I had a fortunate upbringing, but I was not bathed in compliments. So when recently, my Mom observed that I resembled my great Aunt Leah of blessed memory, I took that with a grain of salt and a couple glasses of wine. Aunt Leah’s reputation was of a kind woman, a loving woman, but, dare I say- homely. I remember what a loving marriage she had and how I barely ever saw the two apart. I remember how happy she was to see me and how she always offered me food – the perfect aunt! My uncles also adored her.
So, of course, with the power of motherly suggestion, nowadays when I look into the mirror I see the reflection of my childless Aunt Leah.
How long are we remembered for? Two generations, three? If we are lucky enough to have great-grandchildren and to tell them about our grandparents, that would be six generations and then poof, we disappear. We disappear, that is, unless a child is named for us; or, mysteriously, our DNA reappears in new form in a descendant. Abracadabra, we live on.
Meryll and I have both been sensitive to the brevity of memory. Perhaps it influenced her becoming so passionate about history and me being so curious about people’s stories. When our Mom can’t recall much about her grandmother who died before she was born, we can see the wistful expression for the unfillable void.
So now when I look in the mirror and I see my Aunt Leah, I say “Aunt Leah, we’re going to rock this!” and I dress her up and take her out into my world and let her be a part of it.
So, to Aunt Leah, whose face I may bear, and to Grandma Rae, whose feet I might have, and to Grandpa Herman whose linguistic ability I inherited, to all my many relatives who I carry with me – I’m going to just “lean in” and enjoy and let each of your memories nourish and enrich my life. And yes, my children and grandchildren will know about their Aunt Leah and as many others as I can summon up with my sister’s and mother’s help.
P.S. Meryll does not see the resemblance. Perceptions are subjective.