Genealogy – a brief history

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A nation is a society united by delusions about its ancestry and by common hatred of its neighbors.
– William Ralph Inge

From a few weeks ago [ish]

I sit knitting a “poncho” for Nonna as a surprise birthday present, the perfect gift for someone enduring an 85 degree heat wave.

My son lies at my feet examining carpet fibres.

“What it is?”
“What is what dear?”
“Dat fing on yur finger?”
“My wedding ring, this one?”
“No…..dah lil one which is being……bented.”
“Ah well that's the McEwen seal, for a Scottish clan.”

I shut my mouth, drop a stitch and hear the pot boiling over in the kitchen.

I know that I have made several serious errors but I blunder on to pick up all the little hic-cups that I can manage.

“A seal is not a swimming mammal kind of a seal, it's the kind of seal that you put on letters……er……..letters that come in the mail not the ABC kind of letters.”

I pause to draw breath, permit percolation and processing, mainly my own. I count to ten and then continue.

“Do you see the little tree on the ring? That is an oak tree that has been struck by lightening, so the top came off.”

Too many “triggers!” Conversations with this child are a minefield of “unexploded fears.”

“But look, see that teeny tiny little leaf? That means that the tree has survived, it's going to be o.k. It's growing again. It goes along with the motto, Re res……actually it’s Latin for ‘I grow green again,’ but we won’t bother with that bit now.”

I take a few gulps.

He looks at me with a dubious air.
“We are skip dah Latins today?”
“Verily, let us not muddy the waters any further!”
“Mud?”
“Confuse….I mean…”
“Scottishs say Latins?”
“Ooo er well, not really…..but Latin was the common language amongst all those dialects…..any way I..”
“Dey have Daleks in Scottishs?”
“No….well not then in any case……”

I scrabble to regain ground. “Back in the olden, olden days there was a castle at the Firth of Fourth, or possibly the Fourth of Fifth, near Fife or possibly Fishgard, which was the McEwen Castle. ‘Mc’ means ‘son of’…er……Ewen…..which is Scottish for John, sort of. Anyway, all around the castle, there were oak trees, so it's sym…..bol……ic……….which means it is a symbol, not the clashing musical instrument kind of cymbal but……a sign that means something.”

Why on earth did I ever even begin this!

“It is be like a ……..sandcastle?”
“Well it certainly collapsed like one…..er…….I mean, it's a ruined castle, like Corf Castle. Do you remember “Corf Castle?”
“Yeah.” Horray, something from England has permeated.
“It's like a “coat of arms,” it shows significant things about a family……”

What on earth am I talking about?

“What you are do?”
“With the ring? I thought you might ask that.”

But clearly not early enough.

“Well in the olden days people wrote letters on scrolls or parchment…….I mean………envelopes hadn't been invented yet, so people rolled up their pieces of parch….paper, with the writing on the inside……so it wouldn't get wet……..because then the ink would run……..because they didn't have biros back then…..”

Why is this so difficult!

“Dah ink is………..run?”
“Yes I'm sorry about that I meant……leak, spread…….make a nasty mess that you wouldn't be able to read any more.”
“Like ……..dah magic ink!”
“Exactly so! Anyway, the other thing they didn't have was glue, …….nor elastic bands come to think of it…………so hey invented sealing wax…….…which was wax that would seal or stick the paper together so that it wouldn't unravel.”

I am unraveling much faster!

“What?”
“What what?”
“Wax?”
“Ah, well wax is…..just like candles, like on your birthday cake.”
“I am hate dah flames!”

I slip my arm around his shoulders so that he doesn't escape, as I have let off more fire crackers than usual, and we need closure. I watch the stitches slip off the needle one by one, “so you've seen the drip on the candle as it melts? Well if you collect those drips they work like glue and stick the paper closed. Whilst it's still a warm blob, you take the ring, the seal, and stick it in the wax and it leaves the mark of the tree. Then when……the delivery man..er….person…….brings the letter……..they already know who it's from …….and they know that nobody else has taken a peek.”
“It is be private?”
“Exactly so.” He ponders.

“I am want?”
“What do you want dear, a ring? I’m afraid you’ll have to wait until you’re 18.”
“No …..dat would be an owie finger………..I am want a “coat wiv no arms” too.”

Please stop by for an “anecdote from an alien” or a “Note from Nonna.”

If anyone knows of a handy mechanic who is able to fix blog bugs, please give me a tinkle. I wonder if that should be ‘bloganic’?

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