Family origins as a birthday present?

“Brian! You need to come over right now and get your birthday present! It says ‘time sensitive’ on it!”

Oh no!

Not like, “Oh no!” I’m not going to do it. More like, “Oh no! What could it be?” “Oh no! Why in the world is it ‘time sensitive’ that I have to get it right now?” or “Oh no! Is this going to kill me?”

“Mom, my birthday isn’t for like 20 days. What is it?” I said into the phone.

“I can’t tell you,” she answered. “You just have to come get it right now. What are you doing, anyway? Watching the ‘Puppy Bowl?’”

It was Super Bowl Sunday. I think I WAS watching the Puppy Bowl. I didn’t have time for this.

I told my daughter to get in the car. That I needed moral support … and a witness. Plus, someone to drive the car if I got injured.

“I’m only 12,” she said. “I can’t drive!”

“That’s of little consequence. Now, bring your bike helmet and the first aid kit we got for the hurricane.”

Time sensitive? What could it be? Steaks? She bought my brother and me frozen Omaha Steaks once. Maybe mail-order ice cream? A baby duckling? Or something more lethal … like kerosene. There was no telling with my mother.

“OK, here,” she said thrusting a white envelope into my hand as we walked in. “Happy birthday! It’s a DNA kit and it cost $91. I got your brother a different one that cost $99, so I owe you $8.”

Then she cursed, as she often does, and blamed “inflation.”

It was a lot to process. I stared at the small package while my daughter broke down into hysterical laughter. “Oh, that is so funny. Your birthday present is finding out you’re part Cuban! And you ALREADY KNOW you’re part Cuban!!!”

The kit was from a company that traces ancestral heritage by taking DNA swabbed from your mouth and then mapping your ethnic and geographic history. “Uncover your heritage and find out where your ancestors came from,” it proclaims on their Web site.

This sure beat the year I got dress socks for my birthday!

I don’t know why it said “time sensitive.” It’s not. I think they just want you to do it quick so you don’t come to your senses and ask for your $91 back.

Part of me is worried, though. Do I really want my DNA in a database? Stored forever and possibly used for nefarious purposes – maybe some evildoer will clone, of all people, me! Or maybe I’ll find out something I don’t want to know, like I’m descended from Attila the Hun or the lady who did the “Where’s the Beef?” commercials. Maybe I’m part muskrat!

The kit is sitting on a desk by the door of my house. My mother keeps calling to see if I’ve done it yet — “It’s time sensitive, you know!”

I tell her our family has been around for thousands of years and can wait one more day, at least until I finish the “Puppy Bowl.”


Also published on Medium.

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