Two of my cousins got into genealogy some years ago, and delved into the Bowers family tree back to the early 1600s in Connecticut. They then pursued a line back to England, but it turned out to be mistaken. It’s clear, however, that the Bowers’s came from England at some point prior to that, and settled in Connecticut, and then in New Jersey, and then moved to Tennessee and stayed there for nearly two centuries.
The family is present on both sides of my immediate family–my parents were distant cousins, not unusual when you are born into a farming community in Tennessee before the Great Depression. I’ve been thinking about it today, however, because my sister Glenda and I have both been dealing with skin cancers for several years, and no one else in our immediate family has had that problem.
We are both pale, fish-belly pale, even though we once had very dark hair. Glenda has brown eyes, and I have light hazel eyes, like our mother’s father. There’s a lot of environment going on, because no one in the 1800s was lying on a float in a swimming pool for hours at a time. There’s also misguided medical practice, because I had x-ray treatment for acne when I was a teenager.
But I like to picture our foremothers (and forefathers) plowing fields in a green England under perpetually cloudy skies, or maybe cruising around in Viking boats, pale as ghosts and deadly as spectres. It’s a comforting fantasy when the dermatologist starts to biopsy that basal cell carcinoma. If we were still in Wales or Yorkshire or Denmark, this wouldn’t be happening.