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Chopsticks 101 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   Click Click Clack, Click Click Clack. Is this some mutant form of Morse code? Of course not, it's dinner at my house. And no, the main course is not sweet and sour chicken or other restaurant MSG-loaded junk, but instead valuable lessons for life in the real world. You see, dinnertime in my family is when my father performs his "chopstick talks," a unique creation that has become a family tradition.

Here's a sample of the night before my road test. Clack Click Click. "See, this one is Route 304, going this way. And this is Toyota. Now to pass this other car. OK, look in mirror here," (pointing to the lamp above), "and here," (the salt shaker on the table to the left), "finally here," (the back of the chair). "Now make turn signal. And turn. Okay?"

As children, my brother and I used to sit through these "chopstick talks" every few nights following dinner. It seemed normal to me, just a part of life. I assumed that all my white American friends had knife, spoon, and fork talks with their parents.

Today, I'm just fascinated by the clicking of the white plastic chopsticks, a set of bent worn rods thirteen years old. In my father's hands they seemed to dance and come alive. They could be molded into objects, symbols, thoughts, anything. They were better than any drawing on paper or words. To me they were like magic wands able to change shape and cast spells. They created a symphony with the clicking and my father's smooth voice. He moved the chopsticks as a conductor of an orchestra, summoning imaginary objects to appear.

To think that in the whole world, only my father talks with chopsticks, astounds me. When I was in third grade, I remember that I talked about a bully who roughed me up a few times. Armed with the two sticks, which were sometimes soiled with food, my father set up a puppet show with me being the stick on the right and the sixth grader on the left. And he'd clack the rounded lower part of his body on my upper square part. Then I'd whop him with my square part into his midsection with a knockout blow that would make him fall to the ground with a clickety clack on the tile floor.

During junior high years, the chopstick talks focused on school. "See, if you don't study, watch TV, joke around, you down here," as he dropped his hand down under the table holding the chopstick parallel to the table with a frown on his face. "But study hard and you be this." He held the chopstick vertically up by the swinging lamp as he lifted his head and smiled at it.

I never questioned my father's chopstick talks by saying, "Hey Dad, that's not a car, it's an eating utensil and Mom, when was Dad's last trip to the psychiatrist?" as I pictured other people would say. To me, it was all real and all so wonderful. fl


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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