Heinz-57 Female

Our kids gave us ancestry kits for our anniversary. Each box contained Q-tips and tiny test tubes. 

The miniature test tubes contained some sort of magical liquid meant to preserve our cheek cells. We swabbed the inside of our cheeks and dropped the Q-tips into the test tubes. Then, Gary and I sent our precious DNA samples away to be evaluated.

After sealing the box, I couldn’t help but wonder what would have happened had I swabbed the inside of my nose rather than my cheek. Would I have received COVID results instead of a summary of my heritage? Oh well, I guess I’ll never know.

On second-thought, Gary and I didn’t think the process through at all. We should have taken those Q-tips and tenderly swabbed each other’s cheeks. That would have been the romantic thing to do in celebration of the day we wed.

For our anniversary last year, our children gave us a gift certificate to a swanky restaurant. There were no Q-tips involved, but we enjoyed every bite.

This year, they said, “We’re giving you a surprise! Your gift is in the mail.” Uh-huh. We’ve all heard that before.

As it turns out, the postal service did indeed deliver on our children’s promise, and yes, we were surprised to see the two ancestry kits. When we let them know their “gift” had arrived, all three of our children laughed—a lot. Something was hilarious, but Gary and I were on the outside lines of the joke. 

Their motivation in choosing such a “funny” gift continues to elude me. Maybe, after years of trying to figure out the quirky people they call their “parents”, our children decided they needed a little assistance. Maybe they just wanted to know what countries produce the craziness that defines their parents. 

Or maybe, just maybe, it was a win-win gift in their eyes. Finding out where their parents came from would reveal their heritage as well. Guess what? Our children discovered that they hail from a little bit of everywhere.

Gary’s results were conclusive. Forty percent of my husband is Irish, Scottish, and Welsh. Another 32% of him is Balkan. The rest of Gary’s genetic map ties him to Baltic, English, and Finnish ancestors.

It took a day longer for my email results to appear. As soon as I opened it, I knew why. My cheek cells must have given those genetic wise guys a bit of a challenge. I possess “secret agent” DNA. In other words, my history is a mystery.

While 40% of Gary could be traced to only three countries, 54% percent of me was scattered throughout half of Europe—the western and northern parts. I almost added, “…to be specific,” but “in general” is a better description.

I’m also 23.9% English, 18.5% Scandinavian, and 3.5% Balkan. I clicked on the provided map to get a better idea of my North and West European heritage, but I came away with more questions than answers. 

Dark shading tracked my background to Germany, Austria, France, and Denmark. Light highlights put traces of me in Ireland, Norway, Sweden, and Finland. Even lighter outlines hinted that pieces of me may have hailed from Italy, Greece, and Ukraine.

My report revealed a Heinz-57 female on steroids. 

Through our results, our children discovered one certainty about their lineage: there’s not one ounce of American flowing through their DNA. Like their parents, they may have been made in America, but the roots of their family tree run deep in the lands across the pond. 

I’m still not sure why our kids feel compelled to give us anniversary gifts. But I guess, in a way, our anniversary is also theirs. After all, our “I dos” led to their “I ams.”

Commentary Friends & Family

VievesVine View All →

writer, blogger, columnist

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