Saturday, March 19, 2016
Flying Into the Future,
Looking Back to the Past
When I was a kid, Pan Am (remember them?) published a world tour book listing every international destination served by the airlines. I know, because I found it in the library.
I remember summer afternoons, when it was too hot and muggy in New York to do much of anything else, taking my checked-out copy of the Pan Am tour guide and sitting in the shade on our front step, studying every page. I couldn't have been more than eleven or twelve.
As I read the travel advice about visiting Caribbean islands or countries in central Africa, from the distance behind me would come the whine of a passing jetliner on its approach to JFK International Airport. The sound would gradually get louder, then pass overhead, then fade into the distance as the jet prepared for landing. By the time one flight could barely be heard anymore, another one would replace it.
That sound became the inspirational accompaniment to my childish goal of visiting every country in the world. And why not? I had everything I needed to know, right at my fingertips in this tour guide. Easy.
Of course, several flights home from college a few years later cured me of any latent wanderlust. Six hours on a nonstop flight from SFO to JFK was about all I could handle in one sitting. Though I've since seen someone else has taken up that very goal and succeeded, I've become quite the home body and am happy to let others pick up that mantle. Now, I nurse along much more demure goals, like posting on a blog every day.
It seems, however, that that latent travel urge may have been genetic, for by the time you are reading this, my daughter—who is still blogging her saga of two semesters in Ireland—has blitzed through Korea and headed to Japan. All that, incidentally, after helping me present on Irish research at our local genealogical society meeting on Thursday night. When you're young, things move along at lightning speed. So fast, in fact, that it is already tomorrow where she is staying tonight.
Of course, I can't help thinking about this like a genealogist. Having heard, recently, that while DNA testing has incrementally been spreading through places like Europe, those with Asian heritage lack as ample a referent sample base for comparisons, I had to resist the urge to cram DNA test packets into my daughter's luggage. She was, after all, going to Korea and Japan—two places of origin for many current residents of the United States. Surely, some of them would be curious about their matches in their ancestral homeland.
What I realized, though, is that if, like me, my daughter manifests the same propensities, could that not mean I can extrapolate something about my ancestors' personalities, likes and dislikes, and tendencies as well? If my daughter gets the "travel gene" from me (or the "pay attention to me" gene from my husband), from where did our generation get those things?
If what we are like now will someday be projected into the future, courtesy of our children's children, in a very general way, we can gain a sense of what that future will be like for our family, in terms of the propensities we've passed along to our children.
Likewise, perhaps that gives us a more empathetic connection to those who people our own roots, as well.
Above: "Dresden by Moonlight," 1839 oil on canvas by "the father of Norwegian landscape painting," Johann Christian Claussen Dahl; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.