If there were a hypothesis, and I am suggesting one right here in this sentence, of the existence of a writing gene I think our family, at least the women in our family, would be the case subjects in the clinical trial. Not only a writing gene, but there is also a case monograph here of a writing tone gene. What part of our upbringing, what aspect of our environments though 2,000 and 3,000 or more miles apart can account for the uncanny similarities of the writing style of my mother, my (female) cousin and my aunt (mother’s sister)? How many more are we? If I were to find her again would my cousin on my father’s side carry the gene? She too was brought up, at least in part, more than 1,000 or more miles from each of us. It is as if the universe created geographical bookends to separate us, just enough to rule out too many confounders. You are quite unaware perhaps of the layers of lengthening lines between us. We were all separated by angry parents and still hidden secrets. That much, or that little, you know. Yet, those seeds once planted grew into long vines and the untangling at our middle ages seems too much trouble for delayed interventions.
Is it what you described as our “white trash” upbringing that ties us together? I never knew, for I assumed or was taught that your side of the ocean brought gold onto its sandy beaches. Does the range of defianteness quite judicially parsed out on a scale of silent to screaming of our mothers and aunts serve as our baseline? I know there are the obvious genes that relate us through maternal lines of depression which underlie the faculties of so many writers and then there is also the common factor of temporary insanity via subservience to men. But I never knew your mother, just stories re-told of the upset but acceptable and far off histories. Our common grandmother was a distant half-smiling figure. It was our grandfather that encouraged us to write, although he never really wanted grandchildren, more simply a student at a desk to be corrected. My other aunts, well, perhaps they are key links more than any other factor, those sixties thinkers who allowed art and argument to shape their futures.
Do you have another female cousin? Another one of us? If she exists, my most distant figment of a sister, finding her would be like observing the missing protein sequence. She could prove the rule or rule us all as the outliers in America that we feel ourselves to be. Is this mere convenience sampling so tenuous that it shows what I fear; that we have no bonds at all? I have hope though, that in discovering you I see a part of myself that I never would have expected, but in some long ago fantasy always wanted to be true.
Family. Family. The word distorts in its repetition. In its very meaning absurd, broken, stretched far beyond the resilience point like the near 40 year-old flesh on my hips. It is mine but I do not own it. How could you be there, so pronounced? A star or more appropriately, a moon in our universe. I thought you were buried a little under the dust of so much casting off. Or have we reached a point where we have cast ourselves so much that the trailing dust is coalescing? It is something still unshared, this universe of forming proto-stars and cells.
These examining slides are still all a jumble. I don’t want to know if you like science fiction, or if your husband is gentle and kind because you knew how to choose the first time. But I am curious if underneath our skin there are threads that bind us, pirouetting familiars.