Tuesday, March 24, 2009

What's in YOUR genes?

I got an email the other day from one of my cousins on my mother's side, commenting on my blog. (I do wish she'd sign in and comment publicly, but I'm glad to hear from her, in whatever manner she chooses!)

(That's me, 3rd from the left in stripes; Nancy is the 3rd woman from the right, behind the young boy.)

Nancy is the youngest child of my mother's middle sister - mom was the oldest - and, growing up we really weren't close, although we did see each other. We didn't live real far away, but Nancy grew up in a small community and we were the Big City family. I have wonderful memories of visiting my aunt and uncle and cousins - they lived on a farm, down a red clay road. I remember loving being out in "the country" and enjoying the freedom from noise and traffic, seeing their critters and spending time together. Sometimes, when I close my eyes, I can still see Aunt Catherine ironing on her mangle iron. We were always warned about being careful not to touch it, but Aunt Catherine could make it sing! (I'm willing to consider that my memories may be colored by time, but don't tell me, please.)

I'm not sure that any of us look very much like each other, although careful inspection would probably reveal facial and other physical similarities. Our mothers "favored" one another, although old age revealed that my mom looked most like their mother, while Aunt Catherine was the image of their dad.

Many years have gone by since I've seen Nancy. The last time I recall clearly was at our granny's funeral in 1968, although I do think we visited once after that. The point is that we still live very different lives: she still lives in a small Southern community, I live in a major metropolitan area in the Northwest. Our religions have always been different, her family following the more conservative beliefs of our granny, and our family being staunch Episcopalians after the manner of our grandfather. According to Nancy's recent email, we also have some divergence of politics, though apparently we're not on opposing sides on everything.

We were raised in a time and place - and by mothers - who taught us that family is important and that others' religion and politics were to be respected and not used as a bludgeon. So although Nancy and I aren't "part" of each other's lives in the traditional sense, we still have that Cousin Connection that has withstood the passage of time.

But Nancy's email opened my eyes to the many ways we are alike, despite our apparent differences. Nancy is - or as she says, "was" - a writer. (I think writers are always writers, we just sometimes don't write!) That gift of writing comes directly from our common grandfather; my sister is similarly gifted, and my mom was prolific in the style of her father. I don't know if Aunt Catherine "wrote," nor do I know about my mom's youngest sister, Aunt Marion. I do know that Aunt Marion's daughter Laurel also writes. My sister's daughter is gifted, as is my oldest son. And one of my most poignant memories surrounding my mother's last illness is that all three of her children were mentally preparing her lengthy obituary even as we were gathering from different parts of the country to be with her. Writers all.

Nancy, who is three years older than I, also loves adventure, collecting "stuff," spoiling her grandchildren, and reading obituaries. Just like me. None of this is learned from each other, obviously, so I can only assume that it is implanted in our DNA as surely as the color of our hair, our eyes, our body types, and our musical abilities. It seems to me that this is a great gift. That, in us, our grandparents and parents live on. Not just in appearances, but in behaviors and talents. That in some small way, John Herbert Peck (1874-1961) and Willie Ola Peck (1887-1968) are still having an influence on the world. That the grandchildren of their grandchildren will carry parts of them forward to blossom in yet another generation.

I love this feeling of connection I have with Nancy, and I'm so thankful that she cared enough to not only read my blog entries, but to write and tell me about our commonalities. Maybe one of these days she'll even comment here. You'll know it's her by the writing style!


  1. I think it's good that you two can appreciate the differences in religion and politics and look past that. My Grandmother always told me that she and her sister got along great after they agreed to discuss niether politics or religion.

    I also think one a writer, always a writer :)

  2. How great to have a connection with a cousin! I do not have that and as I age I wish I did. Besides the beauty of the familial bond you are able to see genetic similarities that hold despite geographic distances.

    Now for my shallow comment: You are quite a cutie in the photo!

  3. I *love* shallow comments! Feel free to make them as often as you like! :grin: