Family Resemblance

Sometimes when I wake up, I walk into the bathroom and see myself in the mirror, and I’m taken aback by my resemblance to my grandmother, who died when I was 15. The dark circles under my eyes highlight that I have the same bone structure as she did. I  look less like my (great) aunt, who died when I was 18 but the other day I caught myself behaving in a way very reminiscent of her.

I only use Clinique products on my face. They actually recognize me at Sears, because each time there’s a gift I buy enough stuff I get it twice. As a result, I have a makeup bag for every day of the month and a lifetime’s supply of lipstick (I don’t wear it, prefer gloss). So this weekend my friend got two makeup bags, a lipstick and a lipgloss from me. And I remembered that my aunt would do the same with Lancome products. Every time we’d go to see her, I’d come away with miniature Lancome products and perfume samples.

I’m sad that they’re gone. I wish they’d got to see me graduate, met Alistair. They’d have had kittens about me going off to China to kickbox, and I wouldn’t have enjoyed that, but I wish they’d been about when I came back in one piece.

Two generations, and thousands of miles apart. My grandmother and my aunt were both nurses and then housewives. They didn’t travel anywhere near as much as I have (nor has my mother). They were both amazing cooks. There’s so much I don’t know about them, though, especially because the war was something that was never spoken about, by them or my grandfather or uncle. Our lives couldn’t be any more different – and yet, there are these tiny similarities.

The opportunities that we have are so recent, when you think about it. And much as we might be overwhelmed by the choices available to us, at least we are not oppressed by our husbands, and families, and society’s expectations. My mother is a GP (family doctor) and she juggled that with two children. I know she felt guilty about it, but she would have been bored out of her mind at home with me and my sister and I respect her more for having a career.

For me, I’m in a degree that didn’t exist when my mother was at university. I’ve lived in a variety of places and speak a second language. I’m not special, or unique. But the life I lead would have been unheard of 60 years ago. It would have been possible and I’m sure people did it, however without the same means of getting in touch and things that we take for granted, like wiring money, and being able to use my British credit card abroad (credit cards period) would be much harder.

And – I’m only 24. Who knows what other opportunities will arise? I just hope I can keep being brave enough to grasp them with both hands.

I wish my grandmother and aunt had got to see who I am now, though. I hope they would have been proud.

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