In Mrs. Mullin’s class
we studied genetics
and how sometimes
we turn out like our parents
because of what our
cells did and didn’t do
before we were born.

We brought in pictures
and made charts about
the color of our eyes
and the color of our hair.
Kyle Williams had red
hair and his mom and his dad
and his two brothers
and his aunt Agie
all had red hair too.

For the last assignment
we made trees as tall as we were
out of brown paper bags
and taped them to the wall.

Then we cut leaves out of
green construction paper and
wrote names on every leaf
about who we were
and who are parents were
and where we came from.

Kyle had so many red-headed
relatives he needed extra leaves
for his tree.

Day after day
leaves filled the trees
telling the names of people
and where they were born
going back farther and farther
until there were so many leaves on the walls of the room
that it looked like spring had just burst out
right in the middle of our class.

My tree was lopsided.
The left side, my mom’s side,
had lots of leaves,
so many you could barely see the wall behind them.
But the right side of the tree had just two,
my father’s name,
my grandmother’s name.
No birthdays.
No birthplace.
No more branches on the family tree.

On back-to-school night
while the parents oohed and aahed
over the forest of families
I stood with my back against the wall
my head tucked up
under the leaf with my father’s name
and pretended
I had nothing to hide.

@copyright Susan Taylor Brown 2010
All Rights Reserved