Raymond removed his suit coat and began reviewing the mail when he suddenly noticed a large brown package with a note from Trent. Hey babe! Hope you had a great day. This package just came for you. I'm at the gym, then off to do some work. See ya. Love, Trent. As Raymond picked up the package he thought he should be at the gym with Trent.
The package was heavy and Raymond could tell from the handwriting that it was from his mother. But it didn't feel like cookies, brownies, or any type of food he had been expecting. Raymond tore open the package and out spilled a black leather photo binder. Taped to the front of it was a note on frilly paper from his mother. My Dearest Son, I hope this helps with the confirmation. I've been looking forward to the day when you might need this. I love you and I'm so proud of you. Your mother.
The house was quiet and the evening sun bathed the den in a golden glow. The room was large, with hardwood floors, a beautiful Persian rug, black leather furniture, forty-six-inch television, and an antique rolltop mahogany desk. This was the room where Raymond and Trent spent many quiet evenings enjoying each other, watching sporting events or reading while snuggled on the couch. Raymond leaned against the desk and opened the binder.
On the first page was a copy of his birth certificate and his footprints. He looked at the date, June 20, the time, 4:56a.m. and his weight, 8 pounds 6 ounces. He read his father's name and "student" listed as his occupation and his mother's maiden name of Gaines and her occupation of "teacher." Raymond couldn't recall the last time he'd seen his birth certificate and the black-and-white photograph of him as a newborn. Curly hair, eyes closed tight. Only three days old.
As Raymond slowly turned page after page, he realized the treasure he was holding: a memoir of his life from his mother's eyes. A magical binder that included photographs, report cards, teachers' names, school names and addresses from kindergarten to high school.
There were pictures and awards from football, basketball, and tennis camps that Raymond had attended during his youth. Photos taken with Santa and other special activities like the Cubs and Boy Scouts. His first NAACP membership card, certificates from Sunday school, vacation Bible school, and articles that appeared in school and local newspapers. A tattered picture of Raymond in his high school football uniform, holding his younger brother, Kirby. Memories that had slipped from Raymond's mind.
There were letters and cards Raymond had sent his parents and even letters his mother had discovered from his first love, Sela, the young lady he had fallen in love with on sight at a high school basketball game. Numerous pictures of Raymond and Sela at their high school prom, parties, and sporting events, and fraternity and sorority mementos from their days at the University of Alabama. Every important person and event that occurred up until his graduation from law school was lovingly placed in this special book.
During his parents' weekend visit Raymond had mentioned how much he was dreading tracking down all the information required for his confirmation. The financial stuff would be easy. All Raymond had to do was call his accountant and the reports would be ready. But the FBI wanted more. Organizations in which he held memberships, papers he had written, and a random sampling of cases he'd handled as a lawyer, not just in Seattle, but throughout his career.
They also requested information on the schools he attended, including the names of teachers and friends who might vouch for his good character, and evidence that he had always been a good citizen. His mother appeared pleased when she said she might have something that would help him out. When Raymond and his father asked what, she had said, "That's my little secret and I don't know if I'm ready to let go. What did I always tell you? Save some secrets for yourself."
Excerpted from Abide with Me by E. Lynn Harris. Copyright© 1999 by E. Lynn Harris. Excerpted by permission of Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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