Original influence


“We inherit from our ancestors gifts so often taken for granted. Each of us contains within us this inheritance of soul. We are links between the ages, containing past and present expectations, sacred memories and future promise.”

— Edward Sellner

A lot is made of influencers these days. The Kardashians. Various celebrities. Random people who collect Stanley water cups in every color of the rainbow for reasons that continue to elude me. Influencers, as we know them, build up a following by sharing their lifestyles and ideas with their “followers.”

I applaud anyone who shares their special gifts with the world. This is especially true if their talents go beyond buying things and then extolling others to also buy things.

Celebrity endorsements are certainly not new. They have been selling us cigarettes, medications and a variety of things for over a century. Yet, as we look to celebrities and others to tell us how we might want to live, we do have to ask if we are forgetting who the original influencers were: our own ancestors.


Each of us carries in our memories and DNA the core of those who came before us. Recently, we honored my amazing great-grandmother — and GirlWonder’s namesake — on what would have been her 122nd birthday. My great-grandmother, Jeannette, was born April 1, 1902.

We lost her in 1986, and yet not a day goes by that she isn’t still making an impact. Every single day of my life I do, say or think something that is a direct result of having had her in my life. She literally influenced the upbringing of our children even though she never met them. Ditto my other grandparents.

I definitely carry many of the traits of my people with whom I share lineage. We heard of the sheer stubborn vengeance of a great-great-GREAT grandfather in the 1870s and knew — instantly — where our own tenacity comes from.

On the other hand, I am not biologically related to our beloved, late “Granny,” yet I can assure you many of her ways live on through me and my children. Her kindness, wit and propensity to worry that no one was eating enough did not end with her. We’ve got this.

I read a theory that since children tend to adopt the mannerisms of their guardians and parents, we actually DO have many of the mannerisms of our ancestors. Do you laugh like your great-grandparent because that’s how your own grandma laughed, and she had copied it from her parents and passed it on down through the lineage to you? Does a tilt of the head or a certain way of thought get handed down the way family recipes do? I think so.

I love my uncle, but we don’t live close by and our children certainly didn’t spend much time with him growing up. Lately, I see photos of him at the same age BoyWonder is now, and I am struck with how alike their facial expressions and posture are. It has to be something at the core.

I read the inscription in the front of a c. 1906 book of children’s virtues given to Jeannette when she was just 4 years old. In it her father had written, “To Jeannette from her father. May this book keep you from trouble, or trouble will keep you from this book.” Honestly, that’s pretty cute. Perhaps I come by my wordy turn of phrase honestly?


I am not afraid of big brother watching me other than the risk Big Bro dies of sheer boredom. I spend most of my online time watching videos about home manicures and the perfect drapery length. I’m not really all that fascinating.

I have long known and have been apparently perfectly fine with the fact that most of my devices are listening in. I don’t care. In fact, I kind of like how it can make life easier.

I fully admit I sometimes purposely train the algorithm by searching for products or talking in the vicinity of those listening devices, about what I might like to buy, do or see. Voila! Like my own tiny little assistant, the devices will serve those images and ads to me.

Granted, there can be some confusion. If, say, Mr. Wonderful uses my phone to search for something, it will deeply confuse the algorithm. Suddenly my online feed, usually reserved for advertising cute shoes and nail polish, is beset with advertisements for front end loaders and welding supplies.

I don’t mind. It makes me seem cooler than I actually am. Maybe I’m a welder who likes a good classic red nail. Who knows?

I do wonder which of my mannerisms will live on with future generations. I am hoping for “whatever happens, at least make it sound funny” to carry on.

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