Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Major Mergers

Approximately three minutes after finding out the sexes of my babies, I started to focus on the next giant question:

Who will they look like?

Ty and I aren't exactly Barbie-and-Ken alike. He has comparable ethnicity and coloring to the new Bond (and he's every bit as handsome), while I'm a textbook dark Mediterranean. It's pretty interesting, as we each get to see how the other half lives. He's lived here for a gazillion years and is more New York than many New Yorkers, yet people constantly assume he's from out of town and/or really aristocratic, and disdain accordingly. In contrast, when we have traveled to other parts of the country, he has fit right in and I have been viewed as exotic. At home, I am often assumed to be Hispanic, and am offered the accompanying snubs or (metaphorical) embraces.

Our coming together was interesting. We were already pretty serious when he met much of my extended family. Everyone liked him, although they viewed him with curiosity until it was confirmed that he was, indeed, Catholic, and knew and enjoyed real Italian food, at which point all questions ceased and he just became part of the family. The marriage merged us rather seamlessly.

Now, we are merging in a way that is simultaneously wonderful and serious and scary. We will have children that will be part him and part me. I love my husband and I love his name, which I have taken, but I'd be lying if I didn't acknowledge the feeling of having lost a little part of myself in the process. My first and maiden last name were very coordinated and flowing, and my married name, while perfectly nice, is less coordinated and flowing. I no longer have the paisan connection with a fellow Italian simply by extending my hand and introducing myself by name--something that used to result in a wide smile and conversations about where our grandparents were from, our visits to the mother country, etc. My children will never have that.

On Ty's side, he showed me an article a couple of years back about how natural blondes will become extinct in the relatively near future, due, of course, to their reproducing with non-blondes. The article made me think of one of Ty's baby pictures--his soft, fuzzy blond head, more precious than a baby chick. It is unlikely that our children will be blond, and very unlikely that they'll be as blond as their dad. Their children will probably be even less so.

So, naturally, we will teach them Italian words and take them to the British Isles and feed them fusilli and shortbread and, in general, do our best to make them aware and proud of their different cultures, the different components of themselves. But they will probably look vastly more neutral than either of us, and therefore will probably miss out, just a little, on the time-honored tradition of being ethnic, of being obvious. It is the inevitable result of growing up several generations into living in what is, in my opinion, still the best country in the world, a grand experiment in which people really can come here from all over the globe and make lives for themselves and their families and marry whoever they please, regardless of how obvious or non-obvious their ethnicities are. Yet, still, it's a little bit agrodolce; a little bit bittersweet.


Blogger Mrs. Harridan said...

What a great post.

I would contribute that it's probably Ty's accent that gets him the "are you new in town, sonny?" treatment. But then, he wouldn't sound quite right with a real Noo Yawk accent.

And at the risk of distressing Mignon, he might be handsomer than the new James Bond (although even Booby mentioned Daniel Craig's hot bod when we saw the film). Perhaps it's just that Craig looks rather dangerous, while your husband is so obviously a sweet teddy bear of a person.

I think that any babies of yours will still retain a lot of Italian identity. They will look a bit less ethnic than you do, but I think they'll still be paisans at heart. My friend's nieces and nephews are half Italian, half Lithuanian, and by god those kids look as Italian as if they were whisked straight from Ellis Island in 1920. Those are some strong genes.

But who knows - you could have a throwback blond. It happens! No matter what, they will be adorable, just like their parents. :)

12:07 PM  
Anonymous mamatulip said...

I love this post.

I was very, very curious to see what my kids would look like. Dave is Italian -- his father's family immigrated here from Italy and his mother's side is Italian-American. Me? My mother was adopted, but we know her family was Italian-Canadian. My father's side of the family, however, were blonde-haired, blue-eyed Brits, with a dash of Jersey thrown in on behalf of my Grandmother.

Julia looks EXACTLY like my mother. Exactly. The people who knew my mother when she was healthy cannot get over the resemblance. It actually creeps my father out sometimes. And since I look a great deal like my mother, Julia looks a great deal like me, which Dave had a hard time with. She looks nothing like him.

Oliver is blonde-haired and green-eyed. He looks a lot like my father's side and a LOT like Dave. People say they see similarities between Oliver and Julia, but I don't.

Shifting gears...I can totally relate to what you were saying about your name. I LOVED my name before I got married and actually waited until I was ready to pop with Julia before I took Dave's. I miss my maiden name; although I'm used to my married name now it doesn't flow either. So I get you on that one, 100%.

2:20 PM  
Blogger Mignon said...

Mrs. H, you know me too well. I was already indignantly shaking my head at the Bond comparison. Mostly, though, because I saw it last night and I'm still, shall we say, moist... (sorry, TMI)

Arabella, this is a beautiful post. I also worried that my kids would be ugly, not look like me, not look like humans, etc. But then they were born, and well, I've never thought of it again until just now.

They won't miss out on being obvious. We're always different somewhere, you know? Just take them there. And anyway, babies are always obvious. They're going to be gorgeous. Period.

2:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just found your site via where am I going.... and I love it! Wishing you the best as you go on through this pregnancy... cheering you along from Ottawa!

3:31 PM  
Anonymous TB said...

Oh Arabella, I have found myself daydreaming about my son and who he will look like too! I can totally relate to this post.

Your boys will be beautiful no matter who they look like and since they are fraternal, you get TWO chances to be surprised. Also, who knows, you may have one who looks just like you and one who looks like TY, or they could both be a mix of the two of you. It's all so fascinating and exciting isn't it?

7:20 PM  
Anonymous wordgirl said...

Fabulous post, Arabella. The way genes from two people combine and recombine has never ceased to fascinate me. Our sons look as though they had three different fathers...but they didn't, of course. wonders how many we would have had to produce before we started getting kids who actually looked alike. I know yours will be gorgeous.

8:57 PM  
Blogger V-Grrrl said...

I'm Italian (born in NY). My mother was the first member of her family not born in Italy.

My dad was Irish.

Six kids in the family and only one had blue eyes. All brown-eyed brunettes. Nearly all Italian noses. Two of sisters had nose jobs and were so dark in the summer, the Puerto Rican guys used to hit on them.

My husband is Belgian and I totally expected my dark-haired, dark-eyed genes to roll over his.

I have two children that look like I adopted them through the Swedish embassy. They're not just blonde, they're VERY blonde, dramatically light blue eyes, and, thank God, perfect little noses. They have often been mistaken for twins--and I have often been mistaken for their ethnic nanny.

When we travel, Asian tourists stop them and take pictures, as if they're another tourist attraction set out to thrill and amaze.

When my son was born, the nurses at the hospital would stop by his bassinet and pluck off his little newborn cap just to the unbelievable thatch of true blonde hair he was born with.

My son's middle name is my maiden name. His hands are EXACTLY my hands, his feet are EXACTLY my husband's. E-Grrrl doesn't look a thing like me but she has qualities that bear my imprint so precisely. And she has her dad's hands and broad shoulders and, sadly, his baby fine, bone straight hair.

2:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Agrodolce will be one of those things that will permeate your life as a mother. I feel that tug, that happy/sad, that joy/sorry, that beautiful heartbreak almost daily as I raise my girls. Such is motherhood. Nice post, well said.

You'll be able to write it all down in your new book, Oh winner of The Mom Trap's give-away. I'm the author of the motherhood journal and I'm happy to meet you (virtually).

12:24 PM  
Blogger Arabella said...

I'm happy to meet you, Tracey, and you too, Mama V! Thanks for stopping by!

8:53 AM  
Blogger DebbieDoesLife said...

My husband is dark haired and gets tanned in the summer. I am as blonde as they come with no pigment at all in my skin. My boys all turned out blond with skin that tans. Doesn't matter - your babies will be perfect!

Are the twins identical?

7:52 AM  
Blogger Arabella said...

We're pretty sure they're fraternal, but we won't know for sure until birth.

8:50 AM  

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