Way back in September I went on a little trip to Scotland and France. I still haven’t posted any pictures from that trip since I’m still posting pictures from my trips in August (and leaving out a lot!)
The purpose of this trip with my mother was about relaxation and spending time together, but it was also about visiting my origins.
When I got off the plane in Edinburgh after spending the last two hours with the entire Series A Viadana rugby team *bites knuckle* I knew my mom would find it hard to convince me that I would “find the Scottish men attractive, too!”
This was a past counterargument of hers when I proclaimed my infallible preference for dark-haired men, because my mother loves all of her roots – her Scottish roots, her French, her German and her Swiss roots, as she’s equally 25% of each. She’s a big genealogy buff, and has spent years tracing our origins, and wanted to share that with me in a more concrete way.
So we headed directly for the town of Peebles, about 45 minutes outside Edinburgh, where my Scottish relatives, the Cairns and Hislop families were from.
It’s interesting to look around at a place and try to sense what inspired / motivated / galvanized my nomadic ancestors into action.
My ancestors actually left Scotland twice – once in the 1880s to Ontario, Canada, where my great-great grandmother got married 125 years ago today. In the 1890s they moved back to Scotland to care for my great-great-great grandmother. They then moved again in the early 1900s, they did the Ellis Island trek, this time from Scotland to Massachusetts. A few years later, they moved to Michigan.
Do you feel a nomad vibe yet?
This nomadic trait is very evident in my mother, who moved from Michigan at 19 to join her soon-to-be husband in California. She’s picked up and moved since, and now lives in New Mexico.
I have done at least three big moves in my life – the first being from California to Texas upon high school graduation at 17, not knowing a soul for hundreds of miles but my rodeo’ing roommate who sent me a picture of herself in an introductory letter earlier that summer. We are still friends to this day, and in an interesting twist, she has just recently enrolled in culinary school in Austin.
My second big move was after graduation and moving back to California. Though my parents and some of my relatives still lived in the Bay Area, I was moving to a completely new area alone (not my hometown) and I had very few friends still in the Bay Area.
Of course, my third big move was to Italy. Again, armed with a few crib notes from random talks with Italians or people who had friends that lived there, but no real reason or anchor, I moved here.
So, I tried to absorb as much as I could of this Peebles. Why did they leave? What made them different?
Was it the blue window in this house?
That made them hope for something different? Something more? To be daring?
Maybe If I understood this, I could more fully understand myself.
Was it the wide open spaces that seemed to let their minds wander as free as could be but in no concrete direction? Perhaps they craved some constraints? Some chaos? confusion? (PS: The two orange cones in this pic are an ironic footnote)
Even the Peebles Old Parish church, still being constructed when they left Scotland in the 1880s, was completely new to them when they moved back to Scotland in the 1890s. Did they consider that one day Peebles, so important in the wool trade for decades, would turn into a tourist attraction and commuter town?
My mother and I finished the afternoon in a pub, talking about our ancestors and looking at pictures she had brought along for this reason. Looking at the faces in these pictures, long before the smile became the uniform of happiness, I try to gauge a glimpse of their emotions.
Maybe I could attribute my own motivation for exploring and moving around to one of these somber faces.
I even took the plunge and ordered haggis, because who could go to Scotland and not try haggis? And I have to say…
…I liked it! Maybe I got a “good” batch, and yes the whiskey cream sauce helped, but I think if I hadn’t thought I would hate it, I probably would have liked it even more. But if you remember from my trip to Berlin, I’m a sausage fan – grind up some mystery meat well with spices, and I’ll try it.
So, haggis is checked off my list. I may even seek it out next time. Hopefully I’ll be able to see Peebles twice in my lifetime, like my ancestors.
Has your family been nomadic, too? Do you know anyone that lives in the house they were born in, or that lives in a house in their family for years?
you are brave to eat that, sara!
Farfallina... roam to Rome says
There is something nurturing about going back through time and knowing your family history, and I find yours fascinating!
Both sides of my family go back many, many generations in one small town, and I really don’t know where I get my nomadic vibes! :)
Peebles looks gorgeous! I’d love to visit your family’s town too.
My family, on all sides, pretty much did the big move from one country (Italy, Lithuania, Germany) to another and then stayed in the same place for generations. With my parents’ generation that changed a bit (my dad’s sister, my mom and her brother), and I’ve had some cousins who moved around a bit, but now all of my immediate family is within a 30 mile radius of where I grew up.
And then I’m here. I definitely think I inherited some of my ancestors’ spirit. And I’m very grateful :)
It’s great that you know so much about your ancestors, and that you get the opportunity to physically explore your family’s history… I think that when you start to put roots down in a country that is not your own (or at least not where you grew up), you feel even more compelled to understand where you came from and why. This is certainly the case for me – when I was happily living in my home town in England I never really gave a thought to my grandparents’ or great-grandparents’ origins. Now that I am here, living according to the background, culture and habits of an entirely different nation, I feel the need to ‘hold onto’ my past much more than ever before….
Of course you remember your Uncle Terry wyouhas only lived in one home his entire life
Beautiful place! I don’t blame your mother for tracing life back to Peebles. It’s always nice to hear about someone’s ancestors. As you know I grew up in Dallas arriving from Eritrea in 1981 (small country in East Africa for those who don’t know) by way of Sudan, Italy; and former Yugoslavia for my dad but we won’t go into that horrible trek. I remember going back to Eritrea for my first time in 1991 to visit the rest of my family. Absolutely overwhelming experience and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I even visited the dirt floor I was born on.
Before I read you post, I was thinking about how much you travel. It makes more sense now — although I’m still a bit jealous about the places you see.
I’m actually doing genealogy right now. Haven’t gotten very far, but it seems like my ancestors were tragically poor. It actually said so in one of the old church books, “Very poor.” Isn’t that something. Parts of the family immigrated to America in the big Ellis Island wave, but most seemed to have stayed put in the middle of Sweden.
The most interesting thing with genealogy, I think, is that I get to learn more about particular periods of time. What happened. What people died of. What kind of names that were popular. There is a lot of things I haven’t thought about before I could attach the questions to myself.
I tried Haggis when I first went there in 2004. Really loved it but I think a lot has to do with who is preparing it…and obviously they don’t cook it in the sheep stomach on a regular basis….that’s just traditional. ;-)
Stunning pictures. Even the one of shit-on-toast. ;)
Wow, those are some gorgeous photos. And I love your writing too. You’ve certainly led a globe-trotting existence.
Interesting post…makes me think about my heritage. Based on some loose math, I’m like 2/3 scottish. Half of my ancestors came through the US, THEN went to Canada (Nova Scotia of course). Looks like you had a beautiful time! How was Edinburgh? Did you spend any time there?
Susan from Food Blogga says
I can’t stop looking at that first photo. It’s enchanting.
Well let me do the math…that makes you 12 1/2% Scottish……
It’s hard to say exactly where all my family was from so I dont have the same privlage of going back to where my ancestors came from….but its nice to experience your trip with you! You wrote it so beautifully…but whats the story with the orange cones??
I actually like Haggis. But it wasn’t so much the taste of it…it was more the smugness of being able to say that I liked something that no one else in America did!
nyc/caribbean ragazza says
I think about this subject alot. I was born in NYC but my parents are from the Caribbean. They really held on to their traditions and we would go back over the summers to visit my grandparents.
It’s interesting after living in America for decades, when they retired they moved back to a small village. My mom is now living around the corner from where she grew up and their house is where my paternal grandfather lived and my great grandfather lived up the street. There is a little road with my dad’s family name on it and I’m related to most of the people living there (except for the french expats). Now that I am older I have been trying to find out more about my family’s heritage.
I have lived in NYC, New Jersey, Washington D.C., Austin and Los Angeles, now I’m moving to Rome. I have lived in Los Angeles for nine years and it has never felt like home to me. Rome does.
Haggis really as bad as people make it out to be. If you had the traditional dish it’s actually very good. I think people just get freaked out. I’ve had it once and liked it.
Well, I was feeling I needed to check on my roots, so I surfed “Peebles” in my flicker search. Your shots came up first. Interesting that you have some thoughts on your past. I moved to Canada when I was 19. I am missing my birthhome a lot as the years progress. The memories I have of Scotland are pretty spiritual. I was really in touch with the spiritual side of the earth when I was a very young girl.
Scotland is a haunting place, it’s filled with such beauty and you can sit on a hillside for hours feeling the past dancing around you. You never feel alone, even if you are alone. I loved to explore as a kid and I remember the wind blowing on my face as I loved what I saw. I am not really sure why I made the move to Canada as I feel very rooted in Scotland.
Interesting enough my brother did find a relative that did our family tree on my Mother’s side. It turns out my Grandmother’s Father came to Canada when there was a gold rush. He was 36. He went back though and married my Great grandmother and had 10 kids…but he had that sense of adventure like me…I think I may have his genes.
Being a Nomad is so educational…makes you step outside the box…but eventually you always return to the heart.