Genetics is a beautiful thing. Yes, our environment does play a role in who we are, how we look at life, our behaviors, interests, etc… All I know is that in my own family we could never deny who we belong to, both in appearances and behavior. For me, this doesn’t just apply to my immediate family. This extends back to my cousins, second cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, great grandparents and who knows who else. Yes, we all have our own interests, etc… but if you got us all in the same room, you’d hear “Man, you all look alike!” We’ve heard it time and time again. Yep we do.
I grew up hearing, “You look just like your mother.” Even though my mother taught me to smile and graciously say thank you, I used to just cringe inside every time I heard this. I got sick of hearing it, what seemed like all the time. Did these people really think I looked like an old lady? My mother was not old, but when you’re a kid, any parent over the age of 21 is old. When I finally emerged out of that funky teenage attitude stage, I grew to appreciate and actually love when people would notice the resemblance. Damn right I look like my mother! Have you seen the rest of my family? I could now say proudly, “thank you” and mean it!
This whole genetics thing has become much more to me than just about appearances now. Belonging to this group of “look alikes” means so much more. It means that I belong to a group of very strong women. Women that didn’t flinch, women that were tough, determined, broke the rules and spoke their minds. How many families can say that about every single woman in their family tree, at least the ones as far back as I can remember. There isn’t one of us who hasn’t gone through fire; for herself, her family and anyone else she has cared for. There just ain’t no whimps in my tree.
Here’s a name for you; Beatrice Craven Pratt. This woman was strong and outspoken. She just didn’t mess around and didn’t care what others thought. My Great Grandmother Pratt routinely called me by my mother’s name. I guess because (here it comes) we looked so much alike. When I would kindly correct her, she’d quickly catch up to the present and realize that my mother was no longer that little girl. Within minutes she was up with the times and knew exactly who I was. Beatrice didn’t care that the pot she cooked oatmeal in never got cleaned. She’d just keep making that oatmeal every morning, year after year. As time went on, somehow that oatmeal pot got smaller and smaller. We only had to be told once by our mothers, “don’t eat the oatmeal.” She just didn’t care. She also ran the family farm with an iron fist; again not caring what the neighbors or hired hands thought of her ways. Just charging on, regardless of what the world thought. This is the same woman that told her daughter (my grandmother) that while looking out the window during one of their weekly visits, “This is a beautiful day to die.” Beatrice then promptly crawled into bed and did just that.
And then there is Avis Pratt Place. My grandmother was stoic, prim and proper and smart as a whip. One of her dreams was to go to college. That was a rarity for women in her time. She had no money and no way of making it happen. Her Uncle David recognized her potential and helped fund her dream of a college education. Avis had many obstacles in her way, but she did it; became a college graduate, even if it meant sleeping on a sleeping porch. Try that in Upstate NY during the winters. She’d wake up in the mornings, dust the snow off her blankets and march off to class. That’s determination. And my grandma could make the best gravy; spot on every time. Ma tells me that I have the gravy gene. I don’t know how I know how to do this, but I can whip up some pretty darn good gravy just like Grandma. I feel so incredibly blessed that somehow she managed to give that to me.
These are just two people that help tell the story of who I am today. But let me push that out even further. They also help to tell the story of who my daughters are today.
My oldest daughter is my mother. She was named after her, but how did this little baby know to take her name so literally right from the start and run with it? Why is she so strong; so much stronger than I? Where does her incredible determination to help right the wrongs of this world come from? When she’s thrown into a situation, how does she instantly know how to sort it all out? Her sass and grace; it’s all my mother. Did I mention that she even looks like her too?
My youngest daughter is Aunt Pat. How does this happen to my daughter who has met Aunt Pat maybe once? Aunt Pat is smart, loves to read books, was a teacher and made the best macaroni salad ever. If we were ever looking for our #3, she was (you guessed it) up in her room reading books. She has always been studious. And now fast forward; she’s in college learning to be a teacher and when she was about 10 years old, on her very first attempt managed to recreate Aunt Pat’s macaroni salad like it was always there in her. I believe it was.
Don’t misunderstand me. This isn’t just a thing with the women in my family. If you know my son, you see Uncle Robert; a man that my son never met; both having the same dark hair that parts and lays on their heads that same unique way. Uncle Robert who was a force to be reckoned with regarding his younger siblings; ensuring that they all were on the right track, the dairy farmer who had a fascination for chickens. If you know my son, he’s very protective of his sisters, making sure they are doing as they should and fast forward…now married to the love of his life and you guessed it; they’re raising chickens among other things on their little farm.
I’ll never forget what my dad told me the day after I became engaged to be married. He said, “Look at his father. That’s what you will have.” And I remember thinking to myself, that’s perfectly ok with me. And 34 years later into our crazy and glorious married life, I look across the room and see him sitting in the recliner and what do I see? I see his father and I smile.
It can be frustrating at times to still live with those “other people”, but when I see my mother in my daughter’s eyes, when I see my son working with his hands on his farm or when I see a bowl of Aunt Pat’s macaroni salad on the table, it warms my heart. To think that those “other people” are still here and are never going away. I am reminded how very blessed we are; this bunch who all really do look alike.
I am absolutely convinced that my ancestors are all behind me and now also behind my children. Just be still, watch and listen. We all are the result of the love of thousands that have gone on before us. They will always be with us, we can’t escape it. Take a moment, look at your family and I guarantee you will see the generations that have gone on before you, right there just looking right back at you.
Yes, at time my family drives me crazy. But when I take a moment and really try to comprehend that no matter what comes our way in life, my parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and even great grandparents with all their wonderfulness, craziness, strength and beauty will always be here, to live on and continue to be present in this amazing world for ever more; it just makes me smile. They will always be here to bless this world with their gifts; passing them on and on until….. We are truly blessed by this miracle of living with our family no matter where life takes us.
You’re in for a treat! Here’s Aunt Pat’s Macaroni Salad recipe. I apologize that I don’t have exact amounts for most of the ingredients. I’d share them if I had them, but it’s a genetics thing; tough to share in a blog.
Help Us Be Nice, Amen!
Aunt Pat’s Macaroni Salad
16 oz box of pasta, cooked and drained
cooked shrimp, chopped
cucumber, peeled and chopped
Italian Salad Dressing
In large bowl, mix cooked pasta, cooked shrimp, and cucumber. In separate small bowl, mix together some Miracle Whip and any Italian Salad Dressing. Proportions are to taste. Add dressing mix to pasta. Top with sliced radishes.