• Vol. 02
  • Chapter 06
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The Birthday Wish

Wooden tables smell. With imperfect sight, my memory and senses guide me, transported back by the craft that has been my life’s work. Pungent, unvarnished, raw, the texture of grey ash still melts under my touch. Even now, unspoilt wood radiates its yearning to be transformed, to be regarded as noble again. What is the fate of the tree? Surely everything deserves a purpose, a reason to exist and even to serve. Life may burn bright like a log in the grate or give a constancy of shelter like the wistful willow. The table is firm, weathered, a sturdy platform for this anniversary meal. No clean, crisp tablecloth. No opulence of air-con nor swanky waiters to hang on every whim. My fingers, sweaty, fumble across the bare oak. All the possibilities of the lathe spring to mind. How I’ve chiselled through the years. Commissioned to create carvings in Butternut, Linden, Cherry. Whittling intricate designs that leave my overalls mottled in powder-shavings.

Yet here I am, with a flurry of breadcrumbs in my beard. A stone cold and watery minestrone served to me with a fork. Why complain. I go almost unnoticed. I lift the bowl to my lips, perhaps an oversight that I have no spoon.

Urgently and with a strong twist I’m wheeled backwards, my senses spinning. I grip the arm rests and strain to focus. Advancing toward me at speed, I squint to see a blurry, semi-myopic fuzz of flame ahead. How far should I lean to blow out the candles? No need to second guess it as “Happy Birthday” crescendos with baritone aplomb. The youngsters, irked by adult insistence to sit in indefinite grace, suddenly clamour for an embrace. Kisses planted by sticky sweet lips upon my cheek. Great grandpa Gabi what is your birthday wish?


The Birthday Wish

I grapple with my life achievements: sire a child, plant a tree. Nurture, fell, and craft the tree for my bread and butter. With utmost care I chose the seed, sowed, hoed, tendered and watched my children and trees bear fruit of their own. A bountiful harvest will come from this orchard when I am gone. Is it too much to wish for my legacy of carpentry to pass through generations? Four, yes four score years and ten no less and what I would give to have my whole youthful self returned to me like those saplings bending with time.

I hear but can barely see these candles fizzle. Once useless to me, the cheap strip lighting buzzes obscenely like a host of chattering cicada. Modern science is a bewildering maze, made out to be the ultimate prize at the right price. This latest operation, although not providing perfect vision, has brought me more than light; I can see where I am going now. The final pathway is a wish fulfilled. It promises trees with fruits, wood for furniture, chairs, tables and perhaps sculptures of blinding beauty. This is my birthday wish.