The mirror only tells a small part of the story, obvious things like the dimple in my chin from my dad, curly hair from both parents, brown eyes from my mom. Something more subtle determines the rest of the story.
My paternal grandmother was one of the first women to serve in France during World War I. She was obviously elderly when I came along and never talked about this part of her life. She doted on her grandchildren and was the first person I ever knew to truly eat healthy. She introduced me to yogurt before Yoplait was a thought in someone’s marketing plan. I never saw her wear anything but beautiful, silky dresses, even when she lived on my aunt’s farm in New Hampshire. A risk-taking adventurer, she was also a prolific writer. I have a box of her letters to my dad when he served in World War II.
My maternal grandfather took a trip across the country when he was in his 20’s in a Model T. He recorded every tire, tank of gas and place he visited. The tattered notebook includes photos of the journey. A quiet man, he adored the outdoors, not as a hunter or woodsman, but skiing, swimming, fishing.
My Irish temper is not hard to trace. My dad was hugely gregarious and loved by all. He was a performer at heart, but those genes passed right through me to my oldest daughter, Lexie. He gave up travel when he returned from Germany in Would War II, content to stay close to home. I sense his imagination and the echoes of his story-telling. He made up the best bed-time fables.
My mother is more complicated. I owe my love of the written word to her. Her love of animals was as strong as anyone I have ever known. Yet, sometimes I see traits in myself that remind me of her less-desirable qualities. I constantly analyze my methods of parenting with an eye toward not repeating what I view as her mistakes. Is it fair to have a sharper eye for her perceived flaws than those of my father? Now we cross the line from DNA to Freud.
So what DNA have I passed on to my daughters, all mixed up with their dad’s own contribution?
They are adventurers, striking out and building lives in very different cities and parts of the country. Never are they without at least one animal companion. Creativity courses through their veins like oxygen, though I give their dad’s side of the family most of the credit for that. And like me, they have a little girl living inside, who doubts herself-worth and her place in this world. Age will not quell that voice, it just becomes less demanding and easier to live with.
I look at their physical features and search for a glimpse of me, or my mom, or my dad. No one has the dimple in their chin, or the clear blue Irish eyes, but as women who will sustain my world, they have such clarity of purpose. We are blessed with “good” DNA.