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My Gingerly Family

November 9, 2017

The mind is a funny thing. When I saw the Daily Prompt  this morning (‘gingerly’), my mind immediately went to ‘ginger’, the commonly-used term today for a person with red hair.

Visiting Santa 1958

My ginger sister & I, 1958

My parents had five children over the span of 16 years; four of us are dark-haired, one is a ‘ginger’ (my closest sister). Being the only redhead in the family, she often asked my parents why she was different. My father would tease her by saying he’d left a note out for the milkman (in the 1950s, milk was delivered right to the house) that read “two quarts of milk and one quart of cream” but it rained overnight and when the milkman read it, he thought it said, “one little red headed girl” (that my father thought this was amusing says something about his unique sense of humour; that my sister believed the story for years says something about her gullibility as a child).


Grammy Cook 1975


No one bothered to explain to her (or the rest of us, I suppose) that my mother’s mother had been a red-head in her younger days (by the time my sister and I were born, my grandmother was in her 70s and completely grey, although as I look at photos of her now, I can see the tiniest hint of red in her hair) and of Irish descent, so red hair certainly ran in the family (whether we would have understood that or not is debatable, I suppose; besides, the “being left on the doorstep by the milkman” story was much more exciting, if a little morally questionable).

As both my brothers and my oldest sister and I married and had children (my ‘ginger’ sister chose to remain childless) – and our children had children – there was always speculation about whether or not any of them would be born with red hair. My mother had always said she wanted a little red-haired grandchild; at the time of her death in 2012, she had twelve grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren – none of them ‘gingers’. It seemed as if the ‘red hair gene’ had disappeared from the family line.

However, there is still hope for a reappearance of this unique family trait. You see – even though less than 2% of the Canadian population has (natural) red hair – both my boys have married ‘gingers’ (people comment on this curious fact fairly often!) So officially there are now two ‘gingers’ in the ‘next generation’ of my family (and I occasionally catch a glint of red in my granddaughter’s curls!) Who knows – there might be many more ‘gingerly’ children born into future generations. In the meantime, though, I’ll enjoy and treasure the ones who currently share my life here on … the other side of 55.


My boys and their ginger girls (Christmas 2014)




  1. Sharon Mannell permalink
    November 20, 2017 9:25 pm

    Being the only ‘ginger’ in the family was always “interesting”. And, yes, I believed the milk man story for years – Dad was good at telling tall tales. The other stories I remember are the one about how everyone laughed when they first saw the new baby (me) because of my hair colour and the one where the nurse thought she’d brought Mom the wrong baby (all likely true). I keep hoping one of the nephews or nieces will produce a really ginger child so Mom can smile down on him/her from above. My colour has faded now and I need a little help to stay a redhead, but I’m glad I was the unique one of the family (even if it was because the milk man wasn’t great at reading a rain-soaked note).

    • November 21, 2017 10:41 am

      There are still more generations of the family out there – maybe one of them will produce a ‘true’ ginger someday.

  2. Melody permalink
    November 10, 2017 3:46 pm

    This piece was a delight to read. It reminded me of my Irish great-grandfather whose photo in beveled glass graces a wall in our home. He was a towhead with blue eyes. The genes afterward produced mostly dark-haired, dark-eyed family members until the birth of my grandson. He has eyes as blue as the sky and light golden hair. You never can tell.

    • November 10, 2017 6:33 pm

      Sometimes the gene skips several generations. With two ‘gingers’ now in the family, I’m hoping it passes down.

  3. November 10, 2017 1:01 pm

    Ginger is a good color and a good spice.

    Although my father had dark hair and my mother was a brunette, I was the only blonde on either side of my family and often called a “towhead.” Towhead, it turns out, is a term derived from the color of short, coarse flax fibers. The flax has since whitened.

    Your father’s story reminds me of one told by Gypsy Rose Lee who said that “she came from a long line her father told her mother.”

    • November 10, 2017 1:18 pm

      My ex and I are both brunettes; when my firstborn was delivered the nurse excitedly announced, “He’s got blonde hair” and I immediately said (aloud!) “Don’t tell my husband that”. LOL! (My son’s hair eventually darkened …)

  4. Jane Watt permalink
    November 10, 2017 10:27 am

    I really enjoyed that, I can just imagine your Dad telling her that story!

    • November 10, 2017 10:52 am

      That she believed it for so many years was a testament to his story-telling skills!

  5. November 9, 2017 12:43 pm

    Oh, I enjoyed your post probably because my paternal grandmother (who I never knew because she passed away when I was a baby) was a ginger too. I only know this because my parents told me since all the photos we have of her are black and white and she was white-haired in most of them. Anyway, in my younger years, I could find red strands of hair on my own head but my hair was predominantly brunette. I’ve always wondered if some red-hair might show itself again in my family but so far the tally is zero. However, both of my cousin’s children who are adults now have red hair. Funny how the genes disperse. By the way, I loved the photos of your family too!

    • November 9, 2017 3:51 pm

      I always thought that if I’d had a girl, she’d have been a ginger; instead I had two boys, both brunettes, who’ve blessed me with ginger daughters-in-law. And who knows, maybe my granddaughter’s hair will turn ginger as she gets older (or she’ll have ginger children of her own some day!)

  6. November 9, 2017 12:00 pm

    Exactly where my mind went as well, for obvious reasons!

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