Today was one of those picture perfect fall days in Atlanta: crisp, cool and sunny. I met my friend Sarah and her daughter, Kayla, at the annual Scottish Highland Games held at Stone Mountain Park. As soon as I exited my car, almost half a mile from the festival, I could hear the pipe and drum bands warming up for the opening ceremonies. Bagpipes make my soul smile.
I had an hour or so before I expected Sarah and Kayla. I made my way over to the athletic field to watch the guys compete in sheaf throwing, basically using a pitchfork to toss a burlap-wrapped 28 lb ball of hall over a pole 15 feet in the air. Even the pros couldn’t make it look easy. I started chatting with a woman next to me who ran the Savannah Rock n’ Roll Marathon last year and was delighted to hear that I’m running it in two weeks. She warned me that I’m going to catch the marathon bug and that this will be the first of many. My aching body from all of the training miles says she’s wrong. I guess we’ll see.
Before long, I spot Sarah and hear Kayla’s giggles. After a brief interval of playing the coy three-year-old, she immediately warmed back up and wanted me to hold her. In fact, Kayla certainly got her Lisa fix today and I got an upper body workout trying to carry the squirming, growing-bigger-by-the-minute, preschooler. We navigated to watch the pipe and drum bands present their clans for the opening ceremonies. I wear those tunes move through me for weeks to come. I’m not sure how my Norwegian ancestors would feel about that. Oh well, for a day, I figure I can be an honorary Scot.
After the exhausting task of feeding and pottying a youngster, we navigated to an excellent viewing area to watch the caber tossing. This is my favorite event. There is something about the pure testosterone of burly men in kilts throwing trees end over end that makes me grin with glee. And makes me wish I became a chiropractor.
Of course Kayla was intrigued and somewhat puzzled by the point of the whole sport) so we took her to the children’s area where they had kid-sized versions of the adult games.
Much of the emphasis of this festival is on the reuniting of the various clans. There are booths set up for each lineage where they proudly display their crests and tartans. The intersection of The South and Scotland is an interesting place. Something about a man in full Scottish gear with a Southern drawl just doesn’t allow a straight face.
I noticed something new this visit. There were some people, mainly women, who had on more than one tartan, thus representing multiple clans. When I inquired about this, I was told that there family, either through marriage or blood, had combined two or more clans. The one deemed less important would be an accessory while the primary colors occupied more prime real estate. It’s a way of honoring ones past while acknowledging the importance of the present.
Eventually, the game, pipes, and Kayla had played themselves out and it was time to go. My drive home took me through the area where I spent my first year in Atlanta. I drove by the rental business where we got the van that moved us into our home, I passed the location of my wedding reception, and I saw the turn that would have led to the apartment we occupied when we became husband and wife. It was okay. I used to wear that tartan of my marriage from head to toe, but now it has been changed into an accessory and I proudly wear the colors of my new life.
One of many reasons Sarah is the best friend one can ever have: Ronald McDonald House for the Recently Separated
And, for those who love bagpipes, check out my favorite pipers, Tartanic. I promise you won’t be disappointed!