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Mack Williams: Spit in a bottle

No, this is not some smart-assed take-off on Jim Croce!

Many are familiar with Ancestry DNA’s ad-picture of a man finding out he was related to royalty (his striking resemblance to Dan Rather making me think that relation to the retired news anchor was going to be the surprise).

I sent Ancestry their $100, not knowing how long it might be before they had another reduced-price “special.”

About a week later I received a box with a little vial into which spittle (mine, not the “bug’s”) was to be deposited. The cap contained blue preservative fluid to mix with the specimen (since no one wants “spoiled spit”). This assured the sample would be pristine when it reached the lab in Utah.

I’ve produced many “specimens” at the doctor’s office over the years, but none so difficult as was this salivary “bodily fluid” (allusion to “Dr. Strangelove, or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Bomb” 1964).

The directions said to spit into the vial (“vile” as that may sound) up to the fill line; and that only liquid, not bubbles counted for the test.

After a few minutes, I noticed I was producing mostly bubbles, with only a smidgeon of liquid below. I tried thinking about steak, but that didn’t seem to help.

Production of that “other” specimen is sometimes helped along by the thought of a mountain stream.

Leaving blood as the only bodily fluid whose exiting doesn’t require  a particular “frame of mind.”

Following about 5 minutes, I had produced the required amount of saliva, with a frothy “head” of micro-bubbles on top. Perhaps if I had held the collection bottle at a 45 degree angle, the “head” would have been less (works with beer).

I dropped my sample into a Post Office collection box and waited (not at the box, though). I imagined my “double helix” going through airline turbulence and over highway potholes, the Ancestry mailer and “blue liquid” keeping it in shape for testing in Salt Lake City.

After about 3 1/2 weeks, I received an e-mail from Ancestry saying my results were in.

Some things were expected, some unexpected. Having been interested in Germany for many years (as former classmates of Granite Quarry School and East Rowan can attest) I found out I’m 29 percent Western Europe (Germany, France, etc.).

I’m 24 percent Great Britain. Grandmother Williams always mentioned Wales, and there’s a great deal of English too: Parker, Wright, Washington (in its earliest: “Wessington”), such specifics already on records.

Two great surprises were: 26 percent Irish, 9 percent Spanish. I read where some of the Welsh have Spanish blood due to early-on Spanish shipwrecks there.

I’ll never poke fun at the “Armada” again!

And I guess all those Saint Patrick’s Days spent without wearing green or drinking green beer have been a waste (I wonder if regular-color beer counts?).

Three other surprises: 6 percent Eastern Europe, 2 percent European Jewish, and 1 percent Middle Eastern.

The results can even be different for siblings, making each family birth, to a certain extent, kind of like a “Gregor Mendel crapshoot!” (math still involved).

I received an e-mail from Ancestry saying I could download the raw data of my DNA test, so I did. All of those resulting numbers and “A’s,” “Cs,” “Gs,” and “Ts” reminded me of analog pictures of moon and planets sent back by NASA’s cameras. I equal over 18 million bytes, a sort of “family album,” including, I guess: dinosaurs, fish, and “primordial ooze” (uh oh, “fluids” again!). I guess none of us, including our pets, fleas (pets’ fleas) are “simple.”

If I make pilgrimages to my “percentages,” I’ll have to go to Berlin, Belfast, London, Madrid, Kiev, Warsaw and the grave of Omar Sharif. (Those of you with me back at East Rowan probably figured I’d do that anyway).

I have a natural talent for impersonation and dialects (brother Joe , son Jeremy, and daughter Rachel do also) one of my favorites being the late, great Irish Tenor John McCormack.

In fact, I can express my DNA results in song: 29 percent German, national anthem “Deutschland Uber Alles”;  26 percent Irish, “The Dear Little Shamrock”; 24 percent British, “Rule Brittania”; 9 percent Spanish, “Granada”; 6 percent Eastern Europe, “Kalinka”; 2 percent European Jewish, the male characters’ songs from “Fiddler”; and for the last one — 1 percent Middle Eastern — I can hum sections of “Scheherazade,” “In a Persian Market” and the “Arabian Dance” from the “Nutcracker.”

Come to think of it, my longtime preferences in music and dialect impersonation tell me that perhaps the sending off of my spit was superfluous.

Since it sounds as if deep down, I already knew.

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