A couple of weeks ago I posted some photos of my parents on their wedding day with a reflection about the legacy they left their children. Scroll down and you’re sure to find it. I meant every word of what I wrote, and I love my parents dearly. I don’t want there to be any misunderstanding about that.
Since then, however, I’ve experienced something of a strange conflict. So many people – many more than I ever expected – have commented how much I look like my mother. That’s not a bad thing at all, but I’ve never really thought myself to look like her.
I know I get my colouring from her. My dad’s side of the family are pretty much all your stereotypical Dutch blondies, except for my Auntie Margaret whose hair was a lovely nutty brown. She still has the ‘Dutch’ blue eyes though. My dark hair and hazel-green eyes almost definitely come from Mum’s side of the family.
I’ve always thought that my face was more like Dad’s side. Especially in the department of facial expressions, that is certainly true.
Both my aunts and my cousins Michael and Geanette share a cheeky grin with me that I know without a doubt came from Dad’s side of the family.
My Auntie Trish used to give us “the look” that communicated that she meant business, and we knew to take it seriously. It involved a straight mouth and an arched eyebrow. It wasn’t until I was about 20 that it occurred to me that I had inherited “the eyebrow” from her. I realised by accident one day when I was plucking my eyebrows – I arched my eyebrow and actually intimidated myself. True story. Now I use “the eyebrow” to communicate my displeasure to my students when they deserve it, and it’s equally effective – perhaps even better. Not everyone has an eyebrow with superpowers.
So what’s with people telling me I look like my mother? And why does that bother me so much? I honestly have no idea. My mother was an only child, and I never met her mother, so I don’t have much family on that side to compare with.
I clearly remember some of her uncles, aunts and their children, and I know I don’t really look anything like them. Mum’s cousin Helen was really pretty, and her dad, my great-uncle Charlie had the cheekiest grin I’ve ever known and loved. His brother Mick had the second cheekiest grin I’ve ever known and loved. Her Aunt Enid and Aunt Anne (known as Judy) were beautiful women. I remember their visits with much happiness. They were always impeccably dressed and made up, and they smelt beautiful. They talked with me like I wasn’t a child, and I loved the fact that we had intelligent conversations about all sorts of things. I felt so grown-up with them. I loved them more than I probably ever told them. I would so love to be like them. Perhaps I am in an intellectual sense, but I’m certainly not beautiful or elegant like they were.
Mum was a wonderful person. She had a great sense of humour with a quickness of wit that I loved. We liked similar music and similar books, although I was more interested in reading the literary classics and “stodgy history” (her term for my more academic history books) than she was. She taught me about my Irish, Scottish and English heritage, and that’s probably where my passion for English, Irish and Scottish history came from. She loved The Beatles, Glenn Campbell, John Denver, Tom Jones and Beethoven. We loved singing along to “Jukebox Saturday Night” on the radio and playing Trivial Pursuit at home on Saturday nights right up until I left home and moved interstate. We had teaching in common: she taught in the primary school, and I teach secondary. Our teaching styles are completely different, but I know she was proud of the fact that I was a teacher.
Even so, we didn’t always see eye to eye, and I often felt like I didn’t really measure up to what she wanted me to be. Maybe that’s the source of my inner conflict.
On the other hand, maybe that is irrelevant given that you can’t see those things in photographs.
Perhaps it’s because I fear that people see similarities in us physically – please oh please, use the words curvaceous and buxom instead of any other less flattering terms. Let’s just say that we were built for comfort, not for speed, and leave it at that.
Maybe it’s because I just want to be me. I don’t want to fit into a pattern or to be predictable. All my life I’ve been known to many people as Anne’s daughter or David’s sister. Those aren’t necessarily bad things, but the pleasure one experiences in such associations does wear thin after being mentioned regularly over a few decades.
Overall, I’m quite happy with who I am and what I’ve achieved. I’ve learned to live with my physical flaws and work with my assets. I have overcome injury, infertility and illness and stayed positive. I have my flaws and failures, and I’m still learning from them. I have my own style and I have always done things my own way. Confident, sassy, sarcastic, independent, and perhaps a little stubborn on occasions. Okay… so that last point made me laugh, too.
Maybe it doesn’t matter if I look like my mother. Perhaps I do look like her more than I realised. Maybe I’ll learn to embrace that. Maybe it’s actually kind of cool.
Until then, though, it would be nice if people said things like “Oh, she’s lovely!” or “Oh, she looks like fun!” before they tell me I look just like her. That would help a lot.
Thanks in advance. I appreciate it.