Jenn has been busy preparing for her World Congress presentation these last several months, and the pace of getting ready to leave has stepped up exponentially these last few weeks. She’s been working on her PowerPoint presentation. Upon finishing it, and because I cannot be there, she gave me a special preview.
During the preview, I came down with a mother’s nostalgia. Hey, a mother’s entitled! I remember the time I sent her off to China for her Junior Year Abroad several decades ago. It was the first time we were both in Los Angeles, flying there from New Jersey to meet up with her classmates who would also be going. It was exciting, nerve wracking, and sad as I realized how much I was going to miss my “little girl all grown up”. It was the first time she would be living away from home, let alone halfway across the world. She grew up in that year, came back changed, and was more appreciative of what she had taken for granted at home.
It was also a challenging time for her, dealing with a foreign culture, a language she was just beginning to learn, and homesickness. There were no cell phones then and only one phone booth in the dorm hallway. She would call collect, then I would try to call her back – to save some money. But, that didn’t work – the call went into a central office, then to the hall. By the time I got back to her, someone else would already be on the phone. When she came home, I totaled the cost of the calls – more than enough for a round trip ticket to China for me. But, I no regrets, for those calls helped both of us to make it through the year.
She has not been back since and by choice. That year proved to be overwhelming for her, and she has not wanted to return to revisit some painful memories. So, this trip is very different from the last one. She is going as an invited guest to present my father’s art deco work, the culmination of 4 years worth of diligent research on her part. She has come a long way!
It seems telling that Jenn is the one to do this. She has been the “glue” in our family, the one to often place family needs before her own. The irony is that, while she will be stepping out on her own, it will still be about family. I strongly suspect that this trip will be a passage of sorts for her, to realize she is no longer that young student, but a woman who comes to secure her grandfather’s place in history as one of the first architects who helped to modernize China. And, more so, to be acknowledged that the research she has lovingly done has made all this possible.
On a personal note, I wish that I could be there with her. However, with the recurrence of cancer, the trip would be too arduous for me. Therefore, her private presentation for me was a loving gift. As I listened to her, for those few moments, I could imagine myself there with her. She speaks from the perspective of a loving granddaughter. While her talk notates his achievements, I also felt that she understood how his work is the lineage he left to her and our family. When she finished speaking, we were both in tears.
I sense she will come back, again changed, and ready to embark on the next chapter of her life. I cannot wait to see where this journey will lead her. As her mother, I have been privileged to share this with her.
I love you very much, Jenn, and am so proud of you! And, may our ancestors guide your journey there and back.