Recently, decades after my grandparents passed away, I stumbled upon something they both left before they died - three big boxes consisting of what love would look like if you could hold it. Inside, lay stacks of letters from family members, a lifetime of drawings carefully titled and dated by Mom-Mom, every birthday card ever received, stacks of handwritten notes from my dad to let my grandparents know where he was going, Pop-Pop’s old Tuskegee Airmen wings, old school programs, old budgets and bills, newspaper clippings dated back to 1932, painful notes written by Mom-Mom obsessively listing facts about her life as if she was trying so hard not to forget them, as well as her x-ray scans of her brain tumor that took her life - a whole history of my family. Along with these artifacts my grandparents saved photos upon photos of my uncles and aunts with huge afros and plaid bell bottoms while raising fists of “Black Power”; heated family discussions most likely discussing politics and race , my dad and my aunt swinging on a trapeze which Pop-Pop built in the middle of the living room; self portraits labeled, “This is for you so that you won’t forget me.”; trips to Atlantic City, and Washington D.C., a Christmas card photo of Aunt Fran and Uncle Chico labeled, “Struggle on Earth” ,instead of, “Peace on Earth”- all of which illustrated the under linings of a happy family.
Being able to physically hold these letters and photos made me realize how special it is to write someone you love by snail mail, or to take a photograph with a film camera – things that in this digital age, we certainly take for granted. This tangible experience made these memories feel so much closer and more personal. It was through these handwritten letters and faded images that I was able to see the how much both of my grandparents struggled and sacrificed for our family. Whatever my grandparents could not provide in financial wealth was instead supplemented with unconditional love, strength and belief that no goal was unattainable. Both of my grandparents saved these boxes so that my family can remember the love of my grandparents, to always remember what that kind of love feels like, and just like Nikki Giovanni once said “black love is black wealth.”