The arrival of a family heirloom evokes some compelling memories.
|Peter knitted his brows at the silver coffee set on the table. Light reflected from its polished surface, as if taunting and humiliating him. Catching sight of his own warped image on the shining curved surface of the coffee pot, disturbing visions floated across his eyes, threatening his sanity.
“Honey, isn’t it dainty?”
He turned to face his beaming wife who seemed to be enthralled with the very object that repelled and provoked him. “Maria, I want you to dispose it off. Before the children come. I don’t want them to see it.”
She didn’t look astonished. “Are you sure? George brought it this morning. She said your mother wanted you to have this after her death.”
“I’m surprised he didn’t tell you how I would feel,” Peter commented.
“Matter of fact, he did. But he didn’t explain why.”
“You won’t like it, Maria. No point in knowing why.”
“Peter, after twenty years of marriage, I didn’t knew that we still had secrets between us. How a two hundred year old coffee set can upset you so much, I haven’t the faintest idea. But suit yourself.”
Peter winced at his wife’s words. He went to his reading room and returned with a worn out diary. Seeing Maria pack the coffee set into a cardboard box, he went near her. “I want you to read this, Maria.”
“What is it?”
“My father’s diary. I discovered it in his personal possessions after he died. Read this page.”
Maria sat back onto a chair and glanced at the page which her husband pointed to. She appeared baffled. “Sorry, honey. Can’t make out this handwriting.”
Peter took the diary back from her. “Let me read it out for you.” His face tensed when his eyes swept across his father’s almost illegible drawl. Pulling in a deep breath, he began to read out loud.
“Today, I made the unpleasant discovery of my birth. I had never known my father. Whenever I asked mother, she would say that he was a great man who died in the Civil War. I had grown up hearing taunts and abuses from the children of our neighborhood about my light brown skin. They questioned me as to how my black mother produced a light-skinned child. When I questioned my mother, she would always keep a steady silence. But, today, I forced her to tell me.
My mother was a slave woman in a cotton plantation in Alabama. Yes, that is my truth. I am a slave’s son. Her white master fell in love with her. That is what she thinks. Love! Because her master had a fondness for her, he made her do only light jobs. She served him coffee. Ironed his clothes. Prepared his bath. Massaged his body. The inevitable happened. Her master made her pregnant. The master’s wife was so upset that she had mother thrashed severely and thrown out. Feeling bad, my father gifted her the silver coffee set in which she served him coffee, gave her some money and send her away.
So, that is my reality. I am a bastard.”
Peter’s voice choked. Tears streaked down his cheeks. He felt Maria’s hand on her shoulder, and he placed his hand on top of hers.
“So, you know my story, Maria. This coffee pot reminds me of my past. Something I want to wipe away.”
He felt her fingers run through his hair and heard her soothing voice. “So, you think that selling the coffee set will wipe away your past. And before you say anything, do you know how many black women were impregnated by the white masters. What makes you think that your grandmother was the only one?”
“Does that make the truth less bitter? Knowing that there are millions of people around me who will never know whom they descended from?”
“To whom does it matter, Peter? It doesn’t matter to me for sure. And I’m sure it doesn’t matter to our kids. You should stop blaming yourself for something you are not responsible for. You should be proud that your grandmother worked hard and paid for your father’s education. How many slave women would have done that?”
Peter continued to sulk. He didn’t have any logical argument against his wife. As usual, her rational proved to be much superior to the misplaced ideology he had fed himself with.
“Peter, what matters is what you do with your life. Not what your origins are. I am proud of your education and your professional success. Even if you would not been successful, I would have still loved you because you are honest and hardworking. Only that matters. Yes, I am sorry for your grandmother. But, I can tell you something. She was braver than you or your father. I believe she really loved your grandfather and was happy to have his child. I am sure she would have faced many financial hardships, but she never sold his gift. To him, that set was a symbol of their love.”
“So, what are you saying Maria?”
“That you stop regretting the past. We, as a country need to forget the evils of slavery. What happened was bad. Thank God, we live in a better world. And, if you so much hate whites, why did you marry me?”
“Maria! Stop. Please.”
She came and stood next to her husband and placed her head upon his chest. He wrapped her arms around her. “I am still confused, Maria.”
“I know dear. If you want, I will sell off this set.”
“No, please don’t. As usual, you sound so correct. It’s a symbol of granny’s love. And a testimony of her family's success.”
Word Count: 946