Tohe Family Home and Studio
United States of America
Tuesday, February 15, 1994
“I don’t want to talk to any more football recruiters.” Ben Tohe returned to the dinner table. Dinner had again been disturbed by another recruiter that was trying to get him to play for their university. “Linda and I have four-year academic scholarships and Stanford has programs where we can do advanced study. We can share an apartment, and then we won’t end up with roommates that want to party more than study.”
“You will scare off all the boys and I will never get a date.” Linda, his twin, sat with a sad, rejected expression on her face, but kept her eyes down so that Ben could not see the twinkle in them.
“That never happened anytime during the past few years.” Linda had been the first home coming queen at Chaparral High School who had lettered in three sports. Ben started to wonder if she didn’t want to room with him. Then he realized she was teasing.
“That because everyone knew that you were a big teddy bear and not the fierce Navajo football warrior.” Nancy was the youngest of the four Tohe children. Their oldest brother, Elvis, was a Marine who was just finishing advanced electronics school. He would be home Saturday for extended leave before reporting to his new assignment.
Ben looked to his father for support.
Nantai Tohe agreed with his son about how annoying the recruiters had been. “Ben, as long as they think that they have a chance to get you to play for them, they will keep calling. When you get to Stanford, Coach Peterson will be after you every day to join the team.
Ben cringed. Stanford Coach Marcus Peterson was the most annoying of the people that were calling. He knew about Ben’s scholarship and suggested that Ben could use it for graduate school. He called ones or twice a week to talk to Ben about how Ben would help them win the conference title and a national championship. He was unrestricted in how often he could call since Ben was already planning to go to Stanford.
“Ben, if you fell off of your skate board and injured your leg so that you couldn’t play, they would stop calling.” Nancy’s suggestion surprised the others and they laughed at it. Ben was better with a skateboard than he was at football.
Nancy explained her idea. “If you go to Uncle Trinh, he would be able to put a cast on your leg for the injury that you just got. When you go to the White House when father receives his award, everyone will see that you will not be able to play football.”
It took a second for Ben to catch on to what Nancy was suggesting. He turned to his mother.
Marion Che-Tohe was considering Nancy’s suggestion. As a nurse, she understood that claiming a medical injury wasn’t something that her brother would be willing to help his nephew do. “I think my brother will be willing to put a cast on you if you don’t refer to an injury just say that you will not be playing football.”
“Thank you.” Ben gave his younger sister a big grin.
Later that evening, Nancy approached her father and mother as they worked in the family art studio. Marion only dabbled but Nantai made his living with his paintings. Unknown to everyone outside of the family, Nantai’s inspirations for his paintings came from visions that he had. Nancy was the only one of the children that had an interest in art. She also had visions that she painted.
“Father, Mother. Last week. I expressed my uneasiness in going to the White House with you. You still wanted me to go. Yesterday, I did this painting.” She handed the painting to her mother. Nantai rose and looked over his wife’s shoulder at the painting. “As you can see, Ben is in a cast and I am not there when you receive the award. This is how I knew to suggest the cast after you told Ben that as long as they thought he could play that they would keep bothering him.”
“That is a very good likeness of the President’s daughter.” Marion had noticed that the image of Claire, the nine-year old daughter of President Clarke was the best that Nancy had ever done. At eleven, Nancy’s ability to paint life-like portraits had won her several prizes at art shows. The last one, a second place, had been in the adult competition.
“Yes, I feel an attachment to her, but I must not yet meet her.” The way that she said it, told her parents that this knowledge had come to Nancy the same way her visions had.
“Why daughter?” Marion asks.
“I do not know.” The frustration that Nancy has over the subject was apparent.
“I also don’t understand some of the things about my visions. Look at that painting.” Nantai points to a painting that had hung on the fall for over a year. It was so different from his other painting that he had never considered selling it. “Two moons, a young girl and some animal. No, it is intelligent. They are close friends. I don’t understand what it is about or where it is.” His frustration was as great as his daughter’s was.
When Nancy looked at the painting hanging on the wall, a little understanding came to her. “Father, take the picture and show it to Claire. She will remember it and one day we will know the who and the where that you have painted. It is very important.”
National Medal of Arts Award Ceremony
Washington D. C., United States of America
Thursday, March 3, 1994
The presentation of the National Medal of Arts awards had just finished. There was to be a reception where the press could talk with the recipients of the awards. As people started to leave, three reporters hurried over to where the families of the recipients had been seated.
Claire had noticed the family of the Navajo painter, Nantai Tohe. His wife was Asian probably Vietnamese. The oldest son was a Marine. The son and the daughter could be twins. Claire kept looking at them throughout the ceremony. It had been as if she was looking for someone else. She had seen the reporters and moved towards them with her Secret Service detail to either side.
The reporters surrounded the younger son, who was on crutches.
“Ben, have you decided where you will play football.” The first reporter asked.
Ben cringed at the question and reached down to scratch under the cast. “I won’t be playing football. My sister, Linda, and I will be attending Stanford in the fall on academic scholarships. I have played my last football game.”
“How did you injure your leg?” The second reporter, though not a sports reporter, had been briefed by his boss and the Ohio State coach on Ben. His alma mater had been very interested in Ben Tohe playing for them.
“You need to be very careful on a skate board.” Linda said as she and Elvis interposed themselves between Ben and the reporters.
“I thought this was about art not sports?” Elvis Tohe was taller and more massive than his brother was. He had been the tight end when his sophomore brother had taken over in the first game of the season for the injured quarterback. Chaparral High School had had it first winning season in three years with Ben. The following two years, Ben had led them to undefeated seasons and state championships.
Ben sagged into a nearby chair, where he put his head in his hands. Marion stood in front of him with her hand on his shoulder and her back to the reporters. She struggled not to laugh. The three of them had played it just right. As always, her children worked very well together.
The reporters turned and left. Only the second reporter felt a little sad that Ben wouldn’t play football, but that was because Ohio State could have used him.
Claire slowed as she approached the Tohes. She had heard what had been said and she felt sorry for Ben being injured and unable to play football. She enjoyed sitting with her father and watching the games on television. It was one of the few times that he could forget his duties for a while. He had promised to take her to the Army-Navy game this year.
Marion had notice the young girl standing in front of Ben. She had wondered how she was going to get to show Claire the picture as Nancy requested.
“Claire, he will be all right. He wants to be a physicist. Now he won’t have to work that around football.” She was so like Nancy. Not in her looks. Claire will be one of those blondes that all the boys would be after. Her Nancy even at eleven had started to be noticed by the boys but she got her dark hair and complexion from both her and Nantai. The two of them had a presence. She had seen how Nancy was the one her friends both female and male looked to as the leader. Claire had the same ability.
As Claire started to turn away, Marion realized she might lose her chance. “Claire, would you look at some of my husband’s paintings. I think you will be interested in them.”
Claire started to shake her head and tell Mrs. Nantai no but then decided that it would be more interesting to look at the paintings than attend the reception. The four Tohes were the only ones left in the room besides her and her bodyguards.
“I would like that. None of the other winners had brought any of their works. Mom had said that your husband was the first painter to receive the award.” She followed Marion to the paintings at the front of the room.
Claire looked at the first picture of an adult eagle hatching from an egg made of blocks. The title read Freedom Reborn. “That is the Berlin wall coming down.”
Marion was surprised that she knew what the picture was about.
At the second picture, Claire looked puzzled then angry. The title was Columbia’s Tears. It showed one of the space shuttles with eyes with rectangular tears falling from it with the Earth below.
Marion did not understand Claire’s reaction so she explained the picture. “That was painted after the space shuttle Challenger exploded. Nantai cried and then went off and painted this picture in memory of those who died.”
“No, that is not what this is. This is a warning. The tiles are coming off of Columbia. It will die when it comes back to earth. I must tell my father.” She started to turn to go.
“Claire, please look at the last picture. It is called Friendship. It’s the one that I wanted you to see.”
Claire though still upset, went to the third picture. Where the others were idealized images expressing feelings and thoughts this picture was almost a photograph in the image’s quality. Claire stares at it entranced for over a minute. She turned to Marion.
“That picture is very different from the others. It is a picture of the future. I almost feel like I know the girl and her friend. I will go their one day and I will not ride on one of those shuttles. Who is she?”
“We do not know who she is. Yes, the picture is very different. My husband doesn’t paint that realistic unless it is a portrait. He doesn’t understand this picture.”
“They have just met but they are already best of friends.” Claire realized that what she is saying doesn’t come from what she is seeing. “I do not know why I said that.”
“Nantai’s paintings make you think and draw thoughts out that you wouldn’t otherwise have thought.” Marion was deeply impressed by Claire. She looked forward to telling Nancy and Nantai what she had said about the paintings.
Claire is thinking about what Marion has said and how she had reacted to the paintings. The last painting was more real than the other two. She didn’t worry about the shuttle any more. The girl and her friend on some other world was now the future.
“Miss Clarke, your mother asked where you were. She wants you to join the reception.” Agent Maria Alverez informs Claire.
“One moment, Agent Alverez.” Claire turned back to Marion. “Thank you for showing me your husband’s paintings, Mrs. Tohe. I will not forget them.”
“You are welcome, Claire.” I will not forget you. You are younger than Nancy is but you are so very much alike and yet so different. Why do you feel almost like part of the family? Marion’s thoughts were interrupted by her children. They wanted to know why she had shown the pictures to the President’s daughter.