Wit Alla My Stuff – Stephanie Renée
Written by Stephanie Renee on November 16, 2014
I have set a hard deadline to clean out my storage space by the end of November. There is no reason to keep carrying that pesky monthly bill into the new year. Besides now having a home where I can reincorporate these items into my atmosphere, it benefits no one to have my things so spread out geographically. But it’s not quite as simple as it sounds. This storage unit represents my final connection to my DC homestead. I am the last one to fully pull up stakes and create a life somewhere else.
Four generations. It feels so epic to write that down or say it in my head. After my great-grands migrated from across the Deep South and the Caribbean to raise their families and earn a living in our Nation’s Capital, my journey to Philadelphia, my father’s passing and the sale of my great-aunt’s home in Fort Totten puts a period on that bit of family history. From now on, I will only pass through DC as a visitor. There is no elder’s home to go to for the holidays. No permanent address to refer to on legal forms when I don’t want the mail coming directly to me. The DC license plate on my office wall is just an expensive keepsake of my youth. When I turn in the keys on my storage unit, I am effectively handing over the final connection I have to the city that raised my tribe for the past century.
I didn’t expect to get this sentimental when I went to go grab some boxes this past weekend. I needed to take inventory so I could coordinate a U-Haul rental and assistance from my nephew to say my final farewells to Public Storage. But in the end, with the realization that most of my CDs and all of my vinyl have been lost to a black mold infestation…with the joy that comes from seeing some of our family photos survived the natural disaster…and with only days left before my final physical connection to my birthplace is dissolved, I am grateful. The tangible items that are a hallmark of my upbringing will continue to go away, for one reason or another. But my life is a testament to that history, those ancestors, the city that raised me.
Ntozake Shange’s Lady In Green lamented the notion of someone walking off “wit alla her stuff.” I now understand that it’s impossible to do so. Even when the stuff is gone, the memories remain. And I will continue to pass those stories, images and songs along to all who will bear witness, regardless of where I end up in the world.