Lesson 45: my family tree
I romanticise my boyfriend’s West Country upbringing. It wasn’t all straight out of Enid Blyton (I’m fairly certain the Famous Five didn’t competitively eat pasties and get tanked up on scrumpy out of boredom) but, compared with my city childhood, it sounds idyllic.
It helps that his family are infectiously proud of the southwest. Especially his dad – let’s call him Keith – who has been charting their kin. So far, he’s tracked nine generations, all of them from the Devon area. Yet Keith is convinced of “Moorish” blood in their lineage, picturing swarthy sailors marauding the coast. “Look at this tan,” he’ll say, pointing conspiratorially at his arm. “Only 20 minutes of sun, that is.”
Every family has a myth. In mine, it was that we’re descendants of Genghis Khan, an assertion that means nothing to me except when I’m hungrily mauling a rotisserie chicken in the supermarket car park. None of us really cared about our genealogy. We couldn’t: too many painful family fractures made compiling it impossible, especially for an immigrant brood, far away from the relevant public records.
But when Keith sent off his DNA, and the test for Moorish heritage came back negative, he seemed crestfallen. I said it didn’t make him any less special. He laughed. “Thinking you’re special is for the young,” he said. “When you get to my age, you like to think of how unspecial you are.”
The stereotype of my generation is that we all think we’re one of a kind: unicorns. But, inspired, I looked online for others sharing a Genghis myth: there are (apparently) 16m 6m descendants. Sixteen million n people, a bit like me. Perhaps I’m a real grownup now, because I don’t mind one bit.