The Family Face

By Beck

I posted one of the super-rare pictures of my kids yesterday, because it was my son’s birthday and he asked me, wistfully, why I never put pictures of him on my blog. And so I spent the rest of the day receiving very nice comments over how much people think he looks like me – which was lovely, of course. And he does look like me, and gets his mouth, eyes, colouring and chin directly from me, but everything else comes from other sources, as you can tell from his general attractiveness and his specific lack of fivehead.

There’s a poem by Thomas Hardy that goes, in part:

I am the Family Face
Flesh perishes, I live on…

And my Boy has the Family Face, carrying with him the face that sailed here 150 years ago, the face that old photographs and old paintings show over and over again. I have it, my father has it, his grandfather had it, and so on until the names are forgotten.

It is a strange comfort to see so much of myself in one of my children, the oddly comforting feeling that my replacement is safely here. He doesn’t act much like me – he’s nicer, for one, and he’s much smarter, for another – but our shared face lulls me into complacency (“Flesh perishes, I live on...”). My oldest child looks like her paternal grandmother who in turn looked like her maternal grandmother and so on and my youngest child looks like my grandmother who only looked like herself, and they share the same grey-green eyes that no other living family member has. And not one of them looks very much like the other.

When I look at them, though – at any one of them – I see their father.

My son has my eyes, it is undeniably true. And yet the look from them – the patient affection, the sudden leap of knowing how to do something tricky, the bemused exasperation – is his father. My son has his father’s eyes. And my children don’t look anything like each other, but they are still recognizably our children.

We do not get to choose what will live on, what our children will carry. We do not get to choose the times that our children will be born into or the events that will happen in their lives. But I believe that life is a beautiful thing, and that many more generations of brown-eyed children will be born, children with my family face, maybe, children who also look quietly like my husband, or with eyes the mysterious grey-green of still, deep water. Flesh perishes, I live on.

24 Responses to The Family Face
  1. Stephanie
    January 21, 2010 | 5:10 pm

    Everyone thinks my kids look like me but I don’t see it, but maybe a bit in Noah- who also is a lot like me in mannerisms. And, shh, of all the kids, this comforts me that it’s in him.


  2. patois
    January 21, 2010 | 5:25 pm

    Achingly beautiful. My firstborn was and still is the spitting image of his father. My second, Daughter, has that flash of angry eyes under bushy eyebrows (just like me) but is otherwise far more aligned in looks with her dad. That demonic youngest boy of mine? So 100% me it’s scary. And, yet, oddly comforting.

  3. Kat with a K
    January 21, 2010 | 5:48 pm

    Oh, beautiful.

    My brother is the image of our maternal grandfather and uncle, and I look much more like our paternal side, but – we look like each other, too. And the interesting part is that our personalities are the same way. He is much more similar to our mom’s family and I to our dad’s, but we’re also alike in a lot of ways.

  4. Janet
    January 21, 2010 | 6:09 pm

    Everyone says that my girls look like me, my son like his father. And it’s true, but I think part of that is sex-typing because we have pictures of H. wearing D’s hockey equipment and, with her long hair tucked away in a helmet, people are shocked that the picture isn’t actually of D. They bear striking resemblence to one another, too. Even the baby. Curious.

  5. Kelly
    January 21, 2010 | 7:09 pm

    It was profoundly moving for my husband when our oldest child was born, and I said, “Now you have a blood relative.” Being adopted and totally ignorant of his background or heritage, he was overwhelmed to think that here was one person who was (and is) flesh of his flesh.

    She also looks almost identical to him, in a female way, which just added to the mystique.

  6. Nicole
    January 21, 2010 | 7:14 pm

    I love it! Very gorgeous post – it’s lovely to think of generations living on, inheriting our traits (although, sheesh, I hope they don’t inherit some of my lesser traits…)

    You know, my older son looks exactly like my husband, and for some reason my MIL always denied this and said he looked exactly like his paternal grandfather. Of course, my husband looks like his dad, but my MIL could never see that. AND IT INFURIATES ME. I don’t know why it does, but the fact that she would say “Mark looks JUST like his grandpa” instead of his dad, it just gets my blood pressure soaring. Strange, why should I care? But I do. And now I’ve vented so I feel better, thanks!

  7. Happy Geek
    January 21, 2010 | 7:18 pm

    I love the idea of the family face.

  8. Eryn
    January 21, 2010 | 7:28 pm

    What a beautiful post. The time you spent on this really shines.

    I remember when it went from a curse to a complement when people would tell me I looked just like my parents 🙂 I’m a 50/50 mesh of the two of them.

  9. Omaha Mama
    January 21, 2010 | 7:44 pm

    I love this post. I disagree with people all the time who tell me that my B looks like me. I always say that she’s far cuter than me. I’m not digging for compliments, I just really think she’s cuter than I ever was or have been. She got her dad’s hazel eyes, yet must resemble me more. My boy got my blue eyes but looks just like his daddy. Genetics are a funny trick. It’s tempting to just keep making babies to see how many kids it takes to make a full punnett square?!

  10. Tonggu Momma
    January 21, 2010 | 8:56 pm

    Our daughter looks nothing like us physically. She is not even the same race as us. Yet I still see our family face in the way she grins… the way she walks… the way she raises her chin obstinately.

  11. christine
    January 21, 2010 | 11:40 pm

    it is a strange thing seeing yourself, physically and emotionally, in one’s child. i look a my son and see my face but look at my daughter and see my soul.

    i look at them both and see my heart.

    great post, beck.

  12. slouchy
    January 21, 2010 | 11:45 pm


  13. suburbancorrespondent
    January 21, 2010 | 11:48 pm

    Our 6 kids look like each other – and only somewhat like Larry and I. It’s as if we rolled the dice 6 times and came up with the same roll.

  14. Tracey
    January 21, 2010 | 11:53 pm

    He definitely is a cute kid, Beck. And I loved the crooked pictures of the cat and tree in the background. That made me happy.

    Hope his day was AWESOME.

  15. t. allen-mercado
    January 22, 2010 | 12:56 am

    Beautiful, beautiful post. I want to bust into my children’s rooms and relish in the legacy that lives within their dark eyes, full lips and coiled locks. But, I’ve already weirded them out once today or so I’ve been told.

  16. PastormacsAnn
    January 22, 2010 | 3:09 am

    Oh. my. word. Beck, that was just lovely. So lovely.

    I understand what you are saying and I see it in my children. They are all so different, but they all carry us (Pastormac and me) in their personalities and physical selves into the future. We are there in them, as are our ancestors as well. They are each a new creature and yet an amalgamation of that uniqueness and the past as well.

    Well done, Beck. You’ve expressed it so beautifully.

    Happy Birthday again to The Boy.

  17. Kat
    January 22, 2010 | 12:06 pm

    Oh what a beautiful thought put into words.

    Everyone says that my boys all look exactly the same and I think they each look completely different from each other. Funny.

  18. Jen
    January 22, 2010 | 2:18 pm

    I love your beautiful posts.

  19. Reluctant Housewife
    January 22, 2010 | 11:30 pm

    People are always telling me that my kids look like me. And that they look like my husband. And it’s true – they do. Bud has my freckles and colouring, Monkey has my smile.

    This was a lovely post. I can really relate to how you’re feeling.

  20. Painted Maypole
    January 23, 2010 | 3:42 pm

    nice. i see my husband when I look at my daughter. through and through. oh. and my pointy chin. 😉

  21. Alison
    January 23, 2010 | 8:26 pm

    My son has my eyes, and I also think the mischievous expression I see in them comes from his father.

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