I have a picture from a newspaper sitting on my bureau. The picture is over twenty years old, yellowed, and shows three people: myself as a little girl, my mother who was younger in that picture than I am now, and my grandmother who died a couple of years after that picture was taken. I was on a swing set that no longer exists at a park that I sometimes pass in my travels.
The strange thing about that picture is that we all look so different but as the years have passed, similarities have started to emerge. I have some obvious genetically inherited traits from my grandmother and every once in a while when I look at myself in the mirror a certain way, I can see her face. I’ve also been told in no uncertain terms that I inherited her toughness and being stubborn and will for survival in the face of great odds. Like me, she was quiet but could be very nasty when provoked. I know relationships over the years were strained, very strained in some cases, but I can’t change what the genetics roulette wheel handed me. I may be able to control some things or modify them yet I can’t change them completely.
Then the conversation turns to my other three grandparents and what I inherited, or didn’t, from each one. It’s interesting looking at old family photographs and seeing who came out looking like who and which family member inherited what from whom.
Last summer I ran into some distant cousins that we see once in a blue moon. One of them pointed to one of my immediate family members and said that my family member had so-and-so’s face. Never before, even looking at the old photos, would I have ever seen that. I see someone else in them.
One last thought on DNA. The same immediate family member who looks like so-and-so according to my distant cousin at one point did a family tree for a class. The family framed it and still has it and we still pull it out and share it with newer members of the family. We don’t have pictures of the majority of people on that tree. The hardest thing to remember sometimes is that those names are blank faces and we know little about them, yet they carried our genetics for us. Sometimes I wonder: what were they like and what part of them do I now carry in me?