Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Day 274/365 Homesick

Being part of a Southern family means hearing incessantly about where the ancestors were from.

As in, normal dinnertime conversation may center around great-great-granddad and whatever he did back in 1800.

As if he is sitting at the dinner table with you, accompanied by every generation that preceded him.

This peculiar practice is repeated a thousand fold if your family roots lie in Scotland.

I have clear vibrant memories of watching my great-grandmother (a tiny bird-like woman, always dressed in Victorian black)eating her lunch and telling us stories of Scotland, as if she had been there the week before. She made sure we knew the brilliance of the green hills, how the thick fog rolled off the peaks, and how the sun broke through on the loch.

She made sure it was regarded as our homeland, no matter how long our family had been in America, or who we had intermarried with.

She made sure we knew which ancestor fought in which battle, and which chief led the clan from when to when, and what led to the removal of our clan's lands, and why. She made sure we knew the reason an old set of bagpipes sat in the corner of the closet under the steps, and why the the Fourth of July saw hundreds of tiny American flags in the front yard, intermixed with tiny Scottish flags.

It wasn't until I was much older that I learned she heard all those stories from her father and mother, who heard them from their father and mother, all the way back to 1632, and the original emigrant, who was torn from his family and his mountains and sent off to the colonies as the ultimate punishment. His wife was thrown out of her home and branded, his children were bashed against walls until they were dead, and their home was burnt to the ground.

Yet somehow, over time, the original imigrant made sure that the beauty of Scotland was what most important in family memory, rather than revenge. This was the reason for the dinnertime stories full of legends of the Children of the Mist, Rob Roy MacGregor, William Wallace, Robert Bruce and the many now-nameless Highland men who disappeared over those green mountains while fighting for Scotland's freedom from the Brits and their clan's very survival.

After my great-grandmother passed on, the stories were then repeated by my great-aunt.

Now I repeat them to my daughter.

Someday she'll repeat them to her children.

Just as if the ancestors were still sitting at the dinner table.


  1. How wonderful to have those stories! Be sure to write them down. I wish I had more stories of my family. The few I have are only as far as two generations from me and very few of them, but I cherish each one.

  2. These, the heroes who got us there, looking forward, keeping what makes one strong.

    Maybe we should move the Ulster Project to Edinbourgh...

    Thank you Carole. World is a better place with you in it.

  3. The same thing holds true for our family, as well. My orginal Scottish ancestor arrived in 1740, but you'd think it was yesterday. The stories have been handed down from generation to generation, and now are written down for those who follow me. Somehow it's comforting to know the ancestors are as present as ever.

  4. Missing your posts. I hope you are well and just otherwise occupied. Marilyn