In honor of Mother's Day, I'm going to spend five seconds thinking about each woman in the proud line of matriarchs who brought me here.
My mother left a biology career to become a politician and a painter. She gave up cigarettes in her 30s, shoulders unreconciled issues with her father, and is unable to operate any video player newer than a VCR. The soup cans in her pantry are always in neat alignment. She is tall and striking, and was once cast in a commercial to play Cleopatra.
At the five-second mark I turn to thinking about my maternal grandmother. She became a locally famous grower of roses when her husband invested in oil fields and lost the bet. She died in her late 60s, drifting in a deep dementia and believing that she was standing in the snow-covered barn of her childhood.
I will complete this project 112 years after I have begun: This is when I will reach my great706,406,493 grandmother, the first female in the history of the planet. By a hiccup of genetic mutation, this is the moment when gender splits into being. She is the first to need a partner, to seek another half, to win the yoke of yearning. She desires not an equal but a peer, something familiar but alien, something she does not quite comprehend but which holds her only possibility for future. She is a single cell, as complicated inside as a city. Millions of proteins traffic like worker bees, clustering around a lithe and twisted cord of genetic code. She touches against other cells, shares experience, builds something new. She carries the first draft of a genetic handbook that will pass from female to female in an uninterrupted, invisibly small gift of inheritance.
I am here only because each one of you, without exception, handed down the heirloom. Despite all the accidents and mishaps offered by the world, not one among you failed to mate. You are an unbroken chain of winners, and I exist only as a testament to your successes. Happy Mother's Day, one and all!