Chapter 7 - The History
The sun brushes past the hills and sets its golden light upon our green tent. My eyes adjust to the fresh light and I begin to shift, the blanket squished between us as I look over to my wife, still sleeping. I roll out of the tent and take a deep breathe, just letting the clean air find its way through to my lungs. My eyes close and the sun warms my eye lids with its gentle heat, my heart is filled with a calmness, a peace, a filling of a loving quiet and I just stand in this moment seemingly embraced by an invisible source.
Rustling sounds break the stillness and I start to get a fire going so we can have our morning coffee. We sit, side by side, close enough that the side of our legs are pressed together with the knees pressed a little more, each knee professing its love for the other. Silence and calm has entered our vocal cords as we just sit and marvel at the scenery. The goats have come down the hills looking for their meal and a soft mist has formed. The long haired Highland cows have started their morning ritual as well, grabbing the straw and grass on a slightly more distant hill some yawning and other just laying on their stomach.
My eyes catch the green in my wives and we stare at each other. Vacation and quiet, the city seems like a dirty, dusty memory as the cold from the log that we are sitting on creeps through my pants. We both just feel the total peace. We pack up our belongings, dismantle the tent and quickly brush our teeth. The car packed we, pull back onto the road and let the warmth of the sun hit our faces as the car plugs along kilometer after kilometer. We arrive at the restaurant and slowly roll into the parking spot and stretch our legs when we get out of the car. I order the traditional vegetarian Scottish breakfast. Fried egg, veggie sausage, baked beans, fried potatoes and a fried tomato with white toast.
We pay the bill and thoroughly happy and content, the car begins to drive, raking up kilometers after kilometers. We see the sign for the Castle. My eyes shut and I take in the moment, the impossibility of me being here, of driving up the lane of the Castle and going for a walk in the halls. Soon my mind sees the days before cars and pictures move like a movie as the horses would cut through the large swath of grass as they rode towards the family estate, happy to arriving, exhausted from the journey.
The car slows, as we arrive at the edge of the gate, and see the green hedge that separates the parking lot from the road. The car doors shut, the excitement of the moment calls for more then a pause, but a pause is all I can muster. We open the Castle door and I stare. The pictures flow, I see kids playing and important people dinning, laughter and seriousness dance in perfect balance. We are met with a joyous hello as the current owner Roddrick Smitherson the 9, comes towards us. He looks casual and instantly grabs our coats only to hand them to another gentlemen that we aren't introduce to. Roddrick slaps my back as he guides us through the hallways, past library's and great rooms, he laughs with both a gentleness and firmness that seems that perhaps he no longer knows if his laughter is genuine but knows of social etiquette.
We enter a large room, in the middle sits a Lady Smitherson, we assume is Roddrick's wife and a table of tea, scones and little chocolates. Laughter almost escapes my lips as I think that the Smithersons have watched too much TV. My wife and I sit on the sofa opposite her after saying our greeting and introductions. After a moment or two of awkward silence, I ask Lady Smitherson if she could tell me a bit about her family and this Castle. She smiles, obviously relieved to find something that we can talk about and she is quite happy to paint the colorful history of the Family Smitherson. She says that all the history of the family Castle goes back to one man, Sir Howard Hamilton Hanson Lin. It is believed that Sir Howard became knighted and gifted the castle and lands after he saved the life of Alexander the 3 during a particular drink fueled night time horse ride. Though other rumors persist, that Sir Howards mom had been a lover of Alexander after the death of his first wife and some have even said that Sir Howard was in fact Alexanders biological son but those are only rumors, insists Lady Smitherson.
After the tale has ended, the awkward pause returns. Roddrick ask if we like a tour of the house before supper. We stand, happy for the distraction and a chance to see the Castle. We go through each of the thirty room and Lady Smitherson does her best to recount stories that she has either heard or read in relation to each room. Where the painting came from or a secret door and it's purpose. We finally arrive at a painting of Sir Howard Hamilton Hanson Lin.
I stand beside the painting and look up at the man. A distant relative, with a slight resemblance in the way we look but without a doubt a connection. I think of the joy and the struggles that he might have faced and wonder if he ever thought some future off spring of off spring would stand there staring up at him and wondering what he was like. What did his voice sound like, did he have the same mannerisms that I have, would we recognize each other, if we bumped into each other at the market. Or would we just nod and move along. Though related in some way to Lady Smitherson, I actually felt more of a deeper connection to Sir Howard. Howie. Maybe that's what I would have called him, if he was alive. Howie Lin.
Supper comes and goes and soon we depart. We thank Roddrick and Lady Smitherson for taking the time and as we drive away we take a moment to pause at the edge of the house and get one last look. I have always wondered why it was important for some to look for their ancestors, what they hoped to accomplish but as I sat in our tiny car on the edge of the lit Castle feeling a new sense of belonging, a new sense of why I do some of the things that I do, I find myself grateful, grateful that I have been able to find a bit more about myself and my family. The sense of belonging to something that stretches through time, that connects one to the history and to the lands and to one another. Thousands can trace their stories back to Sir Howard, thousands of families member most unknown but still together.
I wonder if Sir Howard ever wondered what his ancestors came from, how many more thousands of people are connected and related that we bump into each day, how we sometimes never know that this person that we just met, just laughed with, just fought with is in fact our family, that at one time our families were just one family, a single family.