Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Non-Biological Resemblances

The other day my friend Cottrell e-mailed me a photo of him and his adopted brother. He said people who didn't know they weren't related kept commenting that they look alike, which didn't make any sense. Naturally I've always been obsessed with phenotypical resemblances and note immediately the way in which features echo each other throughout families--the same jawline, slope of the chest, hair. Traits of my own I've never seen reflected in anyone else. There are non-physical similarities in families, of course, such as mannerisms, temperament, facial expressions. But some likenesses don't fit in either category, and it's probably those that people saw in Cottrell's picture. There's probably some sort of scientific explanation for this, but I prefer to see the poetic side sometimes.

I have a tiny theory about the strange phenomenon of how couples who have been together for a long time, adopted and biological family members, and even dog owners and their dogs start to resemble each other. It's something subliminal, invisible, perhaps similar to the pull of pheromones in the air. I believe it is the look of love--worn and polished--in the heart where no one can see, like a pearl in a clam's embrace.

I think perhaps these quiet forces, the ones that reside in our souls, connect us all. You can't look at them directly. You can ignore them if you want. They are bonds that transcend race and blood and are the color of humanity, which James McBride's mother says is "the color of water." Barbara Katz Rothman, who writes about mothering her adopted black child as a white woman in Weaving a Family, describes how over time she perceives herself "darkening" as she continues to ingratiate herself into her daughter's ethnic culture, as though this search for understanding motivated by love displays itself physically too.

If our own beauty is a measure of our love for others, how might this change our hearts?

And when we begin to resemble those we love, regardless of blood, what could be better than this?

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