Gifts and Talents — Family Talents

For our December Wicked Wednesdays we will be talking about gifts and talents. I recently read that the difference between talents and gifts are that talents are inherited, and gifts are received. Is there a talent that runs through your family?

Edith/Maddie: That’s a complicated question, Sherry, and it gets deep in the weeds of the nature/nurture debate! I knew someone who wrote an entire doctoral thesis on the notion of talent, positing that in many parts of the world there’s no such thing as musical talent, that everyone can sing and play an instrument. But I digress. Is kindness a talent? Is a love of reading? My family – parents, siblings, cousins, and children – all have a habit of being kind and are inveterate readers. My father was a lifelong letter writer, typing long missives both informative and witty, and I have a calling to write fiction. Is that a talent – or a love honed by practice?

Sherry: It is a complicated question. I disagree with the musical talent because I have family members who can’t sing–at all and that has been passed through three generations! If a sense of humor or quick wit is a talent then it has been passed down. I can only trace it through four generations, but my great-uncle Bryon lived with my father’s family and was funny. My dad was funny, I’m funny (to varying degrees), and my daughter is funny. We love to laugh.

Barb: For a long time I’ve thought our family’s talent was breeding out talent. Ancestry tells me my forebears were music teachers. That’s gone. My grandfather was a tremendous athlete, captain of the Princeton football team and still the holder of a collegiate record for the 100 yard dash. (Sort of a cheat because they run the 100 meters now, but still he kept it for a good long time.) That’s gone. My father’s mother’s family were famous cabinet makers and later among the founders of the American Society of Interior Designers. That’s gone, both the work-with-hands skill and the artistic talent. My husband’s parents were a mathematician and an engineer. Not only did our branch get none of that, none of his five brothers and sisters have it. If there’s one thing we are good at it’s what I’m doing right now: writing. My son and daughter are both talented fiction writers. And a couple of weeks ago, in the car, my granddaughter Viola, out of the clear blue sky, said, “You know even a third person narrator has a point of view,” and went on to give examples from books she had read. Later in the back seat, she and her second cousin, both age 9, had a long discussion about run-on sentences and books where they are used as a literary technique. All I could think was that my daughter, who teaches college freshman composition and literature, would weep with joy if most of her students were able to have that conversation.

Julie: What an interesting question. Edith, you bring up a fascinating point about nurturing talent. I’d imagine that not shaming people for a lack of talent would go a long way towards that. Barb, the idea of breeding it out makes me laugh. I’m also wondering if Viola is available to help me work through some POV issues with my WIP. Does my family have talent that is passed down? I’d say no. We do have passions that are passed down–baking, travel, laughter, crafts, creativity–that become talents of a sort, but they all get challenged in different ways.

Jessie: What a thought provoking question, Sherry! I am not sure about talents, but I do know both sides of my family possess the skill of thrift and making not much into a bit more so that it suffices. It especially applies to meals. I think of it as the “loaves and fishes” skill. My maternal grandmother could make a meal for a crowd out of a practically empty cupboard and my sister and I both can too. It serves particularly well when faced with a week of weather too bad to drive out, or unexpected dinner guests!

Readers: Do you have a talent that runs through your family?

20 Thoughts

  1. No talents as far as music, arts, or anything handy like sewing or knitting – at least not anything that is consistent through the generations. But I can say the women in my family are survivors, none of us give up when going gets tough!

  2. No talents that you can see or hear like painting or playing a musical instruments. However, from family stories passed down through the generations, I’d have to say my family has a talent for taking bad situations and working them them – not giving up and working hard to make it work or to turn it around. Like being planted in a place where you don’t understand the language or their ways, but still finding a way to support your family and being able to pass on that strong minded, stick to it attitude to the next generation.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

  3. It’s an interesting question. I can’t think of a talent that is shared by multiple members of my family. We’re all good at different things.

  4. Certainly no musical, writing, or artistic talent in my family as far back as I’m aware. My father was an accomplished cabinet maker and all around handyman. I have a knack for figuring out how to fix things or a more efficient way of doing things, but I think that is because I was taught to be observant. Don’t know if talent has anything to do with it. Be warned: stay away from me when I pretend to know how to sing in the car. I have to keep the windows up to avoid causing accidents.

  5. My parents were both great athletes (mom – tennis, dad – basketball) and passed that on to me. Yes, VERY short me lettered in basketball. lol There was no woman’s tennis team in school, but I won area tournaments. I married an athlete and #1 son is a great one as well. He’s one of those people who can ski backwards down a ski slope while talking to you. Sheesh.

    Mom and dad loved to write. Mom aspired to a career in it and was good enough to do so, but she met dad and in her day, his career trumped hers. #1 son picked up dad’s poetic side. As for the culinary arts, parental units weren’t any good at it, so I vowed to be better. And #1 son has a flair for inventive, delicious dishes. Dad had a darkroom and gave me my first camera. #1 son loves to do it and seems to have a pretty good eye for lighting, as did his father.

    As for singing, I can and have done so in groups and in solos, and while every person in the family loves music and has massive collections, attends concerts large and small, I seem to be the only one who can carry a tune or hear when somebody is off key. #1 son was asked to stop singing by his school music teacher because he was so far from the notes on the page. Go figure.

    With all of that, how much was from exposure to people and situations that nurtured our various interests, and how much was innate skill that just needed cultivating? I’m just happy to have been a part of the fabulous experience.

    1. I’ve said if there were an Olympic event for overthinking, our family would take gold, silver and bronze. But it sounds like your family could give us a run for our money. A Family Feud of overthinking.

  6. I don’t know about talent, but in my family, we have had three generations of teachers. Makes me think there’s something going on there.

    1. Wow! There is something going on. My parents were both teachers and I admire anyone willing to take on educating young people. I was going to get a degree in secondary education but quit right before I was supposed to student teach. I knew it wasn’t for me.

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