cramp
“Oh come ON dad!”
There it was, the infamous red rose lapel pin. Every year the patriarch of the family wore it, in all of its hideous glory, with a perverse, ironic sense of pride. Like a newborn child, it came along on every store trip, clutching tightly to the man’s upper chest. Each year, around Christmas time, no matter how his children complained, the ugly, dull token would follow along.
It wasn’t always like this.
Once upon a time an overexcited young boy had asked his father this question. “Aren’t you worried someone will try to steal it, dad?”
The man ran his fingers through his inherited head of perfect hair, while reclining on a thin, black leather sofa. Not for the first time, one of the cheap, red sequins popped off in response to the prodding, curious child’s fingers.
“Believe me, son, it may look shiny but when I wear this, no one will mistake us for a family with money.” His dad joked.
The living room, packed as it was with all sorts of toys, furniture and electronics, seemed to confess that the family wasn’t exactly poor either.
The years came and went, each of them remarkable in their own way. For example, there was the year that featured this exchange.
“Take it off!” begged his now 10 year old son. “Pleeeaaase!”
“I caaan’t do thaaat” came the retort in a sing-songy voice
A drawn out whine heralded the arrival of the inevitable question, “Why not?”
It was not the first time and it wouldn’t be the last. Just like all the other times, the father would simply say, “It’s important to me”.
“Well, I hope it’s never important to me!” Came the sharp, inconsiderate reply. “It looks so stupid!”
To another man, those words may have cut deeply and infected the wound with festering questions. To have his own son so readily express distaste for an item that was so near and dear to his heart? What would happen to this item if it was left to his son? Would he throw it out? Would he lose it among a horde of boxes filled with useless trinkets in an attic? These concerns failed to merit any consideration.
Instead, with a laugh and a “Why you!?” a bout of playful tickle torture seemed to be in order.
Wonder and awe aged out in favor of pre-teen embarrassment and disapproval. No matter how often his kids prodded he never went into detail. Never offered an explanation of why the ugly memento was a Christmas tradition.
But this was it.
To bring it to a pawn shop would elicit naught but mocking laughter or outright hostile reprisal, a fair response considering the adornment was itself studded with red hued plastic. These were sequins, imposter gems that were never meant to be passed off as the real thing. The items’ worth was never meant to lay in its monetary value but in something much more intangible. The trinket had acquired generation’s worth of history. This same history was about to finally be shared.
As traditional as the wearing of the pin, was the annual ritual of teasing the unnaturally shedding father about his choice of accessory. Perhaps it was because he knew that the brand new video camera was pointed at them, or perhaps his cytotoxic, chemically induced loss of hair served as a warning that motivated him to speak now lest he risk forever holding his piece. No matter the reason, almost without warning, so fast that his now teenaged children hardly registered what was happening until it was over. The explanation finally came.
“It was your grandfathers’ good luck charm. It was important to him so it’s important to me.
It was nicknamed ‘The Tape’ by both siblings. What’s in a nickname? Though it promised little more than memories, in this case, the promise was more than enough. This was where they found out, on video nonetheless, why their dad always wore the red rose lapel pin.
“Why’s daddy crying?” The slow cadence of his youngest child’s question pulled his eyes away from the tape and shook away his web of tangled thoughts. The Tape was why, years later, the overexcited young boy who grew into a disapproving teen, now looked on as a man, with a curious pride, at the red rose lapel pin. The pin was now a small and simple ornament that sat above the mantel every Christmas.
“Little boy, some things are very important” his wife explained, “because of the memories we have of them. That flower pin belonged to your daddy’s dad.”
“Oh. You loved your daddy very much?” the toddler innocently asked.
“Yes, I did.”
“I love my daddy too!” gleefully exclaimed the child while raising his hands as if in triumph. In his mind, this expression of love would win. It’d make the bad tears go away.
With a quick move, the red rose was moved from the mantle to the hands of the beaming father before finally being brought to the couch. Now, all three members of the family stared at the dull red rose, showering it with a fondness that it did not seem to aesthetically deserve.
“The bad tears are still there” noted the child with a hint of frustration.
“Oh no. These are not bad tears. They’re good tears. Tears that show I loved my dad and you love your dad and mommy loves both her parents too, even if they wear ugly red roses every year.”
A curious little finger reached out towards the shiny red sequins. “It’s not ugly daddy.” A little sequin popped off, along with the dried glue that had held it in place for all these years. “It’s very pretty.”