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THE GRAY BENCH, A DIARY!

The Park:

Wilton Park of Minnetonka, a small space tucked in between wooded areas and the neighborhood street a short distance from my house. For the last 30 years, I have been taking my morning walk rain or shine cold or hot. In the summer, I stop by the mulberry tree on my way there, taste its fruits (tute), an old childhood favorite. The park brought a few neighbors together, with their kids and dogs, having dog’s conversation, wondering about dogs’ names, breeds, and eating habits. We great each by our dog;s name, Im Woddy’s owner. Kids played tennis, soccer, basketball, and baseball paranetes just walked with their dogs. Sitting on one of the few benches there doing nothing, watching the world goes by, as an Egyptian born, we have mastered the art of sitting. The gray bench was by the tennis court and, through the years, PEOPLE SET ON IT, brought people together, families, friends and lovers had their first kiss on it. Kids and dogs took comfort released themselves by it. The gray bench witnessed lots of stories, kept lots of secrets, never complained, and always willing to listen. Since the lockdown and social distancing,  Amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Life in the park slowly changed; silence loomed over the park landscape. People slowly stopped coming, dogs and kids disappeared, no more joyously plays, or innocent voices, the park’s life all but vanished. The parking lot has no cars, the playground without play, the tennis court without tennis, and the basketball hoop without hope. The air is fresh but nobody to breathe it,  Every day, I would walk to the park stop briefly by the abandoned gray bench, alone, ignored and unappreciated—a vivid reminder of how the pandemic has shaken our lives to the core. Looking at the gray bench, waiting for a companion for someone to share stories. The gray bench doesn’t speak but sure a good listener ! 

 

Under the loom of the pandemic, the spring was breaking in; the sun was out, the gray trees started sprouting their small pods, and the grass got greener. On a cool morning, as I’m taking my morning walk. I glimpsed through the empty park landscape. I briefly stop by the gray bench and I realized something different, something I have not seen for days and weeks. The gray bench seems lively and happy. I slowly approached the gray bench; there, a small doll sitting on the bench keeping it company.  The baby doll was a girl wearing a big blue hat and dressed up as if it was waiting for a date.The enormous hat has covered its blond braided hair and face, the doll was shy and content.  Did someone forgot his/her doll, or left it there. The bench joy was palpable filling the park landscape. Every day, I would walk to the park, stop by the gray bench, the doll still there alone and untouched. This time,  the head was tilted down a bit, looking down to the bench as they were having a conversation.

The next day another doll showed up, sitting on the gray bench next to the young doll girl. It was a doll of monkey with a pacifier stuck in its mouth. A few days later, a few dolls started sprouting on other benches in the park, different sizes, fresh looks, and different stories. I pulled my phone, and without thinking, I took one picture of the doll on the gray bench capturing the frozen moment. I have been haunted by the mystery of the doll in the park that is sitting on the gray bench. For the last few weeks, I have been taking a pictorial diary of the doll on the bench. I stand before the gray bench, look at it briefly, take the same picture from the same spot, capturing the same image. This is the diary as it was speaking to me by these images of the gray bench. This is the diary of the gray bench in the park when everyone left except a doll.

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The first day, April 10, it was a sunny day, crisp spring morning, after being alone and abandoned for a long time, a doll came and resting on me., a young girl, alone, with a colorful dress, and a big blue hat. Not abandoned or forgotten anymore…!! 

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April 13, a second doll came along a monkey doll with a pacifier, set quietly, have two friends now.

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April 14, the two dolls kept their social distancing enforced, ..20 centimeters, 

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April 16, a gray day, a few sprinkling was coming out of the sky, the park is gloomy that day, the first girl doll tilted its head down, getting tired, needed to be touched. The monkey doll unmoved. 

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April 18, the girl doll left its head back up and entirely awake. The monkey doll still in its first positions, sucking on the pacifier. 

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April 23, there was a stick on the girl doll lap, sticking together, I hope. 

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Days went by, without noticeable changes, 

April 24, Friday morning 930a, the dolls attracted a carious dog., 

there was another doll sitting on another bench, then another, and another. 

doll_in_the_park, Saturday, April 25, both dolls are holding the stick between them, sticking together!

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Sunday, April 26..10a, a gray day nothing changed that much..still sitting quietly..!

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Monday, April 27, it was Ramadan, a Ramadan lantern, came to keep the spirit. 

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April 29. Wednesday 9 am gray, cold morning.

The dolls are sitting bored, perhaps. my dog walked closer to the gray bench, carious, …  the grass is greener.

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April 29. Wednesday at 9 am. .another doll showed up on another bench top of the hill, the life in the park slowly is coming back 

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Ahmed Tharwat …. in the middle Ahmed Tharwat Im a host and producer of the Arab-Muslim Americans TV show BelAhdan with Ahmed (with open arms), a weekly TV show that airs on public TV Mondays at 1030PM. As a regular speaker and contributor on Public Radio show All Thing Considered, I have shared my unique view of world and American political and social events. As a regular contributor to StarTribune, the Pioneer Press, and Twin City Planet , also he has written to national and international magazines, such Slate, Diversify Inc and Al Jazeera English. I won the Pioneer Press community columnist award in 2000. In all my work, I have been Trying to bring Arab/Muslims to mainstream Americans.. . I believe that when it comes to politics “Nobody has a monopoly on stupidity” Thanks In The Middle ... Ahmed Tharwat/ Host BelAhdan TV show Freelance Writer, Public Speaker, International Media Fixer www.ahmediatv.com

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NOTES FROM AMERICA