Zachary looks nothing like me.  Well, OK, he is a stringbean with a belly-button, all limbs flying about from nowhere, so maybe he has my body type.  But his face and his coloring are all his father and his father’s father before him.

            Benjamin is just the reverse.  He has J’s body, a massive trunk with little flipper-like limbs stuck about the edges.  His body reminds me of a seal or a python, sleek core strength.  His coloring he gets from me, down to the wavy dark hair.  And his face.  When I look in the mirror now, I love my eyes, I love the shape of my face, I love my smile.  I cannot help it; I love them because I see my little boy looking back at me.

            I have but one childhood picture, and in it I cannot be much older than Benjamin is right now.  My face, like his, is round with toddlerhood, and my hair, like his, is still wispy and fine.  I am giggling, and I can practically hear the sound, because it looks just like the giggles that come out of my younger son.  This picture hangs on the wall in our hallway, two over from a picture of my mother when she was 17. 

            If Benjamin looks like me when I was two, I look like my mother when she was a woman.  Yes, her high school graduation picture features a woman with tighter skin and a clearer complexion, but she looks much like I have since I passed through puberty. 

            I sat on a step between the two pictures one evening, resting for a moment as the boys played naked before their bath.  Benjamin’s body of steel came bounding over, and his smooth muscles wiggled into my arms.  He looked up and pointed at the picture of my mother.

            “Mama,” he said, as his brother had two years before him.

            “That’s my mommy,” I told him.  Big grin as he nodded in assent.


            “That’s my mommy,” I tried again.  “Did you know I had a mommy?  And I’ll bet she loved me just as much as I love you.”  Bigger grin, more emphatic nod.


            Then he squirmed down, ready to invent a new game wherein he ran down the hall, threw himself into my arms, pummeling me with the sheer force of his existence, and then ran back down the hall again.  Over and over, giggling the whole way.  I watched his face as he approached, glancing up at my own toddler face.  Then I braced myself for the force of impact, as 27 pounds of baby-steel launched into my arms.

26 responses to “Genetics

  1. What a heart-felt, beautiful post.

    Thank you for sharing.

  2. I’ll bet she did.

  3. echoes that we see, amazing.

  4. Kids have a way of bringing us back to where we are from. Beautiful.

  5. I spend so much time thinking about genes when I am with my daughter. So many of my friends have children through adoption. How odd that would feel for me, to no longer have genes in the equation.

  6. gee, this makes me anxious to know who #3 will resemble. (As if you haven’t given it a thought…)

    I really should get around to putting pictures up. But then I’d have to paint first.

  7. This was beautiful. I love that both boys, two years apart, saw you in that photograph.

  8. Beautiful….
    it’s the same with my mother.
    I look so much like her….
    and there is so much of me in Monkey though she is a good mix between me and her father…
    but sometimes, when she makes a certain expression it’s like looking in the mirror.

  9. My son was quite like me facially when he was little, but he had my husband’s blonde and blue-eyed colouring, so much so that people when they saw us together would say: ‘So your husband is blonde, is he?’ I find it very interesting to see multiple children from the same parents – you can really watch those two sets of genes collaborate.

  10. sweet

    and getting hit with a bit more than just that baby-steel, I imagine

  11. That is SO cute

  12. Sweet.

    I find it interesting that you love your face because it is the face of your child. One of my daughters looks like me, but when I look at her, I see beauty, and when I look at me, I see …. well, not beauty.

    My other daughter looks so much like my husband; and when she was a baby and I was nursing her, that resemblance was dislocating.

  13. I’m extra sensitive these days, so when I read the part where you told Ben that your Mom must’ve loved you as much as you love him, I burst into tears.

    It was incredibly poignant and loving. Such a simple moment, yet so much more.

    Also, it reminded me strongly that life is entirely unfair sometimes. Your mom, who undoubtedly loved you with all of her being, should have been able to stay with you. Kate should have been cast into the ninth circle of hell. That is the epitome of unfair.

    Beautiful post, though, beautiful.

  14. Nice. Very nice!

  15. Oh just so precious! So beautiful.

  16. Lovely post Emily – it really shows how kids bring things full circle for us – it’s a poignancy that only a parent can truly understand…

  17. what a lovely story about love. self and child.

  18. ah, love and genes and those of us wandering a little lost, looking for a missing generation, for eyes that are like ours but that we know we cannot look into, parent’s or child’s. this is a poignant post, Emily.

    and oh yes i bet your mother your baby body rushing to her just as you love B’s.

  19. genetics are wild. none of my boys look like me, but the cowlick each has in the exact same spot IS my dad’s cowlick. even though s’s & c’s cowlicks get a bit annoying hair-taming wise (f’s is cute somehow), i do love that they have this physical connection with my father.

  20. The more I read your blog, the more I relate to you . . .

    Really . . .

    There are so many parallels between our kids . . .

    You could have very easily been describing my two boys . . .:)

  21. does it hurt, a little to see her face on yours, on his?

    and i look very much like my mom except for my coloring. i have a picture ont he fridge of my mom holding me as a baby. it took a lot of convincing to get the kids to beleive it wasn’t me.

    neither of my kids really look like me, though.

  22. I was very moved by this post.

    I’m sure your mother loved you very deeply. I’m so glad that you know that.

    I don’t know why it makes me so sad to realize that you have almost no pictures from your childhood. With all that you went through, it seems a minor point. But it still feels like a loss to me. Actually, a theft. It’s a reminder of how things should have been.

  23. Aw, Miss Em, you make me want to hug you.

  24. It’s so adorable when they realize that you have parents too. It took a long time to get this concept across to my kids.

    Awesome post 😉

  25. *Misty eyed* There is nothing like that kind of feeling, that knid of love!

  26. There is such a sweet softness in your writing when the subject contains your mother. I love it. It makes me long to see those pictures you talk of. I have always felt so calm and soothed after reading any of the lines you have written about her no matter what state of mind I am in. Beautiful.