8. Trees have also been used to represent families. Talk a bit about your own family tree.
9. What are your feelings now about family trees and exploring your own lineage?
My own family tree twists and turns around cultures and places. My mother emigrated to the United States in 1968 from Central America and my father was born in the coal mining region of Pennsylvania. One of his great uncles was the last of the Molly Maguires hung in Pennsylvania. My father's families are both Irish and German. My mother's family, both sides, emigrated to Panama. Her father was originally from San Salvador, and his brothers both moved to Mexico to become film makers. My grandmother's family emigrated to Panama from Spain and Italy. Her father was the son of olive farmers outside of Turino, and when he fell in love with my great-grandmother, who was living in Panama already with her own family but training in Spain to be a teacher, sent Luka's sister to live with them in Panama. Celestina was her name, and she never married. Her duty was to live with my great-grandfather. She lived to be 103 and always spoke with a heavy Italian accent, but she kept the stories of the family and often told them to my mother when she would come to visit her, so then my mother told them to me, and I have written some of them down. I always saw myself that way, which is strange. But even as a child, I tried to commit the stories to memory, retell them to myself, and weave yarns about what I saw. I never could see myself with a family before I met Sam, but I could always see myself as an old woman, telling stories about my family, stories without me involved, but what I witnessed. Family folk legends and myths. I don't know if it is a long process of whisper down the alley, or if one hundred years ago, there was more magic.
It's funny to think about family tales when I think about family trees, but I do. I feel like I can visualize this huge, lopsided tree, and the tales of each branch. My family tree on my mother's side is so heavy--my mother has eleven siblings, 49 nieces and nephews, 57 grand nieces and nephews. And my father has one half sister who died in her early 40s. She never had children. It was not too long ago that I found out that my father's family isn't quite what we thought it was. Respecting his privacy, I won't go further, but I will someday tell that strange, sad, crazy story. I only wished I known there was a missing link there when I was being tested and treated for pre-cancer services.
I find genealogy fascinating and genetics even more fascinating. There are times I look at my children and wonder whose nose that is, perhaps my great Spanish grandmother's nose, after trying to fit my own and my husband's features over them. But my relationship with family trees, most recently, has been to figure out our medical history to see the genetic markers for Lucy's death. So, instead of stories, I see strokes and cancers. Heart conditions and high cholesterol. When we met with the genetic counselor at the beginning of Thor's pregnancy, we had to fill in our family tree. Well, not ours. Lucy's family tree. It gave me a kind of calm to imagine all these people coming together for one little baby girl. And so I kept thinking, this is Lucy's tree. A tree of personalities and diseases and ages and life spans all long enough to have babies of their own.