Monday, January 26, 2009

The Kilt

My mother bought me this on one of the Life's end journeys she made after my father died. She visited the British Isles and stopped at the Isle of Skye someplace close to where my ancestral namesakes originated from. It is not a knock off. It is a commissioned handmade kilt produced for me and the size I was at the time. Needless to say, twenty years ago I was a tad smaller.

If memory serves, it is the hunting kilt of the Clan MacCrimmon. My forebears were a sub clan of Clan MacLeod and were considered the finest pipers in Scotland for many years. It is a beautiful piece of tailoring. Made with umpteen square yards of wool fabric, it must weigh in at 15 pounds or so. The family of Duncan, my friend who recently passed, have asked that anyone owning a kilt among his friends wear it to the services.

Somehow I will make this happen. While I cannot shrink to pre-old fart weight, I will figure out how to make this one hang without exposing anything that might shock or dismay. It is the least I could do to honor Duncan's memory.

Who my ancestors were has been of little interest to me for most of the last 56 years. My parents weren't hot on the subject. Just your usual tales of their youth and relatives they knew but I never would. As far back as they could remember was about it. My Aunt Helen on the other hand was right into it. Somewhere in my attic is a family tree she had commissioned back in the day. I was the last entry I think. On that impossibly large list of things to do, finding that family tree in the attic is near the bottom. I think perhaps I may move it up though. Unconnected events and actions of mine in recent months have pushed the idea of roots and where I came from into my mind more often. Pulling out this kilt for a completely different matter is just the latest.

I have no burning desire to go to Scotland. It would be nice and all, but I just do not care if I ever make it there. Traveling much of anywhere does not interest me. But knowing more family history does. My knowledge gets sketchy past my father's generation.

I wonder why the family history generates more interest as we get older? I know when I was young and dumb, I would often feign interest when tales were told of dead relatives or of shenanigans my elders were involved in. I only half listened to them. What I have retained are but the highlights, the oft repeated tales. And since I was born so late in my parents' lives, I have no working memory of any of my grandparents. And now I wish I had paid more attention instead of watching the game, or keeping my nose buried in that book during the infrequent family gatherings that included more family members than those I shared shelter with.

So I will wear the kilt tomorrow. To honor Duncan's memory and his deep interest in all things Scottish. I will also wear it and remember my mother who took the time to find a kilt maker and not just pick something up at the duty free shop before she came home.

BBC mentioned in his comment from my remembrance post of two days ago that he found the grieving process to be fascinating in some ways. Especially in the different ways people exhibited it. I was raised in a family that did not celebrate deaths with wakes, burials, big to dos. As far back as I can remember, our family never opened their grief period to anyone outside the family and maybe a few close friends. Basic bare bones obits followed by simple memorial services and no grave side gatherings. And since cremation has been the chosen method of dealing with the pieces and parts left, I have never been to a family viewing. As my mom said, "I want my last memory of them to be when they were alive, not laid out in some casket."

But having been around long enough now to have experienced more than a few funeral services, I have to say BBC is right. The process of grief is a very interesting thing to witness if one can do it without the actual baggage of grieving. Seems there is not one thing we humans will not celebrate in one way or another. The big three, births, weddings, and deaths have always been focal points for some kind of party. As I finish this post up, there is a pot luck supper in Duncan's memory down to the Town Hall not 300 yards from here. I cannot go. I paid my respects at the funeral home, but am unwilling to share my grief with anyone but myself and my wife right now. Tomorrow at the service, I will be ready to face his other friends and family again. But not again tonight. It is just too much.



Utah Savage said...

I'm sorry it's such a sad occasion that will get you in that Kilt, but I bet you look fine wearing it and hope you decide it suits you and we get a picture of you shaved by your new strait razor and hair ponytailed and you in that gorgeous Kilt, with the pipes tucked under one arm and a very good scotch whiskey in the other.

BBC said...

As a card carrying minister I've only done one funeral service. It was okay, but I much prefer doing weddings.

At the last wedding I officiated over, the brides father wore a kilt. Interesting man.

You'll be fine as long as it's inside and warm, enjoy yourself.

Dawn on MDI said...

Might I suggest some flannel boxers? Tomorrow's supposed to be cold. Not as bad as today, but still. Just a thought.
That is a handsome kilt. Wear it with pride and to honor your friend.

Allison said...

Sorry to hear about your friend's passing. People and their different grieving processes are definitely interesting to ponder. My husband's co-worker died last Wednesday morning, and we went to his viewing hours last Friday. It was a small gathering, in part being that it was the later viewing (my husband and the man who died both work 3rd shift, and there's no way T would have gotten up for the 2pm one. Plus, we have a 3 year old, which it wouldn't have been appropriate to bring with, so I had to wait until child care was available. My dad gets out of work at 5, is here by 6:30. Anyhow...). The co-worker is only 4 days older than my husband's older brother. And this is the second of his immediate co-workers to pass while he's been in this department. I found it interesting to watch my husband...he didn't show any emotion, but he stood for a few minutes looking at his co-worker in the casket. I do wonder what went through his head. Then I had to nudge him over to talk to the widow, because it's the right thing to do (and it's really what I would expect when I become a widow. If. I don't expect to be a divorcee :-D). That seemed more uncomfortable for him. But it was interesting. Very interesting.

El Cerdo Ignatius said...

Just to add to Dawn's suggestion, perhaps flannel boxers with a plaid pattern on them. Just in case the kilt doesn't, uh, fit as it should.

I agree with BBC's and your point about grief. It is fascinating, providing one is not in it. I hope the funeral service provides you and Duncan's other friends and his family some comfort.

Your mention of genealogy struck me. I became absolutely hooked on researching my family history at the age of 18. In my university days, especially my first year, I would spend two or three hours at a time between classes at the Nova Scotia Provincial Archives, which was just down the street from Dalhousie University, digging through old documents and straining my eyes going over reel after reel of microfilm.

As time has gone on, and led to things like marriage and children, I have little time to continue my research, but it is still a topic I find hugely fascinating.

Randal Graves said...

As we age, I think we simply see long-term with ease, forwards and backwards. It's not even a nostalgia thing necessarily, but a connection to something larger.

When we're young, we're devil-may-care, perhaps. Only with time do we see beyond the nose on our face.