One day a gentleman came to the orphanage; he talked with the head office and they agreed to allow him to come in. So, every other week he came and taught the children how to do woodworking projects.
I remember the night, when I was eight years old, that I finished my first project. It was a small table with a Formica注 top, and I was so proud of that table. I looked upon it as though I had created a life.
It was absolutely beautiful, not to mention this was the first time in our whole lives that the orphanage had allowed us to use our own minds. It had taken me six weeks to complete my project, and I could hardly wait to give my little table to Mother Winters as a gift.
Mother Winters was our head mistress, the
administrator of our orphanage. We called all of our
female caretakers “Mother” – it was a title we used when talking to them. As the table legs were not dry from the clear coating that had been applied, the man asked us to wait until
our next session before taking our projects to our dormitories. But I was just so excited and happy I couldn’t wait. Besides, my woodworking project
was the best one of all (except for this full-size rowboat[划艇] some
ten-year-old nut was trying to build).
I moved my table toward the doorway and waited for the right opportunity to escape. Then out the door I went like a flash, running through the darkness with my little hands underneath the table top, smiling from ear to ear, as I headed toward the dormitory.
When I reached the dormitory I placed the beautiful little table beside my bed, and I just stood there for about ten minutes, looking at what I had created.
Then Mother Winters entered the room. I pointed at the table, and she smiled at me. I felt so proud. She asked me where the other children were, and I told her that they were cleaning up the sawdust[木屑]
and would be coming soon. She walked over to the table and ran her hand across the slick[光滑的] Formica top. “It is very pretty,” she told me.
When she touched the table leg she noticed that the leg was still wet from the clear coating that I had brushed on
earlier. She asked me why I had brought the table into the dormitory with the legs still wet. I did not know what to say, so I just stood there with my head down and I did not say anything.
“Were you supposed to bring this home?” she asked.
“No, ma’am,” I told her.
Mother Winters kicked the table over onto its top with her foot. Then she stepped onto each of the small table legs, breaking them off. She then opened the side door and had me throw the little table out into the yard.
After Mother Winters had left the building, and all the other children were asleep, I opened the side door and went out to get my little table. There was sand stuck all over the legs. I brushed and cried, and brushed and cried, and brushed and cried, but the sand would not come off.
I hid the table in my closet, and I never returned to the wood shop after that, ever again. A year later I gave the little table and legs to Mother Henderson, my houseparent[学生宿舍管理员], so she could throw them away. About thirty years later I tried to find as many of the orphanage
children as possible in order to have a reunion, which we had in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1991. That’s when I learned that Mother Henderson was living in Asheville, North Carolina.
Several weeks later I drove up to see her, and we visited and talked for about four or five hours. As I was about to leave she asked me to come down to her basement and help her get something important. So we climbed down into her dark, cold, damp[潮湿的] cellar[地下室].
This shaking, 75-year-old woman walked over into a dark corner and picked something up. As she turned around I could see that she was holding a little table with four broken legs.
“Do you remember this?” she said.
I just stood there with my head down, and I did not say a word. I could not speak for fear of crying.
“Roger, I want you to have this.”
Mother Henderson gave me back that table that I had given up for lost so long ago. She had kept it all these years, never knowing if she would ever see me again. Her intention was to save the table, because she could not rid herself of the pain she remembered seeing in this orphan’s eyes. My name, which I had etched[蚀刻] underneath the table, was still there.
Since then, I have sanded[用砂纸擦光], clear-coated, and replaced the legs. That little Formica table – my first woodworking project so many years ago – now sits in my grand-daughter Chelsea’s bedroom, only a few feet from where I sit now, along with her little plastic chair that her poppa gave her.
I look at that table today with bittersweet memories. I think of my heartbroken disappointment at the time Mother Winters forced me to throw my broken table out of the door. But I am comforted, and rejoice at[对……感到欣喜] the kindness of Mother Henderson, who kept that little table as a remembrance – never wanting to forget the story of a young orphan who tried so very hard to please.
Thank you, Mother Henderson.