My mother’s side of the family has a very distinctive “look.” All but one of her siblings is female, and they all fit a similar profile, not very tall, olive-colored Ukrainian skin, round faces and their father’s freckles. Lots of freckles.
My father and his sisters all have very similar faces (do I say ‘have’ even though Dad is dead now? It seems strange to write ‘had’ given that his sisters are all still alive). Three of them have thick auburn hair with a slight wave to it and the youngest, Martha, looks somewhat different from the other kids, but she and my Dad had nearly identical mouths. They also all have freckles.
I am covered in freckles, more as I age, but few on my face. Like my parents, they mostly dot my arms and chest with a few on my legs. Growing up, I always assumed that I would eventually look like my mother, given that I was female. Of course, this notion was ghastly as soon as I reached adolescence and I denied any suggestion that I would ever look like her – not because she looks awful, but simply because it was important to me to look like me and only me.
Last year I agreed to be interviewed for a video presentation that would appear at the fundraising luncheon for Eve and Lola’s school. I went in looking like me, in my favorite grey top and freshwater pearl necklace my Aunt Barb gave me for high school graduation. No makeup to speak of, hair styled like I do it every day (which is to say, washed and combed and largely ignored). A month or so later when the video aired on an enormous screen in a hotel ballroom in front of 700 people, I was shocked to see myself. I looked like Dad.
There have been times in my life where I knew I resembled my father, or at least his side of the family, and probably equally as many when I was struck by my resemblance to Mom’s side.
This morning I began wondering whether those shifts come with age or demeanor or situation. Do I look like Mom when I am doing things I associate with her? The video was certainly something Dad would have done (and reveled in, frankly), and I can’t imagine my mother in that situation. Is that why I looked like him there? We have photos of me with the girls as toddlers where I have such a maternal, doting look on my face and I see Mom in there so deeply.
I don’t recall a time when I was able to look at my face and see both of my parents simultaneously, melded together as one. Honestly, my freckles are the only thing I consider to have come equally from both bloodlines, but how much of that has to do with the fact that I don’t really remember my parents together at all? For the vast majority of my life, I see-sawed between parents’ houses and affections so maybe it is a bigger challenge for me to consider them as two halves of a whole versus opposite ends of a swinging pendulum when it comes to my physical appearance. Do other people see themselves this way?