A Mother and Daughter Mother and Daughter Duo Discover the ‘Alchemy of Travel’
Traveling with Pomegranates: Mother and Daughter Duo Discover the ‘Alchemy of Travel’
Excerpted by Beth Simmons
Authors and mother-daughter duo, Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor travel together while keeping journals that later became their co-authored memoir, Traveling with Pomegranates. Switching off chapter to chapter, Sue and Ann narrate their perception of travel, each other, and themselves.
Sue Monk Kidd is most well-known for her debut novel The Secret Life of Bees, which was later adapted into the a film starring big name actresses such as Dakota Fanning and Queen Latifah. Her second novel The Mermaid Chair has been adapted into a Lifetime movie.
Within all her novels, the female protagonist and female relationships are highlighted to show the power they hold. Traveling with Pomegranates is Taylor’s literary debut and together both authors explore the female relationship through their own as mother and daughter.
The setting of Traveling with Pomegranates spans a number of countries explored by the authors. “We wrote about three trips we made together,” Sue writes, “to Greece and Turkey, then France, then back to Greece. Of course, we visited typical places like the Acropolis and the Louvre, which came alive in surprising new ways in each other’s presence.
“There’s nothing like standing in awed silence with your daughter before Leonardo da Vinci’s painting of St. Anne, as she holds her grown daughter, Mary in her lap.”
Ann describes the relationship between the two at the time of these travels and how this bond went through an evolution:
“Not only were Mom and I crossing big feminine thresholds at two ends of life, we were definitely at a crossroads as mother and daughter. While I was at college, a lot of silence and distance had set in between us.
“Within our first 24 hours in Greece, we realized we had outgrown our old relationship, the one where she was the Mommy and I was the little girl. Traveling together became a way for us to reinvent our relationship and rediscover one another.”
Sue puts it beautifully, “Traveling with Pomegranates has been described through a lot of different lenses. Some readers say it’s a memoir about women reinventing themselves during moments of classic transition. Others say it’s primarily the story of a mother and daughter at a crossroads in their relationship.
“Still others tell us the book is really about a quest to find one’s creative life. You could certainly read the book in all these ways, but what they each have in common is the backdrop of traveling, the mystique and power that a place can exert on us — that hidden alchemy of travel.”
Below is an excerpt authored by Sue Monk Kidd:
Jardin des Tuileries, St.-Germain-des-Pres, Lourve –Paris
The Tuileries Garden in Paris seems filled with old women. Or is it just that I notice them more these days? Three of them sit in green metal chairs beside a fountain and talk with their hands waving around in the air. Another sips coffee beneath the red umbrellas. Two more stroll arm-in-arm through the corridors of tall, skinny trees. It’s as if I’ve only now developed the rods and cones in my retina that allow me to see them.
It is October 15, 1999, our first afternoon in France, one filled with glinting light that glazes the hedges and the marble statues and the helium balloons tied to baby strollers. Ann and I are here with eighteen other women who make up a small tour I am co-leading with my friends Trisha and Terry.
I have arrived in France, fifty-one, soon to be mother of the bride, a woman who has spent a great deal of her time over the last six months sitting out in the marsh with the birds and the tides, writing a novel about a girl’s search for her mother, and cooking up this trip to France with my two cohorts. The three of us conspired to create a way for women to travel together in quest of sacred feminine images in art and history, and I’m sure in the back of my mind I was also thinking it would be a way for Ann and I to go traveling together too. It’s been over a year now since our trip to Greece.
At the moment, the group is cutting through the vastness of the Tuileries, sixty-two acres which run from the Carrousel du Louvre all the way to the Arc de Triomphe. We are on our way to St.-Germain-des-Pres, the oldest church in Paris. Ann and I trail the others mainly because I am trying to walk and write at the same time, a ridiculous enterprise that does justice to neither. My observations in the seventeenth-century gardens move in squiggly, uneven lines across the page of my journal, shorthand notes about this and that old woman.
I nudge Ann and point to the one old woman with the little white dog and a black beret yanked over her stubby gray hair. The openings of her high-top maroon shoes are trimmed in yellow fur. They bring to mind the ruby slippers that Dorothy clicked together in Oz in order to get home, and I wonder if the elderly woman wears them as her own special conveyance to freedom.
Or, maybe they are the shoes her daughter left behind in the closet, which the woman forces onto her feet like a stepsister in “Cinderella” in a desperate act of clinging to her youth. Or—and this is the scenario I prefer—they are her cunning way of not being invisible. It is also possible they are just shoes.
One of the women has a spectacular white hair that reminds me of my paternal grandmother, Ruth. I think how she wore it swept back and pinned with rhinestone combs, of her red lipstick and the indulgent ways she loved me.
When I was eight, she caved in to my pleas for a puny, violet-dyed chick that was in the window of the Golden Seed and Feed store, and which she then allowed me to set loose in her very grand parlor. I spread a carton of Quaker Oats across the hand-woven rug, upon which the chick left the stain of its lavender droppings for all eternity. After the fracas, she would say to my shocked father, “But Sue wanted to play with the chick in the parlor.”
Reprinted by arrangement with Viking / Penguin, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., from Traveling with Pomegranates. Copyright © 2009 Sue Monk Kidd Ltd. And Ann Kidd Taylor Ltd.
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Beth Simmons is an editorial assistant with GoNOMAD and attends the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, Massachusetts. She writes the Travel Reader Blog.
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