Blow: The Impact of the Browning of America on Anti-Blackness — Multicultural Meanderings

Likely similar in Canada: One of the things I often hear as a person who frequently writes about race, ethnicity and equality, is that the browning of America — the coming shift of the country from mostly white to mostly nonwhite — is one of the greatest hopes in the fight against white supremacy and […]

Blow: The Impact of the Browning of America on Anti-Blackness — Multicultural Meanderings

Rae and his Legacy Trunk – The Long Version

Rae and his Family Legacy Trunk ©

By 𝓟𝓪𝓽 𝓦𝓪𝓽𝓼𝓸𝓷

Rae rubbed his hands together then wiped them hastily down the sides of his trousers. He didn’t care that his formal outfit was now marked with the residues of ashes and dirt. Even as extended family and friends dispersed, sobs still lingered in the air. Eventually, only Rae and his mother remained standing at the grave site. The weather was pleasant enough, considering. It’s not as if either of them had expected the day’s weather to mirror their grief. Instead, the weather gods got together and made the agreement to put a smile on the event.

In her way, Rae’s grandmother was balanced about doling out cheerfulness so, on reflection, this kind of weather on the day of farewell would suit how she would invite a gathering of family members. This is a woman who would always want to add some honey to her typical words of caution. She would probably have said about attending this, her own funeral, ‘Respect and appreciate the day, and take an umbrella… just in case.’

The umbrellas came in handy for Rae and his mother after all, because the longer they stood there reflecting on the life of the woman who had so influenced them both, the more intense grew the day’s temperature. With no rain, the umbrellas could at least be hauled into duty for needed shade. Someday, there would be a shade tree in full foliage for this spot, and not just a grave marker. At least, that was the promise the mother and son made as they stood there.

It wasn’t until the steady stream of a light beam sliding low from side to side caught Rae’s eyes that he realized how long they had been standing there. And, even though the sun had long gone down, their umbrellas were still on duty. The groundskeeper, a Rastaman approached them without so much as a sound; his presence was only preceded by his high beam flashlight.

“I-and-I regret to have to announce that the cemetery gate is closing for the night. I-man, know it is hard for ones-and-ones to have to depart from the departed. The family can return in the light of day still.”

And so they did. The next day, it rained. But, no matter. Rae and his mother had umbrellas. Standing there in the rain, his mother finally pulled out from their silence.

“Rae, did Gra’ma ever tell you that she was a soldier? She was in the army, you know.”

Rae was surprised. “That quiet old lady who baked the best potato pudding in the world was a soldier?”

“Rae, the way soldiers are after a war, they keep practically everything to themself. Look, her mother, my grandmother was some type of army operative. My mother, your grandmother followed in her footsteps. My grandmother, her mother gave her life to some war. My mother, your grandmother went into the army to set it right. She swore she was going to go in and come out alive. That’s as much as she would tell anyone about it. I only know from overhearing because she never directly told me. All I know of my grandmother is that she left a trunk that was to be for her grandchildren. And, I, being the only one, I got that trunk. So many times, I tried to flip that latch to look inside but I just could not bring myself to do it. I was afraid to see skeletons within. We can stand here at this gravesite and remember my mother, your grandmother, but we have nowhere to find my grandmother, your great-grandmother. And, no, I am certain –yes, certain, she was not inside that trunk. Once, just once, in a dream, she told me so. She asked me then if I planned to be a soldier. And in the dream, I asked her if I should do this. She only smiled but gave me no answer. When I told my mother, your grandmother about this dream, she also smiled the same smile. It gave me chills. And when I asked her if I should become a soldier, she said the army has secrets. And left it at that.

“You won’t remember this but when we moved from the apartment, moved everything to go and live in Mother’s house,  my family legacy trunk did not make it. One entire crate was misplaced and to this day…” Rae’s mother’s voice trailed off. Then, she continued. “The thing about my legacy trunk is I only feel the presence of it – like it is right here in my space – when I remember that dream. Then I see the trunk and the latch out of the corner of my eye …like right now because I’m telling you about it.”

Perhaps it hadn’t been a year and a day, but to Rae, it felt as if they had been standing there that long. His arms began to feel the weight of holding up the umbrella, so despite the downpour, he lowered his arms. Rae was surprised by how much he enjoyed the gentle tap-tap-tap with each new streamer of rain on his now-exposed arms, his shoulders, his head. His grandmother would have wanted him to be more careful. She might have said something like, ‘Mind you catch cold, Rae.’ Rae then reflected on the day his grandmother vested him with the legacy truck that was to be his lifelong companion. Rae lives in Raetown, founded by a distant relative in that very valley. His mother lives in Raetown, and his grandmother lived in Raetown. And, when Rae was old enough to understand all the words that the old people were saying, his grandmother came to him one day and said, “I have something to give you, I have a gift for you, Rae.” She led him down the long hallway to the large walk-in closet next to her bedroom. Once inside, his grandmother pushed aside clothing preserved in zipped bags and dove further in.

With a shuffling sound, she finally emerged, and into his tiny hands pushed forward a trunk, saying, “This is yours, Rae. This is yours forever, and it’s filled with all kinds of longtime family things. You should always keep it with you. It will be for your life, Rae. Always have it, always keep it with you. Take it everywhere.”

Rae loved his grandmother. He loved her and he believed in her love and kindness. And so, he accepted this gift, this legacy trunk from his grandmother. Somehow, the trunk knew to follow Rae around, much like a new puppy would imprint and attach.  

And, until the day after the funeral, the only other time Rae’s mother mentioned this trunk was the day Rae complained to her about the endowment from his grandmother. What was he? Eleven or 12 at that time? It was about the time he began to have some doubts about carting this legacy trunk around. He had confessed to his mother that he was feeling burdened by the family legacy trunk.  Rae had placed that memory away, behind schooldays and homework and soccer matches. But, if he could summon the memory, it would be to recall her words at that time, “Yes, your grandmother’s mother gave me a trunk to carry. So yes, it’s in line for you to uphold your family legacy trunk, Rae.”

 And so, Rae would take the trunk with him to school, to his soccer matches, and hanging out with friends. He always had the trunk.

And yet, it never really came to his mind to look inside. He just accepted this gift from his grandmother, and, it was always with him. There was Rae and there was the trunk. There was the trunk and there was Rae.

And, after Rae graduated from high school, he, along with the family made the decision that he should go on to university.

Well, the university was actually up the hill from Raetown, and so it was, as you might have guessed, a trek. Rae could get up the hill, but he had to carry the trunk with him, because that was just it for Rae and his life up to that day – Rae and the trunk, the trunk and Rae.

Anyway, it was a great celebration that he got accepted to the university on the hill. And, on the first day when new students were going to the campus to get oriented, to have a look around, Rae, too, had to get there. His heart rate speeding up in anticipation, he started walking from Raetown. And, of course, pulling the trunk behind him, sometimes pushing it in front of him – but always with him. And it had some weight; it was, after all, a trunk. And, as he was edging the trunk up the hill, moving it along, moving along with it, with sweat beading his brow,

alongside the road, sitting under a tree very comfortably was that Rastaman. And the Rastaman, seeing Rae, said to him, “Hey, what are you doing yout’ man? How’s the yout’ man today?”

Rae said, “I’m good. Good-good.”

The Rastaman said, “You’re Rae. Yeah, I-and-I know the yout’ man. I-and-I recognize the yout’ man, the mother, the grandmother. Rae-Rae. It’s quite a long time I-and-I haven’t seen you or your mother at the cemetery.”

And Rae, replied, “Yeah. Yep. That’s me.”

And, the Rastaman continued, “What’re you doing, Rae, with that trunk? I-and-I see the bredren all the time with that trunk. What’s the story?”

Y’know, Rae is a sociable fellow. He’s friendly with his Raetown peeps and although he did not remember ever seeing that Rastaman, he took a moment to chat with him, and moreover to catch his breath because the university campus was at the top of the hill, which had a 45 degree incline. (Rae had done the calculations before deciding to agree on this particular university, but little did he understand the experience of the incline.)

Rae said, “Well this is a gift from my grandmother, and this is just me – me and my trunk, everywhere. It’s my family legacy”

And the Rastaman said, “But yout’ man, what’s in the trunk, though?”

And, for a moment, Rae was flummoxed. He paused, then said, “In …the trunk?

Rastaman said, “Yeah, I-and-I can see it is heavy. It looks very heavy. So I-and-I must question what’s in said trunk. What’s making it so heavy?”

And, because Rae was a bit tired from pushing and pulling the trunk up the 45-degree hill, he paused some more, “Well …well … well, I never thought to look in the truck.”

Rastaman said, “How many years have you had the trunk, Rae?”

Rae thought and thought before saying, “Maybe… I don’t know… since I was about three years old, something like that.”

Rastaman raised an eyebrow, “And you never thought to look in the trunk?”

Rae replied, “No, I just love my grandmother and she gave it to me as a gift and she told me to always keep it with me. So that’s what I’ve been doing.”

Rastaman said, “Rae, when the yout’ man goes to university, yout’ man has to practice thinking about questions and asking questions. Right-now, right-now is a good time to just… you know… But wait, the yout’ man looks a little tired. Yout’ man, take a seat. Take a sit and let I-and-I take a look inside that trunk. Since you never until now asked yourself what’s inside.”

Something about looking ahead to travelling up that 45-degree hill every day with that family legacy trunk in tow brought Rae to a halt.  There was a rumble of thunder overhead just as Rae said softly, “Yeah, w-w-why not? I could use a minute to rest. Even so, a bit nervously, Rae flipped the latch to begin to open the trunk. The hinges creaked the way they would from long years of not being opened until this day. And, inside the trunk, piles of notepaper. This was puzzling because even through there were just pieces of paper in there, the trunk was surely weighty.

Rae picked up one of the notes and started to read it aloud. That first note said ‘Don’t try that. It’s not going to work.’

Rae looked at the note and thought, “Well, who’s that written to? It doesn’t have a name on it.”

Rastaman said, “Yout’, you’re on your way up the hill to university, with a legacy message that says ‘Don’t try that. It’s not going to work’? Yout’ man needs to work. I-and-I reason the yout’ man will need to toss out that note. It’s just a piece of paper but it has weight. Yout’ man has to right now lighten that load. Seen?”

Now, there was a garbage bin nearby, and Rae, being a conscientious young man, crumpled that note up and placed it in the bin. It was only a piece of paper but it plummeted into the bin with the heaviness of a rock. Then, Rae looked skyward just as a second low-decibel rumble of thunder rolled in and lined up precisely with the nervous beat of his young heart. Rae went back and looked again in the trunk. There were all kinds of notes in there. There was one that said, ‘Don’t lend your money to people. They’re not going to pay you back.’

Rastaman said, “Yout’ man ever lent money to people?”

Rae replied, “Well not really, if somebody needs something, I give what I can. I don’t really expect it back. Sometimes a person gives it back, sometimes another person doesn’t. I mean, all the same to me. Nice if they’d give it back, but I don’t give it to get it back.”

Rastaman said, “Then the yout’ man doesn’t need that note for guidance on the lending and borrow front. Seen? Why the yout’ man doesn’t just put that in said bin?”

Rae paused again, then said, “Yes.”  That one, too, landed like a stone in the bin.

Rae looked at one more note. It said, ‘Don’t tell secrets to people. People will hurt you if you would tell your secrets.’

Rastaman said, “The yout’ man ever tell secrets?

Rae said, “You know, to tell the truth, I don’t have any secrets. If I have a problem, I talk to my mother or talk to a friend. I don’t really keep secrets.”

Rastaman said, “Maybe the yout’ man doesn’t need that burden then since keeping secrets is not a practice that the yout’ man follows.”

So Rae threw it out along with the others. It was becoming easier now. On and on it went, with all the notes saying things that were helpful, or not helpful, or not even belonging in this timeframe of first-day university orientation.

Eventually, there was one last note in the bottom of the trunk and it said, ‘Always listen to your grandmother.’

And the Rastaman said, “Well, yout’, what’s the record on always listening to Grandma?”

And Rae said, “Sometimes. But, you know, mostly, I listened to her about this trunk.”

And the Rastaman said, “But it’s a heavy trunk and the yout’ man is just pulling it around with things never used or elsewise not needed.”

When the Rastaman said that, Rae practically fell over on the trunk.  ‘Always listen to your grandmother.’ Rae reflected on this one too.

“Well maybe not always,” Rae said to the Rastaman.

“So, going to keep that note, considering the yout’ man only did the listening sometimes? Works for the yout’ man sometimes. Works for the yout’ man not sometimes?”

Rae was a little nervous, you know. He had thrown out so many things in what seemed like no time at all. Was it a few minutes? Or had it been hours on that thundery, weekday afternoon? But the trunk had been heavy, and he needed to get up the hill to the university as the day was carrying on. But he thought, “I’m going to leave this one in here.” So, he closed the trunk and it was much-much lighter, he could practically move it with one finger going up the hill.

Then suddenly, there was a burst of wind. It threw the lid of the trunk open and the one piece of paper that was left flew out and up into the air. Rae reached for it – the one note that was a feather and not a stone – but it was gone. The trunk, too, became feather-light; the wind wrapped arms around it, took it up into the air and carried it off. And then, Rae was standing there with no trunk. Trunk-less.

Stunned. It was almost as if he forgot his name because it had been pasted onto the lid of the now disappeared trunk.

He looked back and there was the Rastaman, pointing to the heavens.

Rastaman said, “Blessings and guidance, Rae. Every step upward is in order. I-and-I consider your climb will yield a new focus now.”

Rae looked upward, then back again. The notes were gone. The trunk was gone. The weight was gone. The bin was gone. The Rastaman was gone. And Rae paused again. Then, with a wind coming in that cleared the sweat from his brow, Rae from Raetown kept on stepping up the hill to see what lay ahead –orientation day for his future, now without the weight of the family legacy trunk.

But, in his hand, a new blank notepad.

END

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