On this Inauguration Day, 2009, John Lewis, the respected Civil Rights veteran and long-serving congressman from Georgia, summed up the feelings that have been overwhelming me ever since the Iowa caucus suggested that a bi-racial man – a black man – a literal African American man named Barack Obama just might have a chance to win the Presidency of the United States.

Lewis said, “It is almost too much to take in.”

Amen, brother.

In spite of my long, checkered lifetime on “roads less traveled,” certainly by my birth family, — roads that should have allowed me to speak out and take at least a measure of ownership, of gut-clenching fear, and overwhelming joy at this remarkable accomplishment, I find myself stifled, almost choking, by emotion that has no outlet. For I am a stranger in a strange land. I have no one to share this emotion with, except the folks on television.

It is almost too much to take in.

I am a stranger in a strange land. A white woman by birth, accidentally exiled in redneck, provincial, Republican Idaho that often seems stuck somewhere in the 1950s. But I am also a black woman by schizophrenic choice, accidentally exiled in that same redneck, provincial, Republican Idaho – a world where only a few people in my circle would have a basis for understanding these feelings, or my choking silence.

I am a 72 year old relic of another time, another place, another life – a life on the margins of a racial and inter-racial world – a life that was not completed in the ways I anticipated when I made the choice to cross that invisible border into Black America. I find myself wondering about “Obama’s Mama,” daughter of Kansans; my contemporary in age – and perhaps background – a rebellious adventurer into a cross-cultural, international cross-racial adventure – and I think how easily that could have been me…..for much of my California Chaffey College experience in the mid-1950s was spent in that international, cross-cultural, cross-racial world. In that brave new world of the idealistic and romantic college freshman, it could as easily have been Hassan Adam of Sudan or Kahlid TuckTuck of Jordan as Napoleon Harris of Oklahoma who caught my eye and changed my life.

Now, unlike Anne Dunham, I have lived to see a bi-racial American elected President of the United States. A bi-racial American whose heritage parallels the heritage of my own bi-racial daughter’s background and ancestry. A mom whose own life paralleled, but exceeded my own, in her journey across similar but wider margins; a mom who struggled, as I did, to raise a healthy, well-adjusted bi-racial child in an era that parallels within 3 years my own bi-racial child’s era.

It is almost too much to take in.

As a 30-something white woman raising a bi-racial child in conservative Independence, Missouri, I worried about her future. I worried about whether she would be able to identify equally with her bi-racial heritage. I worried that she was more comfortable in the white world, as was her father before her. I worried about whether she would be able to keep and transmit the black heritage that was hers in equal measure, while dealing with an emotionally distant father, and while the “black family of my heart” seemed lost to us forever. Her godfather, African American freedom fighter “Sandy Browne,” who always understood me better than I understood myself, often reminded me that the problems we faced would not be the ones she or her children would face – that we were standing on the threshold of earth-shattering change.

At the time, I doubted it. It was 1970-something; the world was still not easy for people of color, and change was agonizingly slow in coming, filled with stinging backlash. Yet today, she is a successful career woman of 50, with a good marriage and great kids; her children comfortable with who they are. And today, bi-racial Barack Obama and his beautiful African American wife and charming daughters will move into the White House. Sandy Browne, love of my life, gone to his reward these 17 years, was right, as usual.

It is almost too much to take in.

And yet……the Indians say that it takes 7 generations for a conquered people to recover and resume their rightful place in the world. If a generation is calculated at roughly 20 years, and we begin with Emancipation in 1865, it is seven generations to 2005 —- and just four years later, we see the old African American leadership fade, and a new, dynamic leadership take its place. Barack Obama is just one of that new generation. Just imagine…….

It is almost too much to take in.