阅读与作文(英语初中版) 2013年3期

Every morning at approximately 8:48 a.m., I pass it—the brick building that I visited many times as a child and that once seemed so grand, now a miniature playhouse in my mind.

My father used to live there, along with 549 other inmates. When Id visit, as I often did, wed chat and laugh—through a glass wall, telephones in hand.

For me, it was normal. It was all I knew. And I relished connecting with him. It was one of the most important relationships in my life, and still is today.

Experts say the years before you turn 5 are the most important. I must be lucky then. The day he was arrested on drug-related charges, the day I smiled at the policeman in our home, the day that everything changed was six months before my sixth birthday.

Over the years, the weekly commutes to visit my father became rituals. Eventually, after several years, we were allowed real visits when he was moved to a lower-security facility—the kind of visits where you can hug and tickle, where a conversations connection doesnt depend on the distorted and crackly voice coming through the telephone, where words can be freely exchanged without the clock ticking, reminding you that time is slipping, moving faster than it should, faster than youd like.

Weve always shared a sense of understanding, my father and I. We can look at one another and know what the other is thinking. We get each other.

Youd think his absence would have prevented him from making rules, enforcing discipline and participating in the day-to-day of my childhood, but that wasnt so. He wrote me every week, and I often go back and read whats left of the folded, disintegrating letters. Hed tell me stories and Id draw him fashion designs.

In person, wed talk, not just speak. His life lessons, never cliché but always earnest, struck a chord with me and I soaked up every word. He told me that not having a father had been a detriment to his ego and that hed overcompensated by feeling infallible well into his 30s. He spoke of the shame hed caused his family and how there were times when he almost cracked, being isolated from his family, from love, from who he used to be.

Other children looked forward to Saturdays, long stretches of time when their fathers would take them to swimming or hockey lessons, to the park for a walk or for an ice-cream cone. I could barely sleep with anticipation, getting up as early as 5 a.m. to hop in the car for the two-hour drive ahead.

The ice cream I was missing paled in comparison with the sweet joy of simply “being” with my dad. To have our chats, to share outdoor barbecues with my father and other families who would gather. Most children have school friends and neighbourhood friends. I had those too, but I also had my jail friends, the girls and boys with whom I would run around and play tag, not truly comprehending why these individuals probably understood me and my life far better than anyone else.

My mother, who had long since separated from my father, would often ask me about my feelings, trying to uncover some inadequacy I felt, pressing for details and expressions that might make sense. How could I be okay?

But how could I not? As a child, the word jail means nothing, and this proved itself when my stepmother broke the news to me a few months after my fathers arrest. She took me for an ice cream, and as we sat in her car in the parking lot, she explained why the police had been at our home, what it all meant, how my father would not be returning any time soon.

Yes, I cried, but only because I thought I was supposed to. I couldnt comprehend the magnitude. I just did what all kids learn to do around this age, intuitively gauge what an adult wants from you and serve it up, all the while holding ones breath while waiting for approval.

I was 11 when my father finally came home. I learned all about responsibility when he signed me up for a part-time job serving ice cream at the beach. I acted excited, though like most 11-year-olds, all I wanted to do was park myself in front of the television all summer long. But I wanted to please him, wanted to earn those extra smiles, all the ones Id missed.

Years later, as I stare out the window while I pass that brick building on my daily commute to work, I often wonder if I lost something, if those special years that others had with their fathers, the ones I didnt, harmed me in some way. Am I really that different? Do I have attachment issues?

I still live at home, but so does every other twentysomething I know. They still enjoy home-cooked meals, pristinely arranged households and all bills paid for by their parents.

When I think about moving out, I know its not time yet. Its not the conveniences that come from living a life almost free of responsibility, although thats a bonus.

Im not ready to give up the small inner burst of joy I get every morning when my dad pops his head into my bedroom and says, “Morning, Mini,” a nickname Ive kept far too many years. I growl and tell him to “get out!” since its hours before I need to get up. But I cant help smiling.











很久以前,母亲就和父亲离婚了。她总是问我对父亲入狱这件事有什么感受,尽力寻找每一个可能有意义的细节和表情,试图证明我是感觉受伤害了的。她想不明白我怎么可能一点儿事儿都没有呢? 可我为什么就不能感觉良好呢?对于一个孩子来说,“监狱”这个词没有任何意义。这一点,从父亲被捕几个月后继母告诉我这个消息时我的反应上就能看出来。她带我去买了一个冰淇淋,然后,在停车场里,我们坐在她的车上时,她向我解释了警察为什么会来我家,这一切都意味着什么,以及父亲为何在短时间内不能回家了。