He was tall. So handsome. An American GI stationed in Scotland during the Cold War. She was petite. Soft spoken. A Scottish girl, whose own father had been a soldier during WWII. She saw him and just knew. They were married not long after their first meeting. Marrying him would eventually take her across an ocean, away from the only life she had ever known. She adored him. Thought he hung the moon. And so, she was willing to say goodbye to her parents, her aunt, uncles, cousins, grandparents and her beloved Scotland, for him.
They left as young parents of two little girls, would go on to have two boys as well. He stayed in the Air Force for a time, eventually got out and went to work as a civilian. All the while, letters were sent, pictures were shared, but all during a time without social media and instant feedback. She went back to Scotland twice after she left, one of those times alone and one with her entire family. It was that trip in 1980 that my husband, the youngest of their four kids, got to see his mother’s homeland, meet his grandparent’s and extended family for the very first time.
They all, Scott and his three siblings, have vivid memories of their time in Scotland. The people they got to meet, the places they got to see. Tea time and castles. Bridges and kilts. A world so similar to the one they were growing up in, yet so vastly different. People who were their family, yet in many ways were strangers. A longing, I think, to know them, to know THOSE roots and a longing that has never fully been sated.
In the years since that trip, Scott’s Papa came to visit in 1988 after his wife, Scott’s grandma passed away. Scott’s aunt and uncle have been over once with their two young kids, but that was nearly twenty years ago now.
And so, back in July, as we all were sitting around the table eating breakfast at the lake, we received a message from his mom’s first cousin, Jayne, that she and her mother (Scott’s great-aunt by marriage) wanted to come visit. A collective “THE BRITISH ARE COMING” rang out as we all laughed and were filled to the brim with excitement.
Jayne and her mother flew in to Chicago a week ago yesterday. They proceeded to drive, in the dark and pouring rain, five hours to our house, arriving just before midnight. Granny (Scott’s mom) and I were rocking on the front porch as they pulled up and I proclaimed it was a miracle that they had arrived. Jayne is fearless, brave and honestly one of the most amazing people I have ever met. Her three sons were in Spain with their father, allowing her to come here, relax, visit and have some much needed time for herself.
So what do you do when the British arrive at midnight? You make tea of course!
Corn and bean fields surround us. We do not live in a big city. We don’t have major tourist attractions nearby. We just have us, small town America, lots of food and good company. That’s what we could offer, and thankfully, that’s all they wanted. This trip was not about a bucket list of American sites, but rather a coming together, reminiscing, pictures, stories, and a time with these people who could connect dots, deepen understandings. So, that’s what we did. Time spent talking, sharing, about the past and the present.
My sentimental heart LOVED hearing Jayne talk about her aunt and uncle, Scott’s grandparent’s, who were actually more like Jayne’s grandparent’s. How their grandma was posh, always so well put together and stylish. The similar mannerisms between Scott’s brother and a great uncle. How their great aunt cussed like a sailor and knitted like a pro. Sitting around the fire, drinking beer or lagers, as Jayne referred to them, watching my niece listen with such a childlike curiosity to stories she’s never heard before, from a family member she had only just met but who we felt like we’ve known forever. Priceless, precious, good stuff.
We did spend one day away from the house. We took Jayne and Barbara to Hamilton Town Center, a cute little shopping center about an hour away. We ate at Red Robin where most of us got greasy/delicious burgers topped with bacon and a bunch of cheesy goodness, followed by mountains of ice cream at Cold Stone Creamery.
Jayne’s mother was such a delight. She is a very quiet woman, but spent a lot of time with the kids, playing games, listening to Abby read and of course, drinking lots and lots of tea. She always said “yes, thank you and no, thank you” and I hope and pray my kids paid attention to how wonderful it was to listen to someone with such good manners.
Our love for these people who some had not seen for nearly 40 years and who others of us had never met, just grew with each day we spent with them…as did our vocabulary. Jayne would say something and I would just stare at her, then ask her to repeat herself, then pull out my phone and type that word into my notes. By the time they left, just two days ago, I had compiled a pretty good list.
- Overtake-to pass someone on the road
- Suss-to come to understand something/work something out
- Cheers-thank you
- Round the bend-crazy
- Foot-path-walking path
- Stones-measurement of weight
- Crack on with it-get on with it
- Ear defenders-noise cancelling head phones
- Supermarket trolly-shopping cart
- Stand in a queue-stand in a line
- Rubbish-not very interesting
- Chat shit-trash talk
- Lager louts-drunk
- Rubber dingy-boat
- Promenades-board walk
- Saloon-a car with a closed trunk
- Boot-trunk of a car
- Not too fussed-not too upset
- Get nibbled by mauzes-bitten by mosquitoes
- Jim jams-pajamas
One of these days we will get over to England & Scotland. I know that Scott longs to see the streets his mom walked as a child, now that he can fully appreciate them as an adult. The castle she always talks about running through in Edinburgh. The cemeteries where so many of his family were laid to rest. One of these days. But for now, we will relish in the visit and the stories that two wonderful people brought over to us from across the pond.
As always, thanks for reading!