Site Meter

Monday, August 2, 2010

Gene Pool, Cesspool -- The Kids are All Right

What I understand about Genetics

There is a wonderful scene in The Kids are All Right in which Jules ( Julianne Moore) is taken aback by sperm donor Paul (Mark Ruffalo), because she can't help but see her children in his mannerisms.  It provides these characters with a moment of intimacy, an understanding of how momentous, whether as sperm donor or full-fledged parent, the decision to pass your genes on to another generation can be.  Whoever you are shows up somehow, someway, in the lovely sprouts you plant.

In our home, my husband and I call it Gene Pool, Cesspool.  The Gene Pool consists of those characteristics we are each proud to claim as passing on to our son.  For example, I am thrilled that he has my sense of humor.  My husband is thrilled our son has his (!) sense of humor.  My mother is thrilled that her grandson has her blue eyes and my father-in-law is thrilled that he has his blue eyes.  I have decided that he got one eye from each of them and this just proves how very clever he is, a trait I justifiably take credit for now and again. 

The Cesspool stuff, on the other hand, not so much -- These are the characteristics that show up in your children that you hoped might not appear.  They might be a superficial as Uncle Jerome's gargantuan ears or as unpleasant as your Grandmother's short temper or even afflictions that are private and should not be posted on Facebook or for that matter, anywhere else. 

These thoughts are left unsaid when partners are contemplating the notion of family, when elated that they will actually be starting a clan, or admiring a beautiful growing belly, and when you act encouragingly amused because your partner picks up a long abandoned guitar and serenades her expanding waistline with an old Joni Mitchell song -- another reason why I loved The Kids are All Right, by the way.

Groucho: Is it me or is it getting crowded in here?         
My mother was actually a voice major in college at NYU and continued to sing and practice her scales when I was growing up.  A major source of embarrassment I can assure you when I was a kid, too dumb to appreciate her gift.  She studied the classics (See Kitty Carlisle in A Night at the Opera for reference and don't miss the stateroom scene while you're there.) and for a nice Jewish girl from Newark, New Jersey, this was unusual in it's time. (Google Beverly "Bubbles" Sills for more information about that journey. ) Unfortunately, she did not pass on her beautiful Mezzo Soprano to me, only her abundant and magnificent Divaness.

The other thing about the making of children is that it is not a 50/50 proposition.  Children are just not that simple.  They are also not an instant cake mix and what and who they are may in fact require a long time festering before it ferments.

Sometimes one of those nasty Cesspool traits shows up and my husband and I face off in an "I Blame You!" competition, citing the shortcoming in each other's family trees as evidence.  We also play a game called "Whose Family is Crazier?"  Like Freud's Last Session, (see an earlier posting entitled, Kandinsky and the Evil Laugh, in which the existence of God is debated on stage...) this dialogue always ends in a draw, a fact which we find both comforting and discomforting. 

My child has the good fortune, this moment, of having all four grandparents.  All are in their 80's and my father-in-law is turning 90 this Fall.  No one is in a nursing home and no one has dementia, which is pretty terrific.  I hope this longevity factor falls in the dominant gene pool along with attendant good health.  

But no matter what the role of the dice has given us in our offspring, no matter how frail and tenuous the bond of family may be at times,  it was delightful to see it so artfully portrayed on the screen and hopefully, it is as thoughtfully tended to in my own life. 

No comments:

Post a Comment