Monday, January 26, 2009

The Importance of Connections

So last night I went to the local "Robbie Burns" celebration dinner. I'd been asked a dozen times if I was going, said no every time (haggis and turnips aren't my thing, especially when they cost $35), but picked up the phone midday Saturday and there was a neighbour saying someone would buy my ticket if I'd buy my kid's (cheaper) and please won't you come? So what could I possibly say but yes?

FYI Robbie Burns was THE Scottish poet, lived in the late 1700s, wrote many things you would recognize if you heard them (but might not know they were his lines unless you were Scottish or someone dragged you to a Robbie Burns dinner), was apparently a drinker and a womanizer and died at the ripe old age of 30 something. I learned all this last night. The one that got me is that a line or two from his poetry was the inspiration for Hemingway's famous novel "Of Mice and Men." Who knew? I was transported, whether I belonged there or not.

So at the dinner were some bonafide Scottish descendants (here in Canada a lot of people came from the British Isles originally) and the rest of us who wondered why we were there apart from it being yet another community event. My kid was digging through the book of Scottish clans/plaids and wondered if she had any - and fortunately I found one or two names on her dad's side and one on my mom's side (not proven, but enough for the evening). So she was happy.

But it got me thinking about roots, especially as the single malt Scotch overcame the heavy load of roast beef and mashed potatoes (the haggis and turnips didn't do it for me, or her, so I think the Scottish blood, if we have it at all, must be seriously thin).

I drank enough single malt to confess my birth circumstances to a few more neighbours, even good friends, who didn't know before. It's not like I try to keep it a secret, but it's something that's also odd to bring up in conversation unless the moment is right.

What I like about living here is that most folks are farmers. So when I say "I'm an AI baby" and they look blank, all I have to say is "like cows" and they suddenly get it. As dairy and beef famers have been doing that almost as long as people...

Don't know where I'm going with this exactly - it's weird to compare oneself with a cow so that people understand, but nice when they get it.

What's harder is going to a dinner that is all about genetic connections to a place, a name, even a person, and know I'm missing a big part of that....

"The best laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft a-gley
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain
For promis'd joy!"

(Robbie Burns, late 1700s)

I'll leave it to all of you to decide what this means to you...