Archive for May 19th, 2019

As I was watching a trailer for a movie, a conversation onscreen caught my attention.

A young man, new to Nunavut, asked of an elder, “you lived up here a long time?” The elder replied, “six thousand years.”

Like an oak tree that began with an acorn from another oak tree, or a salmon from the fertilization process of two salmon, we humans carry not just the DNA and physical characteristics, but the history of our family of origin.

A number of months ago, while collecting and organizing photos for a framed family history, I was intrigued by the photos collected on my maternal side of the family.

The same squinty eyes, over and over, in each image. As though the gene has just taken over generations of women (my own daughters included).

The quote from the movie made me wonder about those whose DNA I share … what else has been handed down? Not the seen, through our squinty eyes, but the unseen?

Are there strengths within their physical bodies that I have benefitted from? Weaknesses? Were my struggles with self control and downtime shared by these previous generations of women? Did my great, great, great grandmother stand at her clothesline in the Scottish countryside and see wonder in the mundane of daily life, too? Did it connect them to their Creator, as well?

Like trees, those who came before us have seeded within us the first fruits of our lives … not something that we have any control.

I look at my mother, a woman who persevered through a childhood of abuse and terror. She is my squinty-eyed model of an overcomer … one who took the generational curses of her paternal side and slammed the door on them … choosing to end that chapter of inheritance of abuse and alcoholism. She chose to be grafted into a new tree, one that grows better roots, sweeter fruit.

What did I inherit from these women who I knew not at all, or knew so little about?

Their images contain frowns … furrowed brows. I know my family tree was not seeded in the cultivated gardens of palaces, but in the countryside where work was hard and never-ending. I know that there were families full of love and closeness, as well as struggle and heartache.

Yet, in their furrowed brows and squinty eyes there is also a ready smile … strength in the midst of struggle, joy during the trial, hearts full … even when they were broken.

You ask: “Have I lived here long?”

To which I reply: “Thousands of years.”

“Family faces are magic mirrors.
Looking at people who belong to us,
we see the past,
present and future.
We make discoveries about ourselves.”

Gail Lumet Buckley


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