Author Jeannie Sanders travels to Greece with her mother to find her roots.
by Jeannie Sanders
What makes a mother decide to return to a place that she occupied during the self-described “lowest point” in her life?
What makes her take the daughter she birthed in that time and place with her?
The answer? History.
The place? Athens, Greece.
In 1962, as a very young and inexperienced woman, my mother found herself with three small children, aged 1, 2, and 3, living in a foreign country without the support of any family or friends. My father, whose work had brought her to Greece, was “never there.” She did not know the language and was without a car to explore the country and culture. And then on top of all that she became pregnant with me (Well, I guess my father must have been home at least once!). This September, 42 years after our family left Greece, my mother and I returned to Athens to walk the marble spine of history…both ours and that of western civilization.
We landed in Athens after a daunting 24 hours of travel with no sleep. After making our way to the prearranged hotel; deciding we should not sleep since it was just late morning; unpacking a bit to don fresh clothes that had not been smashed into a coach class airline seat for what seemed an eternity, the natural tensions inherent in our mother-daughter relationship began to play. In our hotel room just before we left to begin exploring the pedestrian walkways of Athens, she caught me photographing what I can only describe as an explosion of things from her luggage. She was offended that I would document such a thing and asked me to delete the images from my camera. I declined to do so. And, not surprisingly, there were other points of tension throughout our trip; what I did not expect were the connections that I would come to realize between our relationship, her body, and accumulation of artifacts from her tattered luggage with the history, culture, and textures in this venerable city of which we are a part.
Throughout our stay in Athens we traversed miles, miles, and more miles on foot around the seemingly endless cobbled streets. But I stood, forgetting my aching feet and legs for brief moments, agog at...
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, Winter 2007-08.