One of my daughters is about to write a letter to a young lady she has never met, informing her that in a feckless mood she recently sold her younger brother a gold bracelet and regrets it so much that she wants to buy it back.
It's a likely story, but it's the best my daughter could do on the spur of the moment, and, indeed, I know of no other way out of the predicament, which had been caused, in part at least, by her father's forgetfulness.
I relate the story to you not in order to advertise the solution but as a warning against that forgetfulness. If you are a parent to a tenn-age boy, do not forget how much he can be in love, how much that love demands attention and to what lenghts he will go to gain it.
I had forgotten until the other day when I came unexpectedly upon a piece of paper lying on the floor, picked it up preparatory to throwing it in the nearest wastepaper basket and then glanced at it to make sure that it was something to be thrown away.
On a busier day I might have passed the piece of paper by. Or, in a hurry, tossed it into the wastepaper basket without looking to see what it was. I mentioned this because my picking up the paper and looking at it was such a bad piece of luck for the boy.
"You were so sweet to send me the bracelet," the piece of paper said (second paragraph). "I could not have spent so much money on a present for you. But I shall treasure it always and think of you."
Well, I suppose I shouldn't have read even that far. I did not read any further, and I promise you I put the piece of paper back on the floor right where it had been - so he would find it if he became desperate looking for it.
I wasn't going to say anything. Does a man go screaming into the night when he chances upon a friend in passionate embrace? Surely then he is even more solicitous about the love affairs of his own son.
Except that it occured to me as I shuffled on up the stairs to reflect upon the expense of the bracelet. How did he get the money for an expensive bracelet?
"Cutting lawns, I suppose." Except - hadn't I heard his mother mention the other night that he ought to be cutting lawns?
And that of course was the thought that did him in. The thought of his mother. Because his mother had also mentioned something else. His mother had lost a bracelet. She had mentioned it only the other morning and then again that night. She had left the bracelet on her dressing table; absolutely certain of it and now it wasn't there. "I must be losing my mind; I simply cannot understand what's happened to that bracelet. Do you remember the one I mean? The very narrow plain one?"
All this went through my head on the way upstairs, and I said to myself, "Oh, good God."
And of course it was true, which he admitted - to his credit I suppose - when I accosted him.
So now what should I do with him - too big to spank; too experienced in these matters to know how to say he's sorry? And anyway wouldn't it be trifling to say of such a matter as stealing your own mother's bracelet, "I'm sorry"?
So I did all the wrong things, like huffing and puffing and threatening eviction. And then I did the ultimate wrong thing: "You get that bracelet back," I said, and even while he was looking me straight in the eye and noding his assent, I realised that I had not thought this through and that for him to get that bracelet back would be cruel and unusual punishment.
Imagine. "I sent you my mother's bracelet by mistake." Or, "I am not what you think I am. I am just a little boy who gets into his mother's bathroom and steals things off her dresses."
How in the world was he supposed to get that bracelet back without suffering utter degradation in the eyes of her for whom all must be risked, including even, the stealing of a bracelet?
But I had said it. If I took it back, might he not suppose the theft unserious? Besides, wasn't utter degradation his due? I did not take it back.
Wrong. You don't have to tell me. What's a cause for suicide against a silly bracelet?
I had made the mistake of forgetfulness, and both the boy and I are lucky that he has an older sister.