The little girl clung to her daddy, standing beside him in the pew, looking at the people behind her and trying to be as good as she could be.  I wasn’t sure who she belonged to, but I recognized the family genes.  I had seen smidgens of that face in my childhood in what turned out to be her great-aunt, a friend of mine since we were three.  I had to smile, which you do a lot of as you get older and are watching generations grow up in front of you.

When I was a little girl, I looked mostly like my father.  I adored him, so that was ok with me.  As I grow older, there are more of my mother’s genes showing through, so I carry looks and other traits from both of them.  Babies may look like one parent some of the time and then the other as they grow up. Nature’s way.

People have always known that things “run in the family,” things like eye or hair color, artistic abilities or even mental illness.  Even a little bit of craziness has been traced to the genes.  And there are genetic predispositions to illnesses that we learn about every day.

I’m fascinated with the way nature distributes those little bits of DNA so that every birth is a mystery as to which traits, good or bad, will be passed down.  As the mother of four, it was a treat and a terror to watch myself and my husband being recreated in so many diverse ways.  Each child was so different and, yet, to this day people know what family they were born into.

How much is nature and how much is nurture as to personality traits? Does that wacky sense of humor come at birth or is it born from being around someone funny?  I watch my friends with adopted children who assume some of their parents’ personalities, so some of it has to be the environment.  That’s another whole discussion.

In my family, I have a daughter who looks like she could be her cousin’s sister.  The same thing is true with my grandchildren.  My son’s daughter and my daughter’s son look like siblings.  Even his friends have noticed. That pervasive gene pool strikes again.  image

This whole observation brings me to the wonder of seeing my children as adults and their children as young adults and looking back at family photos of my grandparents and their siblings and catching a facial expression or something you aren’t even looking for and seeing how it has survived to the next generations.  There’s no control over it.  It’s a magical connection that just happens.

The joy can be when you see an expression on a face or turn of a head and there’s a spark of memory of a loved one lost.  It can be jolting as you recognize the bits of each of us running through the family.  It can be comforting when you see that loved one living on in a small way.

Those twisting DNA particles…where will they end up next?