Imprinted on DNA?

April 4, 2009 at 00:53 | Posted in Bits and Pieces, family history | Leave a comment
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Growing up there were always shelves and shelves of books in our home. They would be almost bursting with the books! I cannot remember a time as a small child when my mother did not read to me… mostly there were children’s bible stories at bedtime but always there was time for the classics too at some point during the day. My mother also wrote her own poetry. Some were humourous and some serious. But she had a small brown notebook where she  would add poem upon poem whenever she was inspired. Each special occassion in our lives would have another of her poems just for us.

My father invested in books, wonderful leather bound volumes trimmed in gold leaf on the edges. All of the classics. Later there would be year upon year of Readers Digest Hard Cover Condensed Books™. I still have a huge box with several of my favorite ones. This box has travelled with me, moved from house to house, state to state with me for well over thirty years. Then followed several years’ worth of subscriptions to National Geographic Magazines™. They joined us on all of our moves too. It felt irreverent to destroy any of them. When a small flood or a hurricane destroyed a book, it was like losing an old friend. For my father even the reading of a newspaper was not undertaken lightly. He taught me to read every section, every article no matter how uninteresting they seemed at the time. The point was to read it, to learn from it, to file it away mentally against the time it might have more meaning or be useful. If nothing else, it taught one how to learn, how to think, how to become more informed so that one could form an intelligent decision later because you were informed enough of the facts as well as the emotions of a topic. When it came to writing reports, he taught me to properly cite sources. He taught me how to find those sources and he taught me to write those reports in a detailed concise logical manner using the information he had already taught me to read and remember. He always emphasized to not be stuck in a habit of reading only one genre of literature but to read all types to gain a full appreciation of everything written.

I never kept a diary. Oh, I owned diaries, a cute pink vinyl Miss Ponytail series, or later more “adult” type ones with cute little gold keys to hide somewhere private. But I never filled those diaries beyond the “If found, please return to…..” line or the “This diary is the private diary of ….” line. I was not willing to write out my private thoughts for someone else to read. The very thought of someone finding the book and reading my thoughts terrified me. What would they think of me? Would they think me crazy? Or would they think me conceited that I could possibly think anyone would be interested in me? My cheeks would burn in shame at such thoughts – and yet I enjoyed writing assignments in school. Just not my own personal diary type thoughts written in neat little books.

Every holiday since I was a newborn my grandmother would send me a card, an Easter or Christmas, or even a Halloween card. Later they would become a wedding card, congratulations on the new baby card, baptism cards. Then soon each baby would begin to receive their own special cards from her. Now they are neatly tucked away in scrapbooks to be read again and again. Through all of my college years, every week the mailbox would hold a beautiful envelope addressed to me in her neat handwriting. I would love those missives from home. There would often be a cartoon or little newspaper clipping tucked inside. I would answer her back writing letters on lined notebook paper.

When my dad passed away I realized he was truly gone when there were no more bags of books being dropped off along with the admonition to not let little hands tear or scribble pages. How I missed those books! No more talks about which story was the most interesting or about some new unusual find detailed in the pages of the magazine. Soon after my grandmother also passed away. Suddenly my mailbox was also empty of the cards I so loved. No more beautiful scented stationary or pastel envelopes with pretty flower decals on the back sealing the flap or with neat address labels pasted in the upper left corners.

I began to find myself drawn to boxes of all occasion cards. Two for one sales at Hallmark Cards enticed me more than other sales. Flea market books stalls lure me with their rows and stacks of old books, drawing me to browse for hours feeling their old jackets and reveling in the smells of old books. A trip to Barnes and Noble is a favorite way to while away a day. It is the wonderful collections of journals that now tempt me. Not the cutesy diaries of my youth, but the luscious leather embossed journals filled with lined pages begging me to write in them. They call to me to pour out all of my thoughts, my personal dreams and fears and aspirations and ramblings. Delicate rice paper books and elegant linen stationary beg me to take them home. Who will I write such important letters to? Who will read these letters and journals? Maybe no one will want to read them. Maybe they will simply be tucked away hidden from everyone only to be burned someday instead of read. I only know that for now I must write, I must fill them. It is something burning inside of me that cannot be ignored, cannot be denied. Is this then some act of DNA, something passed from mother to son to me? I do not know if my grandmother wrote to me because she wanted to stay in touch with her granddaughter or if it was something more for her. I know she loved me unconditionally and shared that love in every letter and card, not ashamed for anyone else to read her private emotions so beautifully written out. Was she also driven by some force of DNA to write instead of calling on the phone? She never said. I do know this legacy of the love of the written word and the power it holds is one she passed to her son who then passed it on to me. It came also from my mother who could not deny the call to write. Was she also passed a speck of DNA that compelled her? Is this love of the written word imprinted deeply, so deeply in our family DNA? I only know as I hold those poems, those books, those magazines, those cards and letters, I sense again their love and know that this is the legacy I hope to pass to my sons and their children.

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