CFN – My grandpa likes to tell the following story and usually for an audience of at least a dozen.
He was a farmer for decades and for a long time, sold eggs. One day when I was probably four years old, I went along with him to deliver eggs. I believe he used the promise of candy to convince me.
We drove down the road to an intersection – the rural kind with no traffic lights – where there was a little corner convenience store. He bought me the promised candy and I thought the trip was over. But he hadn’t delivered the eggs yet. We still had to go to the neighboring town – a full 10 minutes away, and then even more towns after that – before we were done.
I bawled my eyes out. I came along for the candy and having gotten what I came for, was ready to go home. My grandfather told me to stop crying, that we were delivering eggs no matter what. When I didn’t stop, he threw back his head and wailed right alongside me.
To this day, I have the bad habit of getting impatient and bored when, for example, I go with another person to the store. Once I’ve gotten what I came for, I’m ready to leave and so pester my poor companion to hurry up. I don’t try to be this way – I just am.
I’ve written about my little nephew a couple times. He’s almost two-and-a-half now and just starting to act like a unique person. He loves making people laugh, wants to be outside all the time, enjoys sweeping and mopping and is always building things, either out of blocks or rolls of paper towels.
I wonder if when he’s grown, I’ll see little remnants of the two-year-old boy’s personality in him. Will he dutifully help his mother clean the house? Will he love climbing mountains? Will he be voted the class clown?
The other day as I shuffled behind my mother in BJs, annoyed that we were still there after I found what I was looking for, I remembered the story about the eggs and realized I hadn’t changed. But where did I get this unappealing quality? It seems to me that I came into this world with it, like a standard feature on a Ford Focus.
On a recent visit to my parent’s house, my husband started picking on me about my need to keep the sheet, blanket and comforter on our bed perfectly aligned and straight – even on his side (his blankets are always a mess and it makes my skin crawl).
My father started to laugh. Little did I know, he does the exact same thing.
I’m happy that I can blame my bad behavior on genes. Oh, you think I’m selfish? Well, I can’t help it – a great-aunt on my mother’s side twice removed was very selfish, I must have gotten that from her. I don’t listen? Sorry – my second cousin on my father’s side in Ohio doesn’t either. It’s a family trait, so don’t be mad at me.
Obviously, we must overcome our inherited weaknesses – that’s part of being an adult, learning from the mistakes of the older folks around us and improving ourselves. Then, of course, we make room for our own unique mistakes that our relatives would’ve never dreamed of.
As I watch my nephew grow up, I’m learning that we are just bits and pieces of the people around us – like little Frankensteins – with twists that makes us who we are. Sure, we pick up things as we grow up, but as I compare the four-year-old me to the 31-year-old me, I don’t see too much growth.
At least I don’t play with Barbies anymore.
JH Mae is a feature journalist and short fiction writer based in rural northern New York.
She worked for five years at a local newspaper, followed by three years as a secretary.
She recently left the office life to pursue a full-time writing career and now works in her pajamas.