Doing Dialogue

Bend

November 22, 2017

The mid-sized Japanese maple brushes itself against the faded red cedar siding of a corner lot Victorian. Few leaves are left, counting down the days to another long winter. Light rain drops fall gently through the air, making sounds on the concrete sidewalk like a chorus of tiny drummers. Limbs and twigs accommodate the wind with gestures that resemble the motions of a tired crossing guard.

 

The little girl finishes coloring in her picture of a turkey. All dressed pretty, the both of them. Garnish and girlish, and she giggles imagining a conversation with the bird. She sings while she hands Mom the drawing. The repeated gesture of generations, complete, as the turkey presides over the contents of the fridge, top edges slightly waning, to the weight of glue and crayon.

 

The boy hands in his paper to the teacher. Last task, as the class piles out of the room, leaving the teacher relieved, but grinning. It was this boy that she learned from his former teachers, who always left a few kind words in his essays, to the ones who meant most to him. As she read through, his story unfolding, the top of the page giving in to gravity.

The father jumps a puddle as he exits his office building, a curious move even to himself. Under the subtle green haze of the fluorescents, his day had been quite usual. But a brisk walk through The Commons in the rain, and upon entering the foyer of Government Station, he swiftly pulls out his T-pass, and adjusts the brim curve of his baseball cap.

The mother sits in her Lyft ride, fidgeting with her the contents of her briefcase. Not surprising, they made the sale of the year, and how appropriate to be thankful. Through the protocol security measures and search for the gate, she boards the plane. The city below is now just beyond her vision through the window at 14A. She observes with fascination, the graceful bending of the silver wing, weighted with a turbine engine, and adjusting to lift and wind.

 

The cousins, aunt and uncle, and now the mother, father and kids, buckled down in winter coats, quarrel over directions, denying the potential accuracy of the GPS app on Uncle’s new iPhone. They’ve made this trip a thousand times, without ever needing a satellite to overshadow the beauty of the north star or the faded street signs of New England. As the SUV turns right onto the familiar road, the tires italicize, adjusting to the weight of the family.

 

Grandma and Grandpa, each in their signature seats, light up like children as the others enter. A change of perspective and time, while the fireplace dances in its glory. The smell of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pie, a premise to an anticipated feast. All together, regardless of anything, the manifestation of family. No need to get up, just sit, sit, and one by one they lean down to hug and kiss the ones who beget them. Matching the bend of Grandma’s back, the little girl kisses her on the cheek and leans over to sit on her lap.

 

A curve of a smile.
A frown after falling.

Potato slices curling in the oven.

The sun’s light that bends in the atmosphere.

 

The conversations that start.

The disagreements that end.

The bad singing that pierces.

The father’s hand that wraps around the daughter’s.

How wonderful it is that we always have the opportunity to give thanks, and to remember that if life was a straight line, we wouldn’t bend. May your days shift, may your perspectives adjust and may the sunlight always bend in your favor.

 
Teja joined Essential Partners in April, 2017. He brings a thirty-year combined experience as a PBS documentary producer, professor of media/communications and race & ethnic relations, diversity and inclusion trainer and public speaker. He has an Emmy Award and three Telly Awards for social issues PBS documentaries, and is the author of four books about race and culture. He started his company, Entertaining Diversity, Inc. in 1992, to teach issues of racism through entertainment. Teja is African-American/Filipino and German, and grew up in Japan, has traveled through many countries and has been a keynote speaker in over 1,200 locations around the US. Telling stories that build bridges between many perspectives has always been his mission in life and work.

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