Now Showing! The Mitochondrial Candidate

My grandmother Mitzi Cummings. Date unknown.

As I think about these descendants of mine – far into the unknown future – I can almost feel myself fade and flicker like a faulty hologram.

Why is it that so few of us know anything about our families past two or three generations? I am lucky enough to have a fairly well documented family, thanks mainly to two biographers of my uncle Louis B. Mayer (Charles Higham and Scott Eyman), as well as a distant cousin, Glen Eker, so that we know more than most about the last 120 years.

But of my great-great grandparents, Sarah and Jacob Mayer (originally Meir), it starts to get misty… And beyond them, the long lineage that brings us back to the ancient ones who wandered the desert, all of these individuals who were conceived, were born, played, became adolescents, had periods, got married, had babies, raised children, laughed, cried, sang, prayed, ate, loved and died – they can never be known.

This is disturbing to me because the more I research the closest generations, the more they come alive to me. But like those shadowy ancestors, they are long gone; simply absorbed back into the earth. And one day, some bright woman 100 years from now will use whatever resources she has at her disposal to reach back to me.

Thanks to social media, she may discover

way too much – every last Facebook post, a handful of YouTube videos, a gazillion tweets, etc. I can just see her now, “Oh, alright already!”

Or, that far into the future, all of my footprints may have simply vanished. My distant great-great granddaughter will feel the same frustration I experience – so close, but so far!

This seems most likely because while I have this treasure trove of amazing photos of my family, and particularly of my beautiful grandmother Mitzi (shown above), I am still a million miles away from the tiny moments that make up one’s life. As a kid I spent quite a lot of time with my grandmother, but what I remember of the old woman who often asked the same question five times in one hour, and what I see in photos like this portrait, are like night and day.

This woman is young, vital and mesmerizing; she is smart and ambitious. But what she doesn’t know, and I do, is that she is roughly 60 years from her death and 50 years from the two headed monster of dementia and diabetes.

My mother, my grandmother, my great-grandmother, my great-great grandmother – that’s it. That’s all I know of the mitochondrial line, and just barely. Right now I am someone’s mother, and one day my daughter will make me a grandmother. G-d willing I will live long enough to bounce a great-grandchild on my knee. But what of the generations yet to come…?

As I think about these descendants of mine, far into the unknown future, I can almost feel myself fade and flicker like a faulty hologram. But I am here right now and tomorrow I will take a photo that perhaps will occupy my great-great granddaughter’s evening, but only that as she has a life to live… that can one day be discovered by her great-great granddaughter.

For now, all I can do is transmit my love into the future. Hopefully love and hope are also imprinted into my DNA as her inheritance.

Copyright Alicia Mayer 2012.

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3 comments

  1. I have this same fear – and it is fear for me. I don’t know how to fix it, other than perhaps keeping a diary and trying to impress its importance on my children. That’s like a message in a bottle, though, so easily lost. The chances of it finding someone, the right someone, way out in the future, seem remote.

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