This weekend, I took my children to The Highland Games, so I could expose them to the community of Scots from whence they came.
Indilea loves the idea of cousins. She has always wanted cousins. This weekend, I gave her more cousins than she could count.
My children and I all share a middle name: MacTavish. This was my bachelor name, before I married, and I now have it as my middle name (Caelan MacTavish Huntress).
My daughter (Indilea Day MacTavish Huntress) and my son (Zaden Apollo MacTavish Huntress) have the Scottish clan name MacTavish as a second middle name (which is, ironically, how the Costa Rican culture preserves the last name of both father and mother. Same order.)
My children don’t have many relatives to speak of on my side of the family tree. (As in, we don’t speak of them). But my Scottish blood is thick, and comprises at least 60% of my ancestry. Exposing them to this unique community and heritage was the first time I was able to really participate in showing them some fundamental building blocks about who we are, as a people.
“No,” they chanted in unison.
“What about Papa? Or Auntie Caitlin?”
“No,” they said.
“Who is Scottish?”
“WE ARE!” they yelled.
While our family is undoubtedly a Huntress family, with the close influence of the Huntress grandparents (and, of course, the Huntress name) it was refreshing to spend some time focusing on the MacTavish heritage of our family for a day. For these Scottish genes bring something unique into our lives, qualities that the three of us do not share with others in the Huntress clan.
We spent some time watching the Scottish people, who exhibited some of those specific characteristics that I recognized instantly. Adrift in a populace of general Americans, I am accustomed to seeing certain qualities peppered only mildly throughout a crowd of people. In a crowd of Scots, I was astonished to see how many of my peculiarities were present in everyone else.
One of the most curious to see was utility. Many of the Scots had bags, baskets, pouches, equipment, and even lawn chairs strapped to their backs and shoulders. We are a packing people. We like to hold our gear in easy reach, secured to the body in such a way that we can still run up a hill without too much distraction.
The kilt, itself, is a model of this utility; it’s a sleeping blanket, a badge of office, a large pocket for carrying things (or babies), a towel, a rope, etc., etc. A big piece of cloth, wrapped around your body, and available for multifarious uses. Quintessentially Scottish.
We are also a strong people. The Games centered around competitions of dance, music, and strength. We watched the hurling of rocks and massive poles, and Zaden looked at me in surprise.
“Daddy, are these men stronger than you?”
“Yes,” I replied.
“But not faster,” he said. “They’re not faster than you.”
“Scottish people are very strong and very fast,” I told him.
“Yeah. Like I’m strong, and I’m fast.”
“Of course you are! You’re Scottish.”
I was surprised to see my shoulders on so many other men’s backs. When strong men would walk past us in the crowd, I did many a double-take. The particulars of my deltoids have always been a joy to me (and, happily, to my wife). I’ve always had these big, meaty shoulders, even when I am not training. These same deltoids were on other men, who were naturally strong in the same ways that I was.
And weak in the same ways, as well. There were many beer tents, and even in the children’s areas, the parents typically had 1-2 cups of beers in their hands. The Scots love their drink, it is true. I know that firsthand.
I took the kids into a roped-off field where the Children’s Highland Games were being held. They threw rocks and poles just like their ancestors, and sure enough, they understood it on a visceral level. Because they’re Scots.
“Do you see all these people?” I asked them. “These are all your cousins.”
Indilea’s eyes lit up wide. “They are all my cousins? All of them?”
“Yes,” I said. “Everyone who is Scottish is your cousin. They are distant cousins, but we are related to everyone who is Scottish. And you know who else is Scottish?”
“Who?” she asked.
“Sarah, from Anna Bannanas. She is Scottish.”
“So she is my cousin?”
“Yep. And you know what that means…Dylan, Sarah’s son, is your cousin. Because he is Scottish too.”
She commenced to leaping up and down with glee. She loves Dylan, who was the first REALLY big kid to play with her on a rope swing for an hour. Ever since that happened, a month ago, she has been dazzled by Dylan. And now, since they are both Scottish, she has a big, big cousin, as well.
I just have to tell Dylan about this before Indi sees him, and make sure he’s on board with his new status as our cousin.