“Ah, hallo my lad!”
The old man’s eyes brightened as his focus shifted from sometime in the past to the little boy running into his present.
“Sit down, boy, sit down. I have some things to show you today…”
Moving slowly and arthritically, the old man pulled his shirt over his head. There was a rustling sound – like a sack full of pebbles being rolled from hand to hand.
“What’s that? These are my Days boy. These are my Days…”
An enormous necklace covered the old man’s torso. Stones and pearls and gems of all sizes and colours looped and piled over his shoulders and flowed down his chest and back. He shifted a little under their weight.
“Yes lad, they are very heavy, but that is because I have so very many of them. Do you know this is why old people have a stoop? Eventually your Days will weigh you, if you are lucky enough to have many. It is a small price to pay. Sit with me today and I will show some to you…”
The boy pulled his chair closer as the old man rummaged through the serpentine mounds. Gnarled hands emerged cradling a string threaded with large, bright baubles in strong, simple colours. Like Christmas decorations they glittered joyfully.
“Days of my childhood.” The old man explained. “From when I was your age. I keep them quite close to the surface now. They are some of my favourites to look at, especially in this grey old place…”
The youngster pointed to one that looked shrivelled and black.
“This one? Yes, there are a few of those. Perhaps a few too many. Indeed you’re right. They do look like passionfruit. Any goodness in these Days is hidden very deep indeed. Very heavy they are too. Very heavy.” The old man sighed “…but if you build good strong shoulders you can carry them easily enough, and carry them you must…”
He carefully laid his childhood aside, then dug deep into the jewels that covered his chest. “These” he began as a length of black opal emerged from the depths “are my first love. Her name was Madeline. Oh she was a beauty. Yes, they do look very black – there was a lot of darkness in us both at the time, but look closely…” His protégée leaned forward to peer at the orbs. “See how the deep black makes all those bright points of colour seem so bright? Always remember that lad, always remember. You have to know darkness to appreciate how beautiful light and colour can be. Hmh. Perhaps you are too young now, but one day you will understand what I mean.”
“What’s that? Oh no, no I can’t give you any of these, even if I wanted to. They belong to me. I can’t take them off. I can only show them and share them. That way you can know what to look for and what to avoid as you gather your own, and gather them you will my boy.”
The two close friends continued to explore the old man’s Days from the corner of his room. Pearls of wisdom, diamond Days of pure joy, complex multifaceted Days of adulthood and parenthood. Dark, jagged Days of pain and regret. “They wear smoother with time.” the old man advised “But you must be careful not to let them damage too many Days around them…”
The afternoon sun shone golden through the window and splashed over them both as the young boy’s visit came to a close.
“…and these are my Days now…” the string looked unfinished, laced with small, pastel coloured orbs. “Very observant. Yes, many do look the same. And smaller. I don’t know how much string I have left you see. I always hope I can fit just one more on. But look, you see some of these are bigger and brighter, yes? These days you come to see me.”
“Quick, aren’t you? Yes they are bigger and they take up more room. They may mean I have less string left, that is true. But I don’t mind. I don’t mind at all.”
The man’s grandson stood and, giving his grandfather a long hug, walked from the room. He turned at the doorway and waved.
“You come back tomorrow lad, and we’ll string one more Day together, yes?”
“Yes Pa.” Said the boy.
The old man watched as the youngster padded through the garden outside his window to a waiting car. His gaze shifted to a huge old oak, shedding the last of its leaves as autumn moved inexorably to winter.
“Just one more…” he whispered quietly to himself, and his focus drifted away from the present, greyer than a moment ago, and explored again an altogether brighter time…
Inspired by my Pa, and a comment I left on someone’s story. Here’s to you Bell – may your necklace be long, bright and beautiful!