In elementary school we were encouraged to wear the ethnic costume of our ancestors. This is the true measure of how ours is a country of immigrants–everyone can always say they are from somewhere else, with the exception of the Native Americans. For my part I couldn’t remember if my great-grandmother was from Scotland or Poland so I took the safe route and decided I wanted to dress up as Swiss. Something struck me as tidy and stylish to wear knickers and my cross-country ski shoes, with their square toes to clip into the bindings, so I clomped around third grade like a lost watchmaker. At the time the idea of wearing a kilt, to my boy’s mind a SKIRT, would have been out of the question, so Swiss was probably a neutral choice.
Having grown up and realized my true heritage I’ve embraced it, visiting twice and learning the play the bagpipes and the Scottish smallpipes. My children know what bagpipe music sounds like and I regularly play the smallpipes at home int he living room so they know the tunes–CH can even hum Scotland the Brave. So it was with great happiness that I saw the enthusiasm CH had, when she got a small kilt as a present from her step-grandmother and step-uncle, that she immediately went full-tilt for the Scottish uniform. At each of my suggestions that she probably didn’t need a certain accessory or my adult-sized version wouldn’t fit with her, she balked. “No, I want it just like yours, Babbo.” So before dinner she found her roots, complete with an antique Robertson tartan Balmoral tam and MacPherson tartan flashes for her socks. There’s something about knowing where your blood comes from that makes you a richer person. Deep in the genetic depths of her memory are the smells of salt water and heather, the feel of warm wool and cold rain, and the skirl of pipes echoing through a glen.