I’m not sure how it is in other families, but in my family there is an obsession with genetics that has nothing to do with health. For instance, my feet are shaped the same way as my father’s feet, but my toes are more like my mother’s. My forehead furrow, as well as my mouth, are my mother’s, but my nose is definitely paternal. My skin is the same as my father’s mother, as well as my hair, and my chin is exactly like my great grandmother’s on my father’s father’s side. This I know because my mother has, on numerous occasions, held up an ancient photograph of my great grandmother to my face for comparison. Sure enough, we both have an odd pad of skin right under our jaw that pooches down and rounds out our heads. Irritatingly, on my great grandmother it softens her features and adds beauty. On me it just looks like a strange fat deposit that’s destined to become a second chin in ten year’s time.

Mostly it’s my mother who engages in these sorts of comparisons. I caught her doing it with my nieces the last time I was in Minnesota. Later she told me, sort of under her breath, that my niece’s face is shaped the same exact way as my grandmother Naninou. “She even stands like her,” Mom said, as though my grandmother was still alive.

“You know,” continued my mother, “you have the same long fingers as my daddy.”

“These are MY fingers,” I replied. “No one else owns them.”

She was laughed at my response. “Yes of course, Dear.”

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