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March 17, 2010

Remembering my Scottish grandpa on an Irish holiday

By Jennifer Zartman Romano

Scotland and Ireland often get classified together for some reason.
If one made generalizations like this about other cultures, someone might be offended, but I'm not. Truly, many of Scottish descent are also of Irish descent too since there was a lot of movement back and forth in that area of the world over time.

So, while I'm more Scottish than Irish, I do look forward to the green day every year and secretly wish there was also a plaid day for Scotsmen and Scotswomen to enjoy as well.
It is this generalization of Scottish and Irish-ness that I smile most about on St. Patrick's Day though -- the way the two cultures are similar...the food, the music, the celebratory attitude! Exactly 53 years ago today, my grandfather James Blackie Main emigrated to America from Paisley, Scotland. He arrived in New York City to what, in his mind at least, was the country's gigantic welcoming celebration in his honor. On that day, his first in a new country where he'd make a home for his wife and child who still waited for him in Scotland, he was greeted to a parade with bagpipers and a street painted plaid. It was as though this new country had opened its arms to him and said hello with a giant Celtic hug.
He always felt that day was just for him -- and what better way to travel across the ocean with only what you could carry and find yourself right back at home!
He departed 11 years ago this month on his final journey to a new land of promise in the sky, but his humor, his spirit, intelligence and bravery live on with those of us he's traveled on without - for now. As the old Scottish song says,
    "O ye’ll tak’ the high road and I’ll tak’ the low road
    And I’ll be in Scotland afore ye
    But me and my true love will ne-er meet again
    On the bonnie, bonnie banks o’ Loch Lomon'.

    ‘Twas there that we parted in yon shady glen
    On the steep, steep sides o’ Ben Lomon'
    Where in purple hue, the hielan hills we view
    And the moon comin’ out in the gloamin’.

    The wee birdies sing and the wild flowers spring
    And in sunshine the waters are sleeping
    But the broken heart, it kens nae second spring again
    Tho’ the waeful may cease frae their greetin'.
" -- The Bonnie Banks O' Loch Lomond by Andrew Lang

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