I’ve been thinking a lot about ancestors in advance of this coming Sunday’s service on Samhain, the Pagan New Year. Ancestors figure heavily into the season as it is the time of the year when it is believed that the veil that separates our world from theirs is the thinnest.
I’ve thought plenty about my ancestors. However, until today, I never really thought about the fact that I will be someone else’s ancestor. I found myself thinking about it, because we spent the day with our first, and at the moment only, grandchild. Kai is 2 ½ years old. We hadn’t seen him since he really began to talk. His unique personality is definitely beginning to show itself. He is no longer simply just a baby. He expresses preferences and has moments of willfulness that are all his own. And yet, I could also see his ancestors shining through. He gets really focused on things in a way his mother, our daughter, Pam, did not at that age. But when I watch him focus, sometimes I see his aunt, our other daughter. Kai hasn’t seen his Aunt Riky in a long time, so it can’t be nurture. But there is definitely a bit of her in there.
So I wonder, when we think about our ancestors, how much of their influence is genetic; how much is cultural; how much is a result of their unique personality? And then I wonder, just what is it that makes me who I am? How much of who I am is truly unique? How many of my choices are really my own? How much am I a part of an intricate web reaching into the distant past and, I hope, also into a future I will never know?