The following three dialogues imagine the conversations sparked when newlyweds arrive for the first time at one of the spouses’ ancestral homes, to which the couple will be moving, with a fourth centering on an exchange amongst nannies. Readers are encouraged to create their own scenes, mixing and matching the various scenarios and characters into multiple fun and thought-provoking situations.
Scene one: An interracial couple – White man, Black woman – walk into the foyer of a plantation manor in Alabama, in which a large statue of a rebel soldier on a horse rearing over the prone body of a man in manacles sits.
Woman: “What’s this?”
Man: “Oh, I forgot about that. It’s my great-uncle Remis. Pretty cool, huh?”
Woman: “Uncle Remis? Is he the soldier, or the enslaved individual?”
Man: “Hah, hah. The soldier of course. Come on, let me show you the rest of the place.”
Woman, placing her hands on her hips: “Well, that’s pretty damn offensive. We’ll definitely be getting rid of this monstrosity.”
Man: “Wait, what? Why? It’s Remis. He’s totally awesome. I never actually met him, but the stories my grandmother used to tell…” chuckling.
Man: “Oh, okay, yeah. He’s trampling a guy. Kind of violent. But ol’ Uncle Remis built this place. He’s the reason why it exists,” Man puts his arm around woman’s shoulders. “We gotta respect Uncle Remis…”
Woman, taking man’s arm off her: “It’s not just some guy he’s trampling. It’s almost certainly someone who was kidnapped from Africa and brought here against his will. Maybe one of my ancestors…”
Man: “Oh, no, no. It’s just an imaginary character, no one that actually lived. Anyways, that’s not the point…This is about history, the history of this place, of me. Without Uncle Remis none of this exists. I don’t exist…Come on, I wanna show you the bedrooms…”
Woman, steely-eyed: “We’re getting rid of it.”
Man, looking surprised, then angry: “What’re you talking about? That statue stays. Anyways, let’s talk about I later.”
Woman: “Either it goes or I do.”
The couple glare at one another.
Scene two: A tidy home in Cleveland. A Christian woman and Jewish man are sitting in a living room densely decorated with curios and art objects.
Man: “What’s that one?”
Woman: “It’s called a “Camel’s teat.” My mother brought it home from West Africa after she did missionary work there.”
Man: “No, not that. The bust thingy.” He rises, walks to the metal figure of a head wearing a military cap, and picks it up. “Heavy bastard,” lifting the piece up and down in one hand and bringing it to his face. “The insignia on the hat looks kind of Nazi-ish. There’s an eagle, and a skull…”
Woman: “Oh, yeah. That’s Grandpa Herman. My mom’s father. He was in the SS…”
Man, his face turning white: “What? Your grandfather was a Nazi? In the Schutzstaffel, the SS! They ran the camps…”
Woman, looking concerned: “Yes, he was. I don’t think he ran any camps, though. I’m not sure what he did. My mother said he was an officer. I never met him, he died before I was born…”
Man, places the bust back on the shelf as if it was too hot to handle, his back turned: “You didn’t think it was important to tell me that your grandfather was a Nazi? I’m Jewish, for God’s sake!”
Woman, gets up and hugs the man from behind: “Honey, I, I just, I don’t know. I mean, I’m not a Nazi.”
Man, shrugs off her embrace and turns to face her: “Did you marry me because I was Jewish? Some kind of Nazi atonement thing?”
Woman: “No of course, not.” She grabs the bust. “And I’m throwing this away…”
Man: “Wait. Don’t. Tossing it would be like forgetting the past.”
Woman: “So what do we do with it?”
Man, rubs his chin, then looks up with a slight smile: “Door stop?”
Woman, grinning back: “Garbage weight, to keep the lid shut from racoons?”
Man: “Boat anchor?”
Woman, giggles: “We don’t have a boat…We could bury him up to his eyes in the compost heap in the backyard…”
Man: “Or use him to hold toilet paper; his hat is pretty flat…”
The couple make their way to the couch, where they embrace.
Scene three: Two gay men in San Francisco’s Bayview neighborhood.
Man One, opening the door to a modest-sized room filled with books: “So, this is my library. It’s my favorite space in the house!”
Man Two, pointing at a large black and white poster mounted on the sole wall not covered with bookshelves: “Who the heck is that?”
Man One: “Him? That’s J. Edgar.”
Man Two: “J. Edgar Hoover? The FBI director? That guy was a total homophobe. Why do you have a photograph of him on the wall? Self-hatred, much?”
Man One: “It’s a reminder, to myself. Of what I could’ve become.”
Man Two: “One of the most powerfully despicable men in U.S. history?”
Man One: “Maybe. Hoover had a 40-year relationship with Clyde Tolson, and left him everything when he died. At the same time, he relentlessly went after gays as “deviants.” A loving man, who persecuted men. He must have been quite tortured inside.”
Man Two: “Okay, he was a hypocrite, plus a massive asshole. What’s that got to do you with you.”
Man One: “Well, I was quite the nasty bully in middle school, even into high school. Mostly of the effeminate boys…”
Man Two: “You were a gay teenage gay basher?”
Man One: “Yes, I was. Do you forgive me?”
Man Two, grasping his companion’s hand: “Of course.”
Man One: “Well, I don’t forgive that bastard, Hoover. But I do have compassion for him. And for his victims. I like that he reminds me of, I dunno, the duality of life, and how I conquered the worst part of myself, and let the best part free Which let me find you.”
The two hold hands, and look at the poster.
Scene four: Three nannies – Hispanic, African American, and Native American – sit on a low wall in Jackson Park watching their charges play.
Nanny One: “Who is this park named after, anyways? Michael Jackson?”
Nanny Two: “Andrew Jackson. He was a president. He’s also on the $20 bill.”
Nanny One: “Was he an especially good president? Or is he from here or something?”
Nanny Three: “My people called him “Sharp Knife.” He killed everybody – women, children – and took our lands.”
Nanny Two: “He owned something like 150 slaves, who worked on his plantation.”
The three are quiet, listening to the sound of children playing.
Nanny One: “Is he from here?”
Nanny Two: “No. He never came to California.”
The three are quiet again.
Nanny One: “What about McKinley? Who was he?”
Nanny Three: “Another president.”
Nanny Two: “At least one who fought against slavery.”
Nanny One, gathering her things: “I’ll think I’ll take the kids to McKinley. It’s sunnier there anyways.”
Nanny Two: “I’ll join you.”
Nanny Three: “Me too. Or we could go to Jose Coronado playground. I think he was a film star. Or a baseball player…”
The three call to the children, letting them know that they’re leaving.