April 13, 2012

PARIS, France — Boo-hoo! We’re about to head for the airport and home. I have tons of photos to share…later. Right now, there’s time for just one special picture that says volumes about our mother-daughter getaway vacation.

I left New York feeling like this trip would be a time to do some important personal reflection. After all, both of my parents spent time in Paris during their university student days. And with my daughter Gabi in her junior year of high school, I hoped that this overseas trip would get her interested in college study abroad programs.

Blah blah blah. Too much over-thinking on my part.

“Can’t we just be on vacation?” Gabi asked me a few days ago. That question really made me stop and reflect. It took me a while to respond with: “Sure, why not!”

So being here with my daughter and my dear friend Judy — Gabi’s godmother — has helped me to do some more letting go. My parents raised me to be purposeful. Fun was not a priority. But if I’m really my own person now, how about doing things for the sheer pleasure of it? What about being truly in the moment?

We found one of those moments during a Black Paris tour that we took the other day. Below is a photo from that excursion. That’s us, on a staircase filled with fabulous Swarovski crystals! Of course, seeing it instantly reminded me of the late, great African-American poet Langston Hughes, who lived in Paris when he was  young.

The crystal staircase at the fancy Swarovski store on Rue des Champs Elysees. Pretty nifty.

As an elementary school student at P.S. 1 in Manhattan’s Chinatown, I was required to memorize the famous Hughes poem, “Mother to Son,” which includes that unforgettable line about life not being a crystal stair. But to suddenly see a real staircase made of some of the finest crystals on the planet was pretty breathtaking.

Of course, the point is that life can indeed offer the crystal stairs of our dreams. This trip to Paris gave us a chance to find it together as mother and daughter. Which means that I am claiming “Mother to Son” as a poem for my Gabi:

Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor —
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light.
So boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps
‘Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now —
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

That’s the message. No turning back.  No stopping. Never lose the dream. It’s out there — the crystal stairs.

Okay. Gotta run now to the airport. Au revoir!