I blame my DNA a lot and I know I’m not alone. Did you ever hear an older individual tell you as you were growing up that you were just like one of your relatives? I had a teacher tell me I was like my Uncle George and I was perplexed. How could I be like him? I was a girl and he was an adult. When I told my mom she laughed and replied that I liked to play with words like he did. Uncle George had a nickname for everyone. Barely five feet tall and needing to sit on a phone book to peer over the steering wheel, Uncle George called my grandmother "Cutlass Mary" as she was quite assertive in her driving. She also just happened to drive a Cutlass. Since I loved alliteration, rhyming and play on words I understood what my mom was saying. I think that was the beginning of my blaming DNA for my personality.
As I began to delve into my family’s history I completely identified with relatives who had gotten into some serious trouble for their views. Never one to take the path of least resistance, I have questioned authority for as long as I can remember. In high school, my husband joked that must be my personal motto. When I discovered I wasn’t the only one in my family with that trait, I also attributed it to my DNA.
I’m rethinking, though, the amount of influence my DNA has on me due to two events that happened within an hour of each other. The first occurred while visiting a new dentist. At this initial appointment, the dentist asked me what happened to my front teeth. Although not very noticeable, I have some fracturing on the bottoms and a small indent on one of my top teeth. Regarding my bottom teeth, I told the dentist, I had a playground accident as a child as my permanent teeth were erupting. They just came up that way! I told him we must have a genetic mutation of some type on my maternal line as every female has the same indent in the same place. He laughed and asked if I did arts and crafts, sewing in particular. Well, yes, I had even worked as a subcontractor with a costume design company in my younger years. He asked if I used scissors or teeth to cut thread. My goodness! The realization that every woman in my family used their teeth to cut thread hit and all I could say was, “I’ve got to tell my daughter.” So, the indent wasn’t due to DNA but to passing on a habit. My daughter learned to sew from me as I learned from my mom and she from her mom and who knows how far back. I recall my Great Grandmother had the same chip on the same tooth. Who knew?!
After I left the dentist I stopped by a store as I was having one of my kid’s certificates framed. As the clerk displayed the final product another customer asked me who was the recipient. I told her and she said, “Wow, you must be proud.” I am a proud Momma but I always strive to be a Momma who recognized both of my children’s accomplishments so I added an achievement recently made by the other child. Her response surprised me; she said, “You must have good DNA.”
What does that mean - having "good DNA?" I guess "bad DNA" would be a true mutation that resulted in a life threatening illness. Yet mutations alone aren't "bad," such as adaptions to make one resistant to diseases. These thoughts quickly ran through my mind as I paid for the frame.
As I left, I turned to the customer and replied, "Naw, it's not my DNA or my husband's. It was hard work, tenacity, and self discipline."
As we delve into our family's history, we need to be mindful of both nature and nurture. We can blame or praise our ancestors' influences on our lives, both genetically and observed, but the choices and decisions we make are our own. Happy Hunting!