In August, I went on vacation in Scotland for nearly three weeks with my son, Expresso, and his wife, Attenderella. In planning our vacation, I had two requests—that the people speak English and that the weather be cool. I desperately wanted to escape the heat dome hovering over the South of France that drove temperatures into the nineties.
Attenderella lobbied for Scotland because she was infatuated with Outlander, a Netflix series that features a very sexy hero, Jamie. Without having watched the series, I could not share her enthusiasm, but I agreed with her selection of Scotland, especially after discovering that Scotland has approximately eighteen hundred castles, even more than England.
An Unexpected Homecoming
I was surprised that I felt like I had returned home as soon as I entered Scotland. At first, I attributed the feeling to the fact that the people there spoke English. How delightful it was to go through customs with English-speaking airport officials and not need clarification or assistance. It was just as lovely to go to a counter, order what I wanted, and pay for it without worrying if I had understood what the cashier said.
In those moments, I realized how much work it is every day in France to understand what is written and said. At least for my vacation time, the burden had been lifted. I could understand everything.
But the feeling was more profound than that. During the two-and-a-half-hour flight to Scotland, I remembered that my maternal grandmother and grandfather, who I never knew (they were dead long before I was born), had immigrated from Scotland to the United States around 1850, the time of the Potato Famine.
I knew nothing of the country besides the Scottish ancestry on my mother's side. Consequently, I did not anticipate a powerful emotional resonance with ancestors whom I never knew. Yet there was no denying the peculiar sensation of familiarity. I felt a comfort with the people I talked to that, upon reflection, I found I have dearly missed during the two years I have lived in France.
I think our genes influence us more than we know. For instance, my mother told me that my Scottish grandmother could see clothes hanging on a line and go home, make a pattern, and sew them. I've always been able to see something I like and recreate it in my sewing room. No one taught me how—I knew how to do it and assumed others could too.
While touring Scotland by car, I loved seeing the mountains, lakes (lochs), rivers, forests, fields, castles, and islands. The strength of my affinity for what I saw was a total surprise. It didn't hurt that while riding a tourist boat on Loch Ness, we spotted Nessie.
And what fun it was to listen to the bagpipers almost everywhere we went. During a Highland Park event, we watched competing bands of bagpipers fully costumed in traditional kilts with their clans’ colors.
Making a Tradition?
Here in France, I am comfortable and have my needs met. Yet I yearn for Scotland's mountains, lakes, greenery, rivers, castles, fields of lavender heather, and secluded walkways. It's as if I recognize a part of me that has always been there but was lying in a dormant state. Since being awakened, the yearning has grown.
I'm considering renting a cottage in Scotland next year to escape France's too-hot summer months. I'd be in heaven if I could find a cottage with a hiking path, lake, and mountains nearby.
Don't get me wrong—I'm grateful for my pied-à-terre where I live, and I have no intentions of giving it up. Yet I long to add another dimension to my life. How this could happen is beyond me, but it doesn't hurt to have a dream, does it? Dreams don't cost anything.