When I look in the mirror, I see someone who looks nothing like the rest of my family. I’ve never really understood the finer points of genetics, but it seems as though I should resemble at least one of the people who share my family history.
But I don’t. I look like none of them, not even my sisters.
Mom was tiny and dark, with a little round face and a sort of natural grace that just can’t be taught. I have her wonky eyelid and a lot of her mannerisms, but no one would ever look at our pictures together and guess that I am her child. And I certainly didn’t inherit her natural grace; I fall upstairs and trip over nonexistent things on a daily basis.
Mom’s elegance and beauty skipped a generation and went directly to my daughter. The Princess looks almost exactly like Mom did at that age. I, of course, look like neither one of them.
I got my father’s sense of humor and broad shoulders, but that’s about it. Well, I inherited his family’s tendency to gain weight easily. Yay, Dad. My middle sister was lucky enough to get his pale, crystal-blue eyes and distinctive chin dimple, although none of us got his height.
I’ll admit, I can see just a tiny bit of myself in his sister, my Aunt Marian, and that scares me a little. I loved Aunt Marian and I miss her every day, but she could be a rather intimidating woman when she wanted to be. I still shudder when I remember the way she squared up that already-square jaw, clenched her teeth, and glared when she was angry. Holy moly, I would have confessed to just about anything when she gave me that look!
I hope I didn’t get the genes for that, although it might come in handy in my job as a lunchlady.
I don’t look like my cousin, either. Okay, we both have pictures of ourselves with large bodies of water in the background, so that’s something. I wonder if she manages to get hit by seagull poop every single summer like I do.
I’ll have to ask her about that someday.
My oldest sister says I am wrong, that I really do look like our father’s family, but I just don’t see it. Whenever we go to a family funeral, I see a big group of large people with lots of bony shoulders and sharp noses and round bellies. And no butts. Swear to God, there is not a single man on my father’s side of the family who has a butt.
Unfortunately, the women in Mom’s family all more than make up for that absence. Even the skinny ones have more than their fair share of derriere.
Gee, thanks, Mom.
As a kid, I often wondered if I was adopted. It really bothered me for a while that I just never seemed to fit in with everyone else. Now that I’m older, I’ve noticed just enough similarities to know that I really am related to these people, but not enough similarities to feel quite like I fit in.
And then, a few weeks ago, I found this picture of my Aunt Ida.
Hot damn, maybe I wasn’t switched at birth!
I really don’t mind looking like my Aunt Ida. In fact, it makes me pretty happy. I always had a special connection with Ida.
At one point in her life, Ida looked like this.
There just may be hope for me. I mean, come on, she was gorgeous.
All silliness aside, what do I see when I look in the mirror? Sure, I see a woman who doesn’t look anything like my parents or siblings. I see a woman in dire need of a dye job and a good moisturizer. I see someone who really needs to get a little bit more sleep and lot less stress.
But I see so much more. I see the sum total of all the best parts of a lot of good people. I see potential — and I don’t mean the potential to look like Aunt Ida’s cover-girl shots. Trust me, that ship has sailed. It’s not happening. I mean the potential for Mom’s intelligence, Dad’s laughter, Ida’s self-confidence. Potential for my cousin’s strength in the face of adversity. For Marian’s tough exterior.
So maybe I don’t look like most of them. That’s okay, because we are family. Like it or not, we share the same genes that make us who we are, and that’s pretty awesome. It’s not about who looks like whom; it’s about knowing where we came from and recognizing everything that’s good in all of us.