Saturday, May 31, 2008

House of Mirrors

Are we reflections of our family and friends, destined to grow in their image, and repeat their mistakes? How much control do we have over our lives until we're eighteen and off to college, the military, or a first job?

My family is large, and at times, controversial. There are so many of us, that we lose count among the symphony of voices, plotting, and machinations. We don't corner the market on Southern Gothic Drama, but come close.

I know I adopted certain behaviors I undoubtedly learned from my mother, while I others I consciously avoid because of my father. Who do I see when I look at my visage in the mirror? Do I see my granny's high cheekbones, deep-set eyes, or my mother's forehead and lips?

My youngest brother's newborn photo could easily be mistaken for mine, and vice versa. Different relatives in my family resemble each other, and recently I looked at online photos of my third cousin, daughter of my cousin stationed in Germany, and she's him in a tiny body. She has the exact expression on her face in various photos. Our faces form a family collage, a multi-hued mosaic ingrained with our legacy.

The passage of time is evident in my face when I'm shaving my face or brushing my teeth. I stretch my face to test its elasticity, and I'm comforted by the fact that Granny lived to be ninety years old, and if I take care of myself, I could live as long.

The downside to be so familiar is that my mother and siblings couldn't get easily get into mischief between of our trademark look, not that they would knowing that their father would chastise them. I think a similar happened with my generation, "Y'all look so much like. Which one are you?" Schoolteachers and neighbors alike would say. Such comments would only spur us to find ways to differentiate ourselves socially, academically, at church, or perhaps sassing a neighbor.

The upside to being a member of an easily recognizable clan was that our generation carried a mystique because of our numbers. We weren't hooligans, but you didn't want to mess with some of my cousins on the playground or in granny's back yard lot.

At the end of a day or the start of the day, there's a comfort in knowing that I belong to a band of loving, supportive, and temperamental misfits that I call family.

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