It wasn’t until I had children of my own that I really started to wonder if we are born with our particular personalities or if they are influenced more by the family and environment in which we are raised. There are plenty of studies involving identical twins which try and answer this exact question, and of course the answer is probably that both our genetics and environment shape us. But in my case, and in the case of my own children I specifically find myself questioning what on earth is going on in our gene pool.
Growing up, my family have always been a little nutty, not in a medically diagnosed sort of way but just a nice shade of eccentric.
Of course growing up, you think all families are the same and it’s not until you invite a friend along for Christmas that you realise it might just be your family that kicks off the festivities by stripping down to their underwear for a seasonal family weigh-in before tucking into hearty bowl of Hungarian goulash. Sometimes I think just possibly, my memory is playing tricks on me, but we have the photographs to prove it. We’ve never once had a roast turkey for Christmas, because in my family nothing says Christmas banquet quite like the humble gherkin.
I often wonder at what point my husband became indoctrinated. I’m pretty sure from what he tells me, our upbringings were quite different and apart from a slightly eccentric Aunt his family gatherings were a lot less colorful. On one of the first family holidays with my parents where my husband joined us, my Aunt, Uncle and cousins came to visit. We were all sitting in the holiday apartment living room enjoying a post lunch food coma, when my husband decided to lye down on the floor and catch a few winks. For some reason we were discussing wrestling, when my mother out of the blue yells ‘S-U-M-O’ and literally leaps through the air and pounces on my unsuspecting then boyfriend in some sort of sumo slam takedown. He understandably gets the fright of his life, and in what can only be described as a moment of pure fight or flight instinct he hurls my mother off of him straight into the glass sliding doors adjoining the balcony.
The rest of us stare on in horror, time stops and we hear the deafening sound of my mother’s head impacting against the glass.
My husband’s face turns a deathly shade of white, my aunt begins laughing so hysterically that she can hardly catch her breath and my mother just bounces up off the floor, adjusts herself and declares herself to be okay as if nothing has happened. We spent the rest of the afternoon recounting the gloriousness of the incident with much enthusiasm and laughter. My husband has never laid down on the floor in the presence of my mother in the fifteen years since.
On reflection, it seems the more of us there are together from the same gene pool in the same place at the same time, the more likely there is for some sort of fabulous disaster to occur. If my husband wasn’t already indoctrinated, we’ve definitely worn him down over time. During one family get together we were all gathered in my mother’s living room, when he goes outside to pop the champagne. We hear the loud pop as the cork flies off into pool and true to form the next thing we see is my husband collapsing like a sack of potatoes onto the lawn. My Mum, followed by a gaggle of Aunties and female cousins, flock outside to see what’s happened, while I stand stunned in the living room holding a bowl of prawns and a jar of gherkins. I see my Mum slapping my husbands face trying to get him to regain consciousness, and one of my Aunties scrambling around in the grass trying to save what’s left of the champagne. The cork left the bottle with such force it chipped some of the glass, which in turn cut my husbands finger. As it turns out he faints at the sight of his own blood. Who knew?
Not exactly the gene pool of Viking warriors that one.
So what’s got me reminiscing about all of this you might wonder? My eldest Miss S recently convinced my husband to buy her yet another stuffed toy on a recent shopping trip. Of course this stuffed toy is currently the most important thing on the earth, and most annoyingly came with a fake birth certificate and name card. It’s a pink and purple glittery hamster aptly named Rugger. Or not so aptly named according to my four year old, for no hamster could perceivably be called Rugger. So Star was born. On the 10th August. There’s nothing my four year old loves more than a birthday party, so the build up to Star’s birthday was of Olympic proportions.
Last week, we all go together to visit my Mum at my parent’s house as she’s recently undergone back surgery. It so happens to be on Star’s birthday. “Hooray” Miss S exclaims, “Oma will be very excited to participate in the party”. Somewhere along the way, she convinces my husband to buy cupcakes for the fake hamsters fake birthday, and when we arrive, as my mother is still recovering, we all descend onto my parent’s bedroom. With much fervent excitement and ensuing confusion Miss S hands out the cupcakes. She then stands aloft my parents bed, holding Star high in the air above her head so we can all pay homage, and she commands and leads the charge with the happy birthday song. My husband stands at the end of my parent’s bed mouthing the words, starring into space, and I wonder if at this exact moment he is regretting marrying me. My Mum makes mention that her bed is now covered in crumbs, and my Dad leaves the room only to return with a hand held vacuum cleaner. As he vacuums up the duvet and my Mum lies immobilized in her bed pointing out rogue cake crumbs, and Miss S fights with her baby sister over who gets to hold Star, my mind truly leaves my body and I experience the scene unfolding as if from a different universal plane. I am sitting on a chair in the corner of the room, watching the latest act of my family circus unfold and I realize the personalities of the next generation is most certainly born. You couldn’t breed this sort of magic, even if you tried.
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