Thursday, December 30, 2010


Sometimes, often when my daughter has fallen asleep in my arms, I can lose myself staring at her rosebud mouth, her long eyes fringed with short, thick lashes, and her pink apple cheeks. One of the reveries I drift away on at these times has to do with a family gathering.  I like to think about a room filled with my baby's great-great-great-grandparents, and what they would all make of each other.

They'd come from the United States, Ireland, China, and Poland, and they would be speaking English, Yiddish, Mandarin, and Shanghainese--and probably other languages as well.  Some would have a lot of money, from owning mines in China or from family that came over on the Mayflower. Others would have very little, earning their livelihoods from peddling, laundering, or farming.  A few women would probably have bound feet, while others would have covered their hair with scarves.  Their hair would be black, brown, red, and blonde.  Some would have rough hands, others smooth.  They would worship their ancestors, or attend church on Sundays, or light Shabbat candles every Friday night.  They would be tall, and they would be short.  They would be beautiful, and they would be plain.

Transported into this room together--a room which I imagine to be dimly lit, perhaps simply by a roaring fire and candlelight--they would peer at each other suspiciously.  They would not have very much to say to each other.  And then my husband and I, standing in front of the fireplace, would hold our baby out to them, and explain how they are all connected, through this small, future child.  Some of them would not be very impressed, since the child is only a girl.  That makes me a little sad, when I think of it.  But I like to imagine that they would still be heartened, to know that more than a hundred years after they have died, a baby would be born that could trace its blood back to them. And knowing that, maybe they would look around the room again, at this odd assortment of strangers with whom they have little in common.  And I wonder if maybe--just maybe--they would see each other differently.


  1. a beautiful post. Thanks to Jody for pointing it out.

  2. Beautiful imagining! Give that girl a 30 million bucks and a film crew!
    Oh, yes, that little vision from the future, Jo, would change how those ancestors see each other! Do you know having Art in the family has changed how I perceive Chinese people? Somehow during my life I had come to know a few Africans, African-Americans, Indians from India (called "Asians" in Kenya), Jews, assorted Europeans but never any Chinese. Now, thanks to your (and his) good fortune in marrying Art,I have a small stake in that society, a personal connection to the Chinese people that changes the way I think of them. More warmly, you could say.

  3. thank you Gae! And that's lovely to hear, George. The importance of personal connection is one reason I think exchange student programs are so great...but nothing is more powerful than family.