Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Kinfolk--(Re)Membering Uncle Junior


"Kin Folk" is a track from Anthony David's 2006 record, Red Clay Chronicles. Take a second and give gratitude for the family you have been given and/or chosen. 

Kai's Thoughts: 

My Uncle, James Carraway Jr. passed away early Monday morning (yesterday). We knew he was sick, but we didn't know how sick. I am happy to have had the opportunity to visit him while I was home in the East Bay over the winter holiday. I visited him with three of my aunts and as soon as we walked in the room we started singing, trying to find our parts, the right key... We were all happy and together.  If you don't know anything else about you, you have to know how much I love my family and how important family is to me. I am blessed to have such a close family that is held together by God's greatest gift, love. 

My grandparents had 8 children together. They moved to Oakland California from Paris, Texas way back in the day and raised an AMAZING tribe, "The Carraways." The stories I have heard over the years about their upbringing always make me smile. These stories have come to feel like stories of Superheroes--Black Superheroes and that's where I come from. 

I am so saddened by the loss of one of my Superheros today, but I know Uncle Junior will live on in our hearts and in our stories. I offer this short piece from some of the stories I have heard over the years and I reprint it today in honor of my uncle, Junior. 
As a child I remember sitting around dining room tables, sometimes on couches and floors, cuddle up with cousins, siblings, aunts, and my mom. We’d all drink strong coffee with creamer, but my mom and Uncle Steve always liked it black. Sometimes we’d play spades, dominos, taboo, or another game someone had picked up along the way and brought back home to share. There would always come a point late in the night, eyes heavy, red and tired, but not yet ready to say good night. Someone would recall that one time when…
That one time when cousin J found and brought the man who robbed G (his mother, my aunt) back to the house all tied up in the back of a car…J was proud of what he had done, but G was afraid and told her son to untie that man and let him go. We all laughed.

That one time my mom recalls taking care of her little sister, L and giving her a spanking.  L put some kind of curse (she had gotten into witchcraft) on my mom and her chair broke. My mom was afraid and L got another spanking.  L was thought to be strange and a little bit crazy for her interest in witchcraft in such a Christian and God fearing home.

I listen to these stories and I try to remember them all. I like how I can hear the story about my mom getting into a fight in kindergarten. She was trying to help her older brother JR. fight “these white boys”. The boys were all in middle school. JR gave my mom his belt and she was holding her own until someone knocked off her glasses or maybe she just got pushed down. She was kicked repeatedly in her eyes and when JR. saw that, my mom said he just went off. And at some point the fight ended. When they got ready to walk back home my mom couldn’t see a thing. She was blind. I can’t remember how long she says it lasted, but it was more than a day. I remember her saying that she had to stay and fight with and for her brother because granddaddy would really give you a spanking if ever you left any of your family to fight alone.

No matter what, family comes first and we fight for and sometimes with one another. And sometimes we end up being blind. And those pains and scars translated years down become stories retold that inspire me to fight. And when I fight I know I have the strength of the little girl that was my mom. Taking comfort in the fact that even though she went blind for a moment she still had her brother with her to carry her home.

Every time I hear one of these stories I feel like I’m being carried home—home to a place that I have never actually touched nor smelled nor heard. But I can still feel it and I know it—someplace that always escapes me yet remains centrally grounded within me.

Some things are just in my blood--some pains and some joys they travel in and through me. Some memories of sadness and hope I feel but I can’t always really touch them. You know the feeling when you just can’t quite put your finger on a thing. Some memories so deep have been transported from generations and people and places I have never seen with my own eyes— though I sometimes get glimpses in my dreams.

I wonder if one day I’ll meet those folk whose bloodlines flow and grow in me biologically and spiritually. I wonder if I’ll recognize them and if they’ll recognize me. Is that what flying home yields? I imagine a return to the future whereby I become whole because we all recognize and see each other here and now—beautifully (be)coming together.