Tonight I remember my great grandmother. I only knew about her in drips and drabs, in portions, in pieces. She came from a family of bone-setters and physicians who plied the roads, wandering into villages to heal the sick. She was also a herbalist, of sorts.

My grandmother didn’t talk much about her. My information about her is from my dad who got his from his mother – and even then, memories fade or are self-censored.

When I found out that one side of my family had bone-setters and physicians, it it was a little too late.

I should have become a physician, I told my dad who basically rolled his eyes at me.

You are bad in maths, he said.

I promised myself to take the Red Cross first-aid course.


I often feel that our ancestors speak to us, deep in our blood, deep in our bones. Heritage is not merely passed down through physical bloodlines, but the memories encoded in our familial history. Their dreams, their hopes, what they did, what they loved. And like genes, they skip generations.

That’s why my daughters had golden-tinged hair when they were born and that’s why my youngest look Eurasian. I tell my husband that it’s because of the Portuguese blood in his family.

But it’s not just blood and genes. Our ancestors impart their knowledge in so many ways. Most of the time, we just have to dig.

I wonder if my love for plants stems from my great grandmother. Botany. Plant lives. Looking at weeds and knowing their worth. Foraging for wild greens. Knowing each and every plant name when I walk along the roads. Did she do the same thing too? Memorizing the names? Herbalism is both learnt knowledge and intuition. Did she learn from her parents?


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