Sitting at my desk on a dreary day, memories of a month-old vacation come to me -- not the monuments and cathedrals of Europe, but the joyful family reunion and learning experience it turned out to be.
While the hot chocolate at Angelina's, tea at the Belgravia and strolls down the Champs Elysees were all great -- and, yes, for all of you who asked, my sister, Evelyn, did get her perfume -- the part to be cherished is the beauty and personal growth we savored.
For when I locked eyes on my daughters, I felt the surge of three worlds and generations coming together -- the world I left, as personified by my sister; the world I live in, and finally, the world I can only visit, that of my three daughters.
In the beginning, there was tentativeness, even apprehension. For example, the hotels the young women thought were charming seemed seedy to Evelyn, who had fantasies of a grand tour. I held my breath, hoping that the vacation would not go awry in the generational and cultural gap that existed.
I mediated, convincing the young women that a little luxury was part of the dreams Evelyn had coming to her and was not a reflection on their taste. The beginning of our journey into understanding had begun.
For me, it was a happy reunion of the past and a revival of old feelings and contacts. For my children, it was a chance for them to see anew where I had come from and to better understand my roots and their own.
Evelyn, the matriarch of our family, is also the family historian and the link with two strong influences in my early life -- family and church. It was in our family that we learned a respect for education, a sense of self-esteem and an understanding of social conditions that might adversely affect us. It was in the AME church, where my father was a minister, that I first learned the principles of love, justice and spiritual power. Those foundations added a special grandeur to St. Paul's Cathedral and the Gothic beauty of Westminster Abbey in London and Notre Dame in Paris.
During long hours on airplanes, and over tea and coffee in quaint shops and cafes, Evelyn and I talked of my early days, while my daughters and their friends, who often soon swelled our ranks, added their viewpoints from their world and tried to plumb the depths of eras they did not quite understand.
Also, I learned a lot from the interaction among me and my daughters. Since they began going away to college, which dates back several years, I have not had the intense interaction with all three at once, away from the workaday pressures. So we had a chance to see each other out of ordinary roles, an experience that was intensified by the isolation of our little group within a different culture.
I learned about the women they are now, compared to the young girls who left home to go to college, and the time together gave me a chance to become comfortable with that. I found that I like them, that I like many of their values, and that now I have to learn to become their friend as well as their mother.
In turn, they understood more of where I came from and accepted me -- all of me -- not just the mothering part. Indeed, I had the chance to become acquainted with both the past and what the future will be, while Evelyn and my daughters had a chance to come in touch with my present.
Yet there was beautiful communication, and love, and the knowledge that the family will go on.
And so Leah stayed in Paris with her new Parisian attire -- Afro, long skirt, black stockings and dreams of the films she wants one day to make. Melissa went to Oxford to try to understand what she perceives as the world's injustices from yet another viewpoint. And Stephanie went to graduate work in the Washington area while she decides on what direction to take her creativity. And Evelyn, she returned to our roots.
And here I am -- in the middle -- watching my grounding and my flight -- and really feeling very good about both.