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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?

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