Monday, July 20, 2009

Growth is an act of separating

When you plant a Linden tree and its roots are young, they’re tightly bound in a burlap sack. Drop the sack down a hole, fill it with dirt, water it, and the roots soon will break free and spread far away from one another. They wander from the trunk, each root spreading.

I heard about a mother who gave birth to a baby girl. Years later when the girl was a teen, she needed a blood transfusion, and the mother volunteered. The nurses found the blood types didn’t match, and they refused. Later the lab said that the mother and daughter did not even share the same DNA, and the girl must have been adopted. They scolded the mother, who insisted it was her birth child. The lab said impossible. Everyone played it like they were stumped.

The mother visited her own mother, the girl’s grandmother, and the grandmother told this story – that the girl’s mother had been conceived as a twin, but that the sister had died in the womb. It was a strange pregnancy, the grandmother said, sad and hopeful all at one time, carrying one living fetus and one dead. The grandmother wondered how she might give birth, one child crying for life and the other not. When the day came, it was joyous. Only one girl emerged, and she was fat, strong and red.

Upon hearing this story, the lab tested the mother’s DNA a second time. Only this time they did not draw blood, but saliva. The saliva proved a perfect match to the daughter. It seems the mother carried two sets of DNA – one her own, and the other of the dead sister she had absorbed in the womb. What had happened in there? Was it hunger, or just a rivalry between sisters that was nipped in the bud before it got out of hand?

Growth is an act of separating. Sometimes we separate by devouring those we mean to leave behind.

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