And where did you learn that?

Today I watched a lady from church talking with her hands, eyebrows leaping, and she suddenly reminded me very much of her children. I wondered to myself, “Did her children learn these gestures from her? Or are they engrained in their DNA? If they had been raised by another woman, would they still talk like their mother?”

Of course, it all comes back to the old environment vs. hereditary debate (which Edward Eager says is “quite a conflict” if I remember correctly). But it does give rise to an interesting notion: if, as I suspect, gestures, expressions, and other idiosyncrasies are picked up through imitation, that means that they are passed down through generations like family heirlooms. You might hold your hands just the way your great-grandfather did. Or that eyebrow-raise could be the one that your Puritan ancestor gave her Puritan husband while their Puritan daughter watched and took note. Or perhaps Japheth, when he stepped down out of the Ark, stretched his arms and sighed, just as you do when you finally escape from the car after your family has spent eleven hours on the road, driving through Montana.