Apparently, all reincarnations are descended from significant historical figures. I’m certain that I was Nefertiti, a grand and visionary queen, mother-in-law to Tutankhamen. Don’t judge. Obviously, you can see the resemblance.
The reality is that we carry so much of our ancestors as excess baggage that it is hard to deny the similarities. We ARE our families. To what degree depends on the nature versus nurture ratio that we experience as individuals, but for the most part, it’s rather obvious.
Over the course of ten years, I amassed quite a bit of family history largely because of the data available on Ancestry.com. Some stories could certainly be labeled ‘skeletons,’ and some just ridiculous. I was able to substantiate some details, which led to more research and frequent, heated conversations with my father, who was certain he remembered every detail perfectly. There can be no doubt from whom I inherited the granite skull.
As I continued my research, the family I found became my history. A brilliantly colored tapestry of people who influenced the people that influenced me. A military man who led an entirely double life on two continents, a mobster, a priest, a fugitive from a farmer who feared for his daughter’s good virtue, an artist with yellow eyes…and that’s just the men. Time compressed as I got further and further into the tree and many times I’d hit a vein that led me to a whole new branch. I found that two of my great grandmothers both had sisters and brothers, all of whose descendants still live in the same place I do. I found how part of my family came to Florida as indentured slaves 250+ years ago and how they struggled. The more I dug, the more I understood how I became the woman I am.
A friend of mine reminded me that a person is only remembered (if they live long enough) by four generations That’s not a lot. It encompasses roughly 120 years. Wrap your mind around that: a living memory of you will last only that long. I am the last generation to remember my Abuela, who, even after four strokes was a true Spanish beauty. Years ago, when my father died, my young niece elected to extend her trip to Brazil rather than return for his funeral, I was devastated. She will be the last one to have a living memory of him. At the time, she was too young to understand the impact of that decision, while I had an existential crisis over the fact that my father will be forgotten within a century.
It made me think, which shouldn’t be a revelation, about the legacy I’m leaving for my kid. I certainly want him to appreciate his history. While not every character is going to be newsworthy, so far, he’s got a lot of material for his future psychotherapy and resulting stand-up career.