The small, powerful gesture

My father once said I have a talent for the small, powerful gesture.
That's what my aunt (my mother's sister) told me when we were talking, about a week ago.

For Christmas, I sent her a framed copy of a 1947 newspaper photo of my aunt as a child. She's in a group shot of kids, so I put one of these mini-frames around her face. I also included a note about when the photo originally appeared in her hometown paper.

You should've heard my aunt's reaction: apparently the photo had the impact of "an atomic bomb," but in a good way. Auntie N was blown away, and so were her sons when they saw it. And then she reminded me of a small gift I'd given her years ago that she still loves, and told me what my father said when they were talking about it. Apparently he said, "Oh, she's always doing things like that. She's good at finding something little that means a lot."

Auntie N found their friendship (and yes, it was just a friendship) especially comforting after my mom and then Uncle L died... my dad was a terrific listener, with a sly sense of humor. It touched me to hear Auntie N reminisce about my dad, and how I did things to make him proud even when I wasn't trying to impress him.

I've been thinking about the small, powerful gesture a lot these days. What is an ATC if not a small, powerful gesture? I mean my ATC to be a palm-sized gift of what I've observed.

The kind of scrutiny that leads to creative expression can also come back to bite you in the ass, though. I'm reminded of that as I re-read a favorite book, Mixed: My Life in Black And White. Angela Nissel is now a contributing writer for the sitcom "Scrubs", but back in the 1970s and 1980s she was just a half-black, half-white girl painfully aware of the pressure to be either-or. It made her the screamingly funny person she is today, but man -- some parts are hard to read. No, I'm not of mixed race, but I've lived through some of the same small, powerful gestures that life will gift you with, if you're a relatively light-skinned African-American woman.

I guess I bring this all up to say I'm grateful I have so many kinds of art that express the poignancy, humor and beauty I see in my life. And I'm grateful I have the tools with which to experience all of these. I'm well-educated, well-read, middle-class (barely), able to express myself in words and images, and I have people who listen, watch and cheer me on.

I am spoiled, and I'd like to keep it that way.
Posted on January 7, 2008 and filed under "Artfest", "deep thoughts".