Saturday, November 7, 2009

You have his body:

Both my mom & dad told me at various times when I was growing up that I had "Uncle Billy Cundiff's body." I assumed that meant that he was tall and gangly. I didn't know that Uncle Billy died the year before I was born, and I had no idea what he looked like. During the research for You'll Always Come Back I gradually figured out who was who in some of the hundreds of photographs that came from The Old House. One of those was Uncle Billy, when he was young, and quite dashing. I don't know about the rest, but I have hair and a nose like his.

Ever since finding that photo I've been obsessed with it. He's a very unusual looking man, with a face that seems hyper-sensitive. If I were to pick an ancestor to be, I'd certainly pick him, even though I know very little about his life.
If I'd only asked my dad, I'm sure he could have told me a lot about his uncle, but alas, like so many other questions I have about his family, it's unlikely that I'll ever know anything more about him than I do now. I asked my mom this evening if she remembered Uncle Billy, and to my surprise she did remember him visiting with my grandmother at her sister's house in Somerset. What was he like? I asked. "A statue." That was all I got.

When I first got the idea of reconstructing the bodies of my ancestors I had a moment of shock at the thought, as though just by thinking it I had broken a taboo. Should the body of an ancestor be imagined as erotic? And how to imagine a shared ancestral body?

For some reason this image is a little less shocking to me as a negative. Without the period clothing there's nothing to place the body in time ~ fashion has changed, but the body has changed little in millions of years.

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