Tuesday, February 21, 2012

It's In the Genes.

RHYS BOWEN: Welcome to Day 2 of Travel Week at Jungle Red Writers.
Yesterday I mentioned that travel must have been in my genes and I was bitten by the travel bug from my toddler days. But then I started to wonder where in my genes it came from. From my Devonshire father's lot? I don't think so. Nor the Welsh who only moved across the border. But then I remembered my French great grandmother, Josephine Bonne. I'd like to have known her--she was 17 when she married my Welsh great grandfather, who was 35. They had 14 children. He died. She married again. He died. Then at 82 she decided to go out to Australia to be with her eldest daughter. In those days it was a sea voyage of months, but off she went alone. I have a picture of her with her children and grand children around her, looking about twenty something with a tiny waist. So if I have her genes, I'm glad.

All my family has also inherited the Welsh musical genes. Two of my children are professional musicians. My grandkids all have lovely voices and play instruments. It's funny how talents are passed along, isn't it?

So what family genes do you have?

HALLIE: I love to travel, too, but like Rhys I can't blame it on my parents who mostly stayed home. They were writers -- I definitely inherited their writer gene. But where did THEY get the gene from? No great Russian writers (or comedians) that I know of in my family tree. I'm sure I got the foodie gene from my mother. Also the bossiness gene which every one of us got in spades.

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: What genes did I get? I know I got the "I know the best thing to do" gene from my mother. Sadly, all of us kids got it, and that made for some fun times as I was growing up. Eesh.
I also got the "if one is good, maybe three are better" shopping gene. And you made me realize exactly where it came from--double dose. My paternal grandfather owned department stores. And my maternal grandmother was a shopaholic, way before there was even such a thing. After she died (in the 1960's?), we went to her closet and found--well, for example, the same blue dress: one in EVERY SIZE. I don't even want to think about that.
From my dad? Well, he was a reporter and author! (The music critic for the Chicago Daily news, and wrote two non-fiction books on American music.) Amazing, huh?

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: My paternal genes dictated my appearance. If you compare pictures of my father and me at the same age, we look like the masculine/feminine version of the same person. He was a beautiful singer, and so am I (and my mother has a wonderful singing voice as well.) Sadly, none of my children have inherited that talent...all three of them require large buckets to carry tunes. My mother is a talented artist and a gifted writer who also strongly encourage my interest in reading, writing, and the arts - so which part is nature and which nurture?

More of a mystery - both my parents had perfect eyesight, so where did my amblyopia/myopia/hyperopia (yes, all three) come from?

One thing I know for sure: I got my southern Grandmother's body type. All the Key women had, shall we say, generous figures; and all their daughters and most of their granddaughters have inherited the kind of metabolism that would enable us to withstand an extended famine. Sure, I have to buy larger dress sizes now, but when the Mayan Apocalypse comes this December, I'll be sitting pretty.

JAN BROGAN - I got married in my mother's wedding dress and it fit like a glove, so I'm guessing that means I got her body type. Personality-wise, I probably inherited more genes from my father, but the frugal part definitely came from her. Neither one of them was a writer, but my father was a lawyer, so a teller of tales. More striking than what I inherited, though, is what I passed on. Although my son looks just like my husband, he is frighteningly like me personality-wise. As my husband puts it, my son ended up with "my software package" entirely. He's even in journalism now writing a literary column for the New York Daily News and at 22, written his first novel.

LUCY BURDETTE: I inherited my mother's love of food (though she did not enjoy cooking and was not very talented in that department) and her utter nuttiness for animals. We always had pets, usually more than one, and they were treated as full members of the family. Tonka, my Aussie, and Yoda the cat enjoy those privileges now. And I'm small and bossy, like my paternal grandmother. John explains that I seem to have no concept of how big I actually am...I figure it's one of those traits that serves animals well in the wild--they puff up so they look more ferocious and unappetizing to potential predators.

DEBORAH CROMBIE: If I have a travel gene, I inherited it from my parents, but they outdid me by far. As the first middle-class generation on either side of the family, they were determined to see the world, and they didn't miss much except the Middle East and Africa. My father also planned the day's adventures around meals, and I suspect I inherited that, too, as well as my chin and nose... My dad was very creative. If he'd had the opportunity, I think he would have loved to write. He invented the advertising slogans for his company, and after he died I found a folder of poems he'd written but had never shown to anyone. He also had a lovely voice, which I, unfortunately, did not inherit. (Julia, you can give me a bucket, too.)

RHYS: Okay, your turn. Did any of you inherit a travel gene from an interesting family member?


  1. LOL I think I started the gene in my family. Hubby and I have traveled a lot, but most of our family tend to stay in NZ. Of course, you could say our ancestors had to travel to get down this end of the world...

    Great question. I enjoyed reading all your answers.

  2. I inherited the travel gene from my Auntie-Mom. She has lived in other countries with different husbands, drives to Mexico for her medical prescriptions and dental care, and still goes camping across the country at almost 80 years old.

    My family has a lot of secrets brought here from around the world. My indigenous family, while not talkative about family matters, are very open and accepting so have a tendency to not have huge secrets.

    This is going somewhere, honest. My Uncle Tommy was a very good criminal attorney who encouraged my curiosity and mystery-solving gene. He wrote and recited very bad poetry in court. Small consolation though it may be to any reporters here who might have suffered through it, know that he also recited it at all the family's wakes. It did get us laughing but... well you know. I write poetry, too. I hope I didn't inherit his writing gene.

    Most of the secrets that Tommy encouraged me to unravel were some of those family secrets. He would ask me things like, "How did you get to be a protestant in this family? Then I'd start researching my family history and discover that my mother's side were French Calvinists who converted back to Catholicism under duress in Qu├ębec, Puritains from England, and Mi'kmaq from Nova Scotia who converted to Catholicism.

    After Tommy died I discovered my family's biggest genetic secret. Two of my great-grandparents always said they were Polish from Warsaw. It seems that Warsaw, being bombed as it was with so much destroyed, was a convenient place for them to be from. In my search for who they were, my Polish friends and contacts told me that their name was not Polish and that the few words I remember them using were Russian. Yesterday I found their immigration records and the ship's passenger list for my great grandfather, plus other documentation that they were from Russia.

    Uncle Tommy helped me develop this love of solving mysteries. He left me a few others that I am working on, still. I wish he were still here, so I could share my writing with him, because he was a brilliant analyzer however he was a really bad poet. Good thing he got on well with law.

    I don't believe there are Greek letters in my Captcha!

  3. Speaking of poetry, Reine, my best answer to this is probably from a poem I wrote called "Where I Come From." These are its last lines.

    I come from a long line of male preachers and teachers, drinkers and dreamers,
    from conjure women, curanderas, women with the Sight,
    and women who survive and make do.
    I come from fallen gentry and half-breed hill trash, from parsonages and trailer courts.
    I contain all of these,
    and I choose,
    I say,
    who I will be.

    Why does the captcha change before you can hit publish?

  4. Linda, I love your poem. Thank you. Was just laying here in my reservation shirt and jeans wondering what I should do with my mother's ribbon shirt she never got to wear. She knew the herbs and peaceful ways, a painter of horses, but the red road eluded her, and she died very young.

    Captcha changes when my page refreshes. That might be the same with you?

  5. Linda, I absolutely love your poem. It's going to stay with me today.

  6. Reine, thanks. I know what you mean about thinking of your mother who died young. I think that always affects us. It never really goes away, does it? We just have to live for them in a way.

    Jan and Debs, I'm so glad you liked it. It's the last part of a long poem I wrote while teaching a writing workshop for the kids of migrant workers, using my brilliant friend Levi Romero's writing exercise "Where I"m From." I wrote it ahead of time and read it to them to show what was wanted (specific images--though there are none in the last lines, really) and to let them feel more at ease with the process of writing about self and family.

    I wish you could have been there for that workshop. Those teenagers wrote the most heartbreaking and lovely poems. I cried all the way home afterward.

  7. Linda I hope you will come to the Tucson Festival of Books next year and lead a workshop or talk about how a person might use those inside things to write. One of my friends on White Earth did something similar to what you speak of with the children at their school. It is necessary to use these special insights to help the children initiate their expression that might be impossible, if not put correctly into cultural context.

    Again, I love your poem and will read more. These are things for me so difficult to reconcile. Gack... can't speak English today! Giving up now!

  8. My dad had this theory about oldest siblings. He thought they were the ones mostly likely to be wanderers. Both he and my mom were oldest siblings, and they wandered far away from their midwest roots (and stayed away, including the Catholism). They both traveled extensively before settling down to raise kids.

    I'm the oldest sibling, and I'm the sibling who has wandered far and wide, changed careers in the most drastic ways, and--if you consider sinking into fictional worlds a kind of wanderlust--I'm still wandering.

  9. Interesting theory on the oldest sibling. Both my husband and I are oldest and we have both been wanderers all our lives.

    And I wish I could read the darned capcha. I'm sure i type it wrongly every time, but it goes through!

  10. I loved traveling and seeing new places, people and seeing how they lived. My parents traveled all over, they saw things that I can only dream about. My mother's last trip was was to China. They had been to Nepal, and India, Egypt and Ephesus. Definitely culture and history hungry. I admire what they did because they were Holocaust survivors, and still braved much of the world.
    I loved the poem.

  11. Thanks, Lil. And how brave of your parents, Many Holocaust survivors became rather frightened of travel and change as they aged, having suffered so much.

    Reine, email me at llrodriguez (at) sbcglobal (dot) net, and I'll be happy to send you Levi's great writing exercise, which will help you to "use those inside things to write."

  12. Stupid blogger ate my original response and took away my easy captcha words at the same time. Now I have words with letters that are not in our alphabet. I will need to request new words before I post this!

    Anyway...I think wanderlust is in the genes. I can't afford to travel farther than NJ any more...sniffle. I just HATE being home. My mom was that way and so was her dad. My grandfather worked for the railroad for many years and took advantage of the free train travel for vacations. He and my grandmother went all over by train after he retired. I would love to take one BIG trip per year or even every other year. Reading about different places and different cultures helps,but is not the same. I am glad that I was able to take a couple of trips outside of the US when I was younger.

    So I leave home for ANYWHERE as soon as I can every Saturday AM. It is usually an exotic place like the neighborhood laundromat,with a stop or two elsewhere and always ending up at at least one library, usually two.

    A truly exciting life. I do enjoy hearing about everyone else's vacations and I am probably the only person around who LOVES to see another person's vacation pictures!

    Fourth captcha attempt

  13. What a fun topic, and great responses from everyone.

    My wanderlust (eldest child here, Lisa) comes from my aunt Rosie, as does my interest and talent in all things crafty, especially sewing. Aunt Rosie may have gotten it from her mother's mother (my great grandmother), who was widowed young and had a dry good store that specialized in sewing supplies. My grandfather, too, Rosie's father, was incredibly talented in many crafts, including woodcarving. I don't carve, but suspect I could if I wanted to.

    His mother also sewed beautifully, and she was an amazing gardener, which I also love to do. No clue where the writing gene came from, though!

  14. Oh, missing you all today... lots going on. As Pooh would say, Bizzy.

    ANd I have to admit..I have not one wanderlust gene in my body. I'd happily stay home. When I do go somewhere new and wonderful..and I often often do--I love it, it's wonderful, I'm happy.

    But I'm happiest to come home.

    And I LOVE the poem.

  15. Ditto what Hank says--love, love, love being home, but almost always glad I went somewhere. Also love Pooh:). and Linda's poem. Bet the stuff those kids wrote was amazing!

  16. Oh, yeah, Lucy, those kids wrote truly amazing stuff. Some real talent there in kids who seldom get to finish a school year and move constantly with their families to follow the crops.

    I didn't think about it until Hank's comment, but that whole poem was about having to travel so much as a kid. For years, I loved having my own home and staying in one place because we moved so often during my childhood. Now, of course, I've had my fill of that, and I love to travel. But it's always good to get home.

    My captcha's ultimit rich. A promise? I hope.

  17. So much for a better Captcha. I am getting non-stop spam via JRW-- See here:

    Coach Outlet
    [Jungle Red Writers] New comment on The Ancient and Honorable Order of Detectionists. [That's just the subject line. I don't open them.]

    It just keeps coming and won't let me redirect to spam. Thirty-something last count.