When we refer to genes as “skipping a generation,” what is really happening is a recessive gene, carried by both parents is being expressed.
Normally, the easiest example of this is when two brown-eyed parents have a blue-eyed child, made possible by the fact that both Mom and Dad were carrying the recessive blue-eyed gene.
The mysteries of the double helix are still being unraveled by geneticists today but we now understand that not only are physically obvious traits such as hair and eye color passed down, but also a variety of things ranging from diseases to temperament.
I’m reminded of this genetic phenomenon when pushing a cart through Bed, Bath, & Beyond with my daughter Janey, on the cusp of her 14th birthday.
We’re buying some storage containers to keep snacks fresh in the pantry. But upon browsing the other aisles, she sees something that truly speaks to her.
“Can I get this?” she asks, adding, “It can be my birthday present.”
“There’s no way,” I answer.
“Please mom.” Rarely does she beg, but this is turning into begging.
She’s standing with her hands on an ironing board, covered in a blue patterned pad, wrapped in plastic, just a few inches taller than she is.
“You’ve got to be kidding me. No one actually likes to iron. I’ve never owned an iron in my life.” Then I add, “We don’t even know how to iron.”
My mom is and always has been an ironer. Ever since I can remember, Mom would iron baskets of blouses. With the board in her bedroom, she’d iron with the crook of the phone in her neck, the long spiral cord behind her, “killing two birds with one stone.” Sometimes she’d iron while watching the news or a made for TV movie. I’ve never seen her leave the house donning even a single wrinkle.
But I didn’t get the ironing gene. Neither did my husband. We are simply recessive carriers, who came together and had a child, who inconceivably, is now standing in Bed, Bath, & Beyond, legitimately excited about the prospect of owning an ironing board and iron.
“I can’t stand when clothes are wrinkled,” she continues her campaign adding that she will even iron her older brother’s clothes for formal dress day at school, once a week when slacks, a collard shirt, and tie are required. He didn’t get the gene either by the way.
So I call the genetic source herself.
“Mom, guess what Janey wants for her birthday?”
When I tell her, she laughs, and I can hear she feels proud.
“What kind of iron are you getting?”
“I have no idea but it has an automatic timer where the iron will turn off if left on more than 30 minutes.”
She approved, and is looking forward to spending time ironing with Janey. “I can teach her lots of tricks.”
And so, in the cart the iron and ironing board goes, literally the last thing I would ever want for my birthday. The mysteries of the gene pool run deep indeed.