his beautiful head
For the last two days, I’ve been looking at photographs of my new grandson. In a week or so, John and I will travel to Ottawa to meet him, to hold him, to congratulate his parents. I think of how my own grandparents must’ve longed for such immediate gratification — I do have some photographs sent by my mother to my father’s parents (they were among the small leavings I took from my parents’ home after their deaths) and there are notes on the back to provide context: age of the children, the location of the photographs. Yesterday Forrest and Manon sent several images taken in the hospital and in response to my observation that Arthur’s hair seems dark, another photograph arrived to show the top of his beautiful head:
Forrest’s hair was the colour of a peach when he was born. Soft faint strawberry-blond. And there wasn’t much of it. (Still isn’t! Though it’s more russety now…) So how fascinating that this little baby has what looks like red hair too! When Forrest was born, we tried to think of where the red hair came from. My father remembered one red-haired sister and also several sisters with blue eyes. They were half-sisters, sharing a mother — his mother. No one in my immediate family had red hair or blue eyes. In John’s family, his father had fair hair and blue eyes, as did his sister. (I say “did” for his sister because her hair darkened over the years, though her eyes are still blue!)
I tried to puzzle through the mysteries of genetics in my essay, “Euclid’s Orchard”, and re-reading it, I see that I was already wondering about this baby as soon as I knew he was in process! I was musing about what had happened with the peas I’d saved for three years from seed originally purchased at the Mendel Museum in Brno. The seeds were wrinkled and they produced strong vines with white blooms. For two years the peas were wrinkled and then, last spring, this was what I found in the dried pods I’d saved for planting in 2015:
from “Euclid’s Orchard”: In four generations, the Mendel peas have taken different directions, perhaps because of their proximity to the Mammoth Melting Sugars or maybe because mysterious calculations under their own particular skins. I’ve planted them and await their appearance with all the anticipation of awaiting the birth of a child. Which we are also anticipating, in October. A second grandchild; the first being Kelly Samra, born on July 17, 2014, to her mathematician father, Brendan, and her physicist mother, Cristen. She is beautiful, with clear pink skin, blue eyes, and not enough hair to determine its colour. She is lanky like her mother and father—and shares her mother’s blue eyes, which are also her uncle and aunt’s blue eyes from our side of the family, and from her great-grandfather Ben Pass. And who will the new baby be? She or he has a red-haired father, with blue eyes—my older son—and a dark-haired dark-eyed mother. The maternal grandparents have lived for many generations on either side of the Ottawa River, in Quebec and Ontario, and there is an Algonquin great-great-grandmother in the not so distant past.