The first thing my grandmother noticed when I was born was my chin. She held me close and stroked my face slightly with her pinky, grazing over the asterisk left in my soft clay. It’s a Peters trait, this dimple-chin.
In one of the earliest photos of my grandmother, she stands in front of a quaint house, hips forward and thumbs stuck in her overall pockets. Her face is full of dimples, two arcs next to her mouth and a star in the center of her chin. Even when she grew elderly and the skin beneath her face sagged down, that dimple was as crisp as the photograph. It aged much as her soul did, stubbornly.
As my dad ages, I see echoes of my grandmother in his face; the thousand ripples around the mouth, the cheeks plush like marshmallows, and of course that deep divot in his chin that, from a distance, is nothing but shadow. Sometimes he strokes it in thought, hunched over the table while filling in a quarter note or dotting an ‘i.’
Despite all the credit my dad’s side has gotten for my unique chin, I can’t un-see a spot on my mom’s chin that sags slightly inwards, like an overripe spot on a peach.
Once, after a trip to see her parents, my mom described spending weeks flooding the floor of their San Luis Obispo mobile home with boxes of old family pictures and memorabilia. With an excited inhale, she describe the delicate process of extracting a certain yellowed picture from its broken frame. Then she took the very picture out of an envelope for me to see. It’s a picture of our family in Italy so old even Grandpa can’t name everyone. I studied it like a crossword puzzle—looking for a familiar combination in all the empty spaces.
In the center of the photo was a elderly woman, apparently my great-great grandmother. She sat round-shouldered in a wooden chair, her hair was tucked back behind a kerchief and her face scrunched in the sunlight. Below her mouth was a dark dot. An imperfection. Then I studied each of the faces around her. Standing next to each other in a line, their chins made a long ellipses.