Sam was a shy child. A very shy child. She was chatty enough with people she felt comfortable with but around strangers, she was the Ice Queen until she was ready to thaw. It was something I discussed with the administrator of the pre-school she attended a long time ago. Teacher Gladys, her name was, and she had a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Psychology and Elementary Education respectively. She was writing her dissertation for her PhD at the time.
During one of those discussions, I mentioned to Teacher Gladys that Speedy was a shy child too. It was a casual comment which I started to dismiss almost as soon as it came out of my mouth. I said, “Of course, that’s a nurture issue and it’s not like it’s something that Sam could have inherited from her father.” Not a gene thing, you know?
Her answer surprised me. “Oh, you never know,” she said. “There are cases which tend to show otherwise.” It was something I would ponder upon for years and years to come. There had been other things — behavior of the girls that I couldn’t understand where could have come from only to find out later that Speedy behaved similarly in the past.
I was reminded of it again when we were in Greenhills a couple of days ago and bought two cactus plants for Sam. She had been pining for cactus plants for a long time. A long time. She had no place for them in the old house but she has a lot of space for them now.
I don’t like cactus plants. I don’t see their beauty, I don’t see their value as ornaments. They’re interesting as plant specimens, sure, for all their ability to live and thrive with very little water. But, beyond that, my interest in them is zero. Speedy, on the other hand, had a large collection of cactus plants when he was younger.
Likes, dislikes and behavior are not physical attributes that a person inherits through the parents’ genes. But since a person is said to be a product of both his nature and nurture environments, where does the similarity in likes, dislikes and behavior fit in? Do genes pass on more than physical traits? What a mystery man is.