Two Sides of the Family Tree

Each night, as I sit on the edge of the bed slathering my face with Neutrogena Night Cream, I can’t help but wonder if I’d started slathering it on years ago, would I look decades younger now? The truth is, the answer is no. The way I look and am now was charted in my DNA decades before I was born.

I’m always amused when someone mentions the words “someone of your stature” when they’re doing an introduction. I’m sure they’re talking about my reputation as a writer, but I can’t help but think about my physical stature which is to say six-foot one. All too often someone meeting me in person for the first time will blurt out, “You don’t look this tall on your book covers.” Of course not, because for cover photos I’m usually sitting down. From the waist up, I’m not that tall. According to my husband, I have an extra six inches in my legs. (If you were to see my lanky fifteen year-old grandson, you’d know that runs in the family.)

And where did that tall trait come from? My father’s side of the family. My great grandmother, Grandma Madsen, was more than six feet tall. So was her daughter, my Grandma Busk. The circle of permanently rough skin that gradually appeared on my forehead a few years ago and leaves a shadow between my eyebrows is something I remember from Grandma Busk’s face. Fortunately, I didn’t inherit her rectangular figure—the curves came from my mother’s side of the family—or her essential mean-spiritedness. Grandma Madsen had a sense of humor. Her daughter did not.

Humor, laughter, and singing came from my Anderson and Fromm strands of DNA. Nearsightedness came from both sides.

It’s been cold and wet the last couple of weeks, so I’ve been doing inside steps rather than outside. No, I don’t have a treadmill. I have a complex many circled route that, in one stint, is good for 1900 steps, give or take, depending on whether the phone is in my hand or in my hip pocket.

The Shrine

On Thanksgiving Day, I was walking the long straightaway down the hall when I looked at the scene at the end of it—something our decorator created and calls “the shrine.” It’s a collection of my writing awards as well as a photo of the “real” Athena, along with some treasured horsehair baskets from the reservation. Overlooking the awards there’s a photo of yours truly.

In the early nineties, after my daughter, Jeanne T. returned from Arizona, her Mother’s Day gift to me was a joint session at a local Glamour Shots establishment. One of the photos taken that day is the one you see posted here. For those of you who have never experienced a Glamour Shot photo shoot, here’s what happens. You go there. They fix your hair, your clothes, and your makeup, and then they take the photos before the makeup has a chance to melt. The resulting prints are expensive, and if you want to use them for professional purposes, you have to pay even more. But with this particular photo, we did just that. In fact, this is the image that was posted on my website long ago when Melissa G. sent her very nasty but memorable “bag over your head” comment.

So on Thanksgiving Day, I found myself being thankful for the very special gift my daughter gave me nearly thirty years ago. That photo offers a visual memory of how I used to look even if I don’t look that way now, but it’s also a very tangible symbol of a daughter’s enduring love for her mother.

And I’m pretty sure that generous side of my daughter’s nature came from the Anderson side of my family tree.

19 thoughts on “Two Sides of the Family Tree

  1. Thank you for that walk down memory lane. Jeanne T is such a special person. Family DNA is a funny thing. I see bits and pieces of my family in my daughter and granddaughters. Good things like strength , humor and energy are all things they were gifted from blending of DNA and luck. I think of you when I take the long way when I walk around my house to add a few steps to my quiet days. Thanks for sharing your Glamor Shot and your memories.

  2. The Glamor Shot is lovely. I think it would be fun to be able to meet Melissa G. Somehow, I have my doubts that she is a beauty. Someone who says things like that to other people is ugly inside which probably shows up on the outside. So there! Ha Ha

  3. You certainly don’t need a bag over your head. That’s a very pretty picture. I have read,enjoyed, and look forward to every book you have written and will write.

  4. 6′ 1″ ? WOW! I had no idea! But I bet it was helpful when trying to climb onto a horse!

    Inheritance of DNA from family is fascinating. Being able to trace certain traits to specific family members is fascinating.
    I too come from a tall family – my mother 5’9″ her sister 6′ (or as she preferred 5’12”), her brothers 6’1″ and 6’4″. Their height came from their father – their mother was 5’2″. I am a tweenie at 5’6″ with one brother at 5’10” and another at 6’4″.
    Disposition also seems to have a DNA base. Just how that works escapes me.
    Thanks you for sharing pictures of yourself. You don’t look anything like my imagery of you – but I do prefer reality.

  5. What lovely family histories you have. I did not inherit my mother’s lovely skin, I was a shake and bake girl in the 70’s where it was cool to slather on baby oil and burn in the sun. But I did inherit my Dad’s athletic abilities so I grew up skiing, hiking and swimming.
    I too walk a good clip 11,000-12,000 steps daily. I have an amazing rain poncho purchased from REI back in the 70’s that I still wear on rainy days. Adopting the Scandanavian friluftsliv philosophy has encouraged me to roam outside in our inclement PNW weather.
    Part of my walk is dedicated to finding interesting things in nature to photograph so I can post them on my FB page. The other part of my walk is to simply enjoy being outside and breathing fresh Evergreen air.

    At home, I am an avid reader, and I have enjoyed all of your books through the years. My husband and I truly enjoyed your talk through the sno-isle library and learned about your blog. I’m so glad because it is a source of enjoyment.

    Thank you for taking the time to write in your blog and let us into your most interesting life, and thoughts.

  6. Wow? Bag over your head? How very nasty! When I saw the picture I thought “wow, beautiful”. I love your books and have now gotten a neighbor to read mine once I get them back from my sister in AZ. I’m thinking the person that made that comment is a very unhappy person.

  7. I love the glamour photo. That hairstyle looks good.
    I inherited my tallness from my Anderson side of the family and hard of hearing from the Gustafsons. My Great Grandpa Gustafson was a short man and could have been Edvard Grieg’s twin, but Grandpa was a Swede.

    My Mom ended up with family photos from all sorts of relatives. Few had names and dates on the back, but we figured out who most of them were from the way they looked like living relatives. Most of the women in my family outlived the men which is good to know.

  8. Loved the family DNA comments. You have some good genes going for you. Yep, near-sightedness can run in families. Always wondered about my horrible near-sightedness and general bad vision until one day I looked at my paternal grandmother’s immigrant German parents and siblings. They all wore glasses long before being four-eyed was common. My immigrants northern Italian grandparents had 20-20 vision, which only my brother got. He got the blond hair and blue eyes, too. We should all be glad we all look different, and, hey, I don’t think you need a sack over you’re head. Someone was just jealous!

  9. Wow! I had no idea that you were one of my group of tall women! As an elementary teacher for 32 years, I became used to the comment, “Wow, you’re so big!” I would reply “Yes, I am very tall!” My legs are longer than my husband’s even though he is taller than I am. Our son got those long legs, too. Always excited about any new book from you!

    • On the reservation as a librarian, I often wore a bright green knit dress on storytelling days, and the kids called me the “Jolly Green Giant.

  10. First of all, beautiful picture.
    And I had no idea you were 6’1″. I’m only barely 5′ and my grandfather on my dad’s side was 6′ but my grandmother was only 4’11”. So dad’s brothers and sister ranged from 4’11” to over 6′. Guess I took after my grandma.

    I always enjoy your blogs and love your books too.

  11. I enjoyed your blog today. I had just finished a Zoom meeting with members of our local Genealogical Society and DNA was the main subject. I often wonder where I inherited certain peculiarities from, I was blessed with good skin, and a white streak in my hair on the front right side…my cousin has this also 🙂 When I find something wrong I always just ask myself, I wonder who I got that from?

    Thank you for your books and blog.

    By the way we met last time in Chehalis on my 65th birthday…and this year I finally retired! And I am loving it.


  12. That’s a lovely picture and I DO remember you were tall. I have fond memories of halcyon days in Seattle. We walked with John J. from your condo to the Public Market on Saturdays for breakfast with a view and shopping. You were single then and sometimes told us stories about a man you’d met that you called the “Greyhound”. You had just finished a little book of deeply personal poetry. I have it somewhere waiting to be unboxed along with the rest of my library now that I’ve moved to Oregon. I’m so happy for your success even though it’s sometimes been a challenge. Cheers to a new year and more titles to come!

  13. Army brat here, who’s been good friends with Busks for over 40 years. The tall and lanky definitely run in the family. I’ve always thought Dianna took after her mother’s side, but that glamour shot photo reminds me so much of her! Love the books, particularly the Joanna Brady ones, because I got to visit Grandma Busk in Bisbee in 1977 or so with them. I have a picture of my parents and Mr. & Mrs. Busk on the train to go into the copper mine. Thank you for sharing your stories!

  14. I love that you have a blog that I just discovered! I’m a huge fan and have read and bought all your books. My father’s family is all tall and I have a son and daughter who are tall and another daughter who is tiny. I was only 5’6” until my scoliosis took hold and a back fracture, and I’m now just 5’2”. Sad comedown. Mama and Daddy had gorgeous skin and I got that and am mistaken for 60 when I’m really 80! Please keep writing!

  15. I love “The Shrine”!!! What a great display of all of your awards! You are so deserving of those and many more! Thank you for all of your research and writing, I don’t know what I’d do, during this crazy year, without you!!

  16. How insulting that someone would say you need a bag over your head. You’re gorgeous. Those glamour shot pictures were loads of fun. I regret not getting one myself. Love your weekly blog posts and you sharing your thoughts about a variety of things. Thank you for your writing. As always, I’m looking forward to your next book.

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