Beijing, 18 November 2012
In my last posting, I did not reveal if I am or not one of the millions who carry that little mutation in my DNA which codes for blue eyes. Well, … I think I do. My mother certainly carried the mutation because she had beautiful baby blue eyes, as did her brother. She once told me that her father also had blue eyes, although I have no direct confirmation of this. He died in the 1930s of tuberculosis. The only indirect confirmation I could have would be from photos. But photos with him in them are black and white and taken from a distance, and all I can see is his illness in his hollowed face. In any event, he must have carried the blue-eye gene, because otherwise my mother could not have had blue eyes. The gene for blue eyes is recessive and must be inherited from both parents to be expressed. So my maternal grandmother must have carried it too, although she definitely did not have blue eyes. As I dig into my memory for her face, I think I see hazel eyes.
My father’s eyes were brown, as were those of his brother and sisters. He inherited the gene for that from his father, although here too I have to depend on indirect evidence: a painting of him that hung in my paternal grandmother’s living room, in which his eyes were definitely brown. He also died in the 1930s, from leptospirosis, which he caught on the Norfolk Broads. From my grandmother my father inherited a blue-eye gene because she had beautiful blue eyes. By the time I knew her they had faded a little and her hair had turned completely white. But as a younger woman, she had dark hair: blue eyes and dark hair, she must have been a striking woman.
So my father had one brown-eye gene and one blue-eye gene, while my mother had two blue-eye genes. One of my sisters inherited my father’s brown-eye gene because her eyes are brown. My two brothers inherited the blue-eye genes from both sides pure and unadulterated, because they both have blue, blue eyes. The rest of my sisters have eyes with varying shades of green: I guess part of their DNA is pushing for some level of melanine in their irises.
As for me, my mother used to say that the colour of my eyes was caca d’oie, or goose poop. Anyone who has looked closely at defecations from geese will immediately recognize the allusion: green with brown streaks.