Sometimes you do things just for fun, don't you? Just to be nice. Just because you know it will make me smile.
Take the other day, for instance. You know that I love pine cones. You know this because you put this thing in me that loves pine cones; you know that I can rarely walk past a pine cone without picking it up, and if it's in good condition you know that I can't help but bring it home. I haven't even been put off by the odd creepy-crawly emerging from a pine cone. As a result, we have a pile of pinecones in the rockery, more on the bookshelves and still more hanging about the kitchen and in the fruit bowl.
|The newcomer is on the right.|
There's something about a pine cone. Long ones, thin ones, fat ones, big round ones - they're just lovely. The shape of them, the shadows, the texture, the fragrance. Yes, I have a thing for pine cones.
So, cast your mind back a few decades. I was little, maybe seven or eight, and I was on holiday with my family. Where, I don't remember. We were walking along a path and there were pine-cone-trees right and left. There was dappled sunlight and lots of pine cones on the floor, and I remarked how strange it would be if a pine cone fell from a tree, right in front of me, right now.
And do you know what? One did.
Just like that. A pine cone fell from a tree and landed on the path right in front of me! What are the odds of that? I was amazed and delighted. I was just happily walking along, thought what a coincidence it would be if a pine cone fell off a tree directly in front of me, and to my intense surprise, one did.
Or so I thought. For thirty-five years or so, that's what I thought.
Then came the day when it all fell apart. The conversation was on the subject of pine cones. My brain did a little riffle through the files labelled 'Anecdotes: Pine Cones' and came up with this story. I retold it, with due dramatic emphasis on the wonder of the falling pine cone, and my Mum dropped a bombshell.
'It was Dad.'
In the silence that followed I grew up. My innocence lay on the floor in tatters. All these years I had believed in the wonderful mystery of the Pine Cone and it turned out that my Dad nipped around behind me, picked up a pine cone, and dropped it in front of me, to my childish astonishment. And then the secret was kept, year after year. Everyone knew but me. I continued to wonder at the marvel, but alas, it was all built on deception.
You'd think it would have been enough to put me off pine cones, wouldn't you? When I finally did discover the magnitude of the deception I think I might have been forgiven for purging my house of all pine cones and refusing to have one near me ever again. I might have been scarred for life. But no, the humble pine cone was not at fault. My great affection for them remained.
One afternoon last week I was walking back from school with my two girls and they were behind me, negotiating with Grandma about a trip to the ice cream shop on the way home. I paused to let them catch up, and as I stood, looking idly across the road, what should happen but a pine cone.
Dropped off a tree right in front of me.
And this time, it did.
With a small sound, a tiny brittle thud, a little pine cone fell in the middle of the road and lay there, looking at me. We looked at each other.
The fulfilment of thirty-five years of misapprehension and a few subsequent years of disillusionment. Lying in the middle of the road. I wanted that pine cone.
Of course, at that very moment, that leafy little road became as busy as the M1 as car after car went past, slaloming in and out of the parked vehicles by the kerb. I didn't take my eyes of my pine cone, quite sure that after it's wondrous and timely appearance it was destined to be squashed beyond recognition by the school traffic. Children and mums I knew from school passed by and looked at us quizzically and I fear I led them to believe that it was one of the children who was insisting on retrieving the fallen pine cone.
'We need the pine cone!' I said by way of explanation, with a wry smile and just a hint of eye rolling. They laughed and nodded in amused recognition at the whimsy of a small child. Yes, we did need the pine cone, but I needed it, not the small children. Ahem. We waited for the cars to pass, perilously close to my pine cone.
As the exhaust fumes cleared, it was lying intact.
Miracle upon miracle.
So I am the proud owner of another pine cone. This one fresh from the tree. It dropped right down in my line of sight, co-incidentally and in an entirely random way. Nobody reached over my head. I even checked behind me this time. Nobody was there.
Except you. You were there, all around me. You knew about my relationship with pine cones and you knew about Conegate all those years ago. You knew that it would make me smile. You just gave me a present. It cost nothing but it made me smile. I was healed!
Thank you. For laughter and jokes and family and for pine cones.
Especially this pine cone.