Where You Get Your Chin From

A year ago to the day, while visiting my parents for Christmas, I’m sitting in my mother’s study. I’m fixated on her laptop monitor, trying to make sense of and keep up with the military jargon flying back and forth on the Great War Forum in response to a question I’d asked about my great grandfather, Lachlan Macdonald, who lost his life in that horrific conflict.

My mother, sitting beside me, is intently studying old family photographs with her mini magnifying glass, looking every bit the family historian. Out of the easy, companionable silence, she suddenly exclaims, “That’s where you get your chin from!” I look across at her, not computing. “Huh?” She looks up, taps a photograph with her magnifying glass and says again, “That’s where you get your chin from!”

The photograph in which my mother found my chin! Great Grandmother, Christina Cameron, is the woman seated on the right of the picture. Her brother and my great grand uncle, Murdo Cameron, is the man seated on the left of the picture.

I lean across, looking at the photograph. It’s true: my great grandmother, Christina Macdonald née Cameron, has the same dent in her chin, slightly off centre, like the indentation left by a finger in clay. I look at my mother and check out her chin. The dent is missing. “It must have skipped a generation, then!”

It’s strange, you know, that I never questioned where it came from, that dent. I remember it causing one of a number of insecurities when I was younger but it never occurred to me that it may be an “heirloom”, especially since it was missing in both my parents. Now it represents a family fingerprint, a part of my inheritance, a connection with my Cameron past, with my great grandmother, character that she was. In the same photograph, it’s clear that my great grand uncle, Murdo Cameron, carried the same mark. My grandmother carried it, to a slightly lesser degree. My uncle carries it.

So what about you? Where do you get your chin from? Or your toes? What about your mouth, your eyes, your ears? What are your family fingerprints? Did they skip a generation or two?

In celebration of family and the ties that bind us together