In Bud, Not Buddy, the suitcase, or what is inside of it, is symbolic of Bud's family and his search for identity. The reader meets Bud when he is ten years old and living at the Home, an orphanage.The only connection Bud has with his past is contained within the suitcase: it contains a blanket, rocks that are written upon, flyers of Herman Calloway and his band, and a picture of his Momma. As the story progresses, Bud leaves a foster family and ends up traveling in search of his father, who he mistakenly assumes is Herman Calloway.
During this journey to find his family, Bud carries the suitcase, his most prized possession. However, it is what is inside the suitcase that is priceless, and it confirms his identity to his grandfather, Herman Calloway. When Calloway sees the rocks, the flyers, and the picture of his daughter, Bud's heritage is revealed. After this revelation, Bud realizes he has finally found his family and his home. At the end of the novel, he can finally unpack the suitcase, which had been exchanged for a saxophone case earlier. He spreads the blanket on his bed and tacks the picture of his mother on the wall. He is home. Bud has matured, and the saxophone case with the saxophone, his future, is proof.