• Deborah A Allen

Worthless or priceless?

What price a memory?

Today would have been my father’s birthday and so of course my thoughts have turned toward him these last few days.

As so many parents have done and still do, while we were little my mother would buy my father a gift at Christmas or on his birthday on behalf of the my brothers and me.

One Christmas in the early 1970’s when I was about 8 years old my mother showed us the present she had bought from us to my father, it was a gold plated paper mate pen, just a standard ballpoint pen but the gold plating made it special. It came in a little box and looked to our eyes it seemed very posh.

On Christmas day my father opened his gift and he loved it, the slim little pen sat resting on the newspaper at the crossword page and each day when he came home from work he would sit and try to figure out the clues, always using his slim gold pen.

Then one day there was no pen, it had vanished. My father searched everywhere but he couldn’t find it. At the time I was the only one old enough to write and so his attention turned to me. ‘ Have you used my pen and put it somewhere’? he asked me. I said I hadn’t used it but he didn’t believe me, the pen had been there when he went out and now it was gone that meant someone had moved it and as the only person who sometimes borrowed it the blame fell on me.

My father wasn’t so annoyed if we broke something or got up to mischief but he expected us to tell the truth it was the lying and denying your part in the mischief that he hated.

So I think it upset him that I would so obviously lie about using his pen. I seem to remember him giving me sideways glances and not talking to me for a few days.

Time passed and the pen never resurfaced but my father who had a memory like an elephant never forgot that I had ‘lost’ his pen. Then some time later we got a new settee and my father decided to cut the bottom liner of the old one to see if there was any lost treasure or loose change in there. A dusty comb, a sweetie wrapper and a few coppers fell out and then a small gold object slid out into his hand. It was his pen, the pen he had left on the newspaper that he had balanced on the arm of the sofa before going off to work, the pen that had obviously slid off and vanished down into the sofa lining, the pen he had so long accused me of losing.

He stood there with it in his hand and his face reddened. ‘I’m so sorry for blaming you’ he said ’I was wrong’ for all his faults my father didn’t hide from apologies or admitting he was wrong.

So there it was the pen was back with its rightful owner I was forgiven and the whole episode was put in the past. Or at least for me it was all in the past.

I really didn’t give it another thought until 1985, the year my father died. A little while after the funeral my step mother (my parents were by now divorce and my father had remarried) held out a small package and said ‘you should have this, it should be yours’

I unwrapped the paper and found my father’s paper mate pen, more used and with slightly less gold on it that the last time I’d seen it but his pen. My stepmother explained that she knew the story about how he had received the pen and how it had become lost and how he blamed me. She told me she had heard the story a thousand times ‘every time he had that pen in his hands he told me he had wrongly accused you, every time he held it he said how sorry he felt about that’.

So one of my prized possessions, stored in my jewellery box safe and secure away from small hands or the dangers of slippery sofa linings is an old paper mate pen.

As far as material value goes it is worthless, it’s just a standard ballpoint pen made in their millions but to me it’s about the memories and the link to my father.

To me it’s priceless.

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