“LEGOs,” my son said, when I told him the theme for my photo assignment was “connect.” His idea of connection made me smile, but he had a point: the plastic interlocking bricks that are universally popular with children do connect. You apply pressure until you hear a satisfying snap. Then the connection of one LEGO to another is complete, and more bricks can be added.
From LEGOs we progressed logically to bricks as objects that are connected. Wires connect. Bridges — we were driving under a bridge — and roads connect. “Walls,” he suggested, “connect a house.” “Halls,” I countered, “connect rooms.” Talking to a 10-year-old about connections was more fun than brainstorming by myself, and it passed the time as we drove home. Water — his idea — puzzled me, until he explained that he was thinking of tributaries and rivers. Rivers connect one city to another, and they feed into larger rivers and, ultimately, the ocean. Thinking of his grandmother, I described the way quilting connects pieces and layers of fabric: sewing connects with needle and thread
Surprisingly, he pointed out that “people in love are connected.” I thought of how people met and fell in love. “Eyes,” I suggested, “are a way that people can connect.” He rejected this notion, pointing out that eyes may meet but don’t literally connect. We disagreed. To me, the meeting of eyes seems an important way to gauge your connection with another person. If the person with you averts his gaze or keeps looking at the person behind you, you know that the connection is tenuous.
When I suggested phones as a way to connect, he protested, “That’s showing off.” Phones seemed obvious, so I was puzzled until I realized he thought I had said, “Bones.” Ah. Bones are a subtle form of connection. I sang a verse from the old song: “The knee bone’s connected to the thigh bone / The thigh bone’s connected to the hip bone . . .” In these days of electronic connection, phones and computers are almost as vital a connection as bones. Virtual connection has even spawned new words, like “internet” and “Skyping,” while appropriating old words such as “link” and “web.”
Pulling into our driveway, I suddenly thought of crossword puzzles, which, by definition, involve the connection of words through shared letters. Word games like Scrabble are also based on intersecting words. After dinner, we got out Bananagrams. As in Scrabble, each player starts out with randomly drawn letter tiles — 11 each, since three of us were playing. When one person has used up all the tiles in her own system of connecting words, she calls out, “Peel!” and everyone draws another tile.
For most of the game, I was ahead. Drawing two Q’s and an X slowed me down, however. Soon my daughter was calling out, “Peel!” more frequently than I was. In the end, she won, with me finishing soon afterwards. Then we both helped my son use up his remaining tiles, correcting a few spelling errors as we did so. I was thankful that he didn’t seem to mind not winning.
There were unexpected benefits to playing Bananagrams. Instead of half-watching “Dancing with the Stars,” we connected with one another through the game — not that I’m opposed to watching television together, but games can be an excellent way for people of different ages to connect (when good attitudes are had by all). After the game ended, I discovered that photographing the tiles was more difficult than I had anticipated. The table reflected the overhead lights, so I abandoned my attempts at photography until the next morning.
Noticing that the table was dirty and scratched, I polished it. Big mistake! Now the shiny surface of the table reflected the light streaming in from the window. Still, the shadows weren’t as hard to avoid as they had been the night before. I wondered how much I should stage the coffee table for a photo: should I leave the haphazard assortment of books, magazines, and odd items, or should I stack the books and clear away the pencils and remotes?
Aside from better lighting, there was another reward for leaving out the tiles on the table overnight. The next day, my son spent hours rearranging the letters, connecting and reconnecting them as he made words that intersected with other words.
I hadn’t thought of him as a person who likes to play with words, but his interest in the tiles has made me reconsider. He brought me over proudly to see a sentence he had created in a crossword formation: “CONNECTING WORDS IS SOMETHING.” (Uncharacteristically, I forgot to take a picture.) Later, he asked me to help him connect all the Bananagram tiles:
The world has many forms of connection, but words are one of my favorites, with so many possibilities and configurations, so many ways to phrase the same idea, so many meanings and nuances. Words have the power to connect — or to disconnect. I should try to use them well.
All photographs were taken by Sandra Fleming. Text and photographs copyrighted 2014 by Sandra Fleming. Please do not use them without her permission.