Before proceeding, please read Lookin’ for Roots – P1!
OK. Maybe, just maybe, I might have phrased it slightly differently; but the sentiment is the same. I am standing in the middle of what perceptively seems to be “nowhere” (I can’t pronounce the name of this pit stop anyway), in the rain, in a thunderstorm, with 100 pounds of luggage… and no transportation but for my feet. I feel um… really stupid right now.
Spotting an old road following along side the train track, I heft myself off the platform, one parasitic duffle bag on each shoulder, and take off with resolute stride in the direction where most logically there would be actual people instead of sheep.
Ten minutes. “Maybe I should’ve gone the other way?” Twenty minutes. “If I never see another sheep again it’ll be too soon.” The rain stopped. “What’re you lookin’ at? Huh? Go back to your… grass.” A post-storm breeze wafts the uniquely pungent effluvium of wet wool — and other things — in my direction. If I’d had breakfast, ‘twould be making a reappearance right now.
As I heft my load for the umpteenth time, I hear a motor — a motor! Approaching on this desolate road is a little blue man in a little blue… Is that a car? He stops and sets one foot on the ground, keeping the other in the car: In case I’m a salesman, I suppose? …or a census-taker because I swear they lied about the actual population here. They must have been counting sheep.
“Whar ya gawn?”
“Um,…” I’m thinking several things before I answer this question. Firstly is the deconstruction of the mangled sentence which I think means, “Where are you going?” Secondly and so forth are the consequences of my response. If I tell him the truth, the supposed name of the town where the hotels are suppose to be, I will certainly botch the pronunciation which could open up all kinds of probable responses and it would give him a certain knowledge that I am lost an alone. Of course, that part is probably obvious. The moment I open my mouth he’ll know “I ain’t from ‘round these parts.” I could lie and just keep walking. Fake it, maybe. I can do a pretty convincing accent. Pretend that I’m here with a friend and just out for a leisurely stroll… in the rain… with two hulking duffle bags on each shoulder. Yeah, right…
A few more trips around the old logic block and I’m answering within a couple of seconds anyway. “I’m looking for this hotel in Boder… Boder…”
“B’dogr’n,” he spits with a smile. “Ah that ‘un’s no’ euh, it ain’t. Ain’t euh n’moh. C’mon, ‘op ‘n. Oil take y t’ tawn.”
Although my Gyri* are killing me at this moment, my Spidey-sense isn’t tingling so he must be on the better side of OK. (My Spidey-sense is never wrong.) He opens the passenger-side door and very chivalrously takes my bags and places them in the back seat — what there is of it. I can’t see a trunk. He’s chatting all the while and I’m really, really working to make the translations happen faster.
When I tell him my name – my LAST name – and that I’m here looking for my roots, I’m thinking I should have saved the disclosure of this information for when we’re not driving. He can’t stop looking at me. I can’t tell if he’s incredulous, or what? I show him my passport. “See?” The look of wonder, shock, amazement, and awe on his face is purely comical.
From then on, I am royalty. This humble fellow doesn’t let me out of his sight. My mere wish — nay, the thought of a wish — is his greatest pleasure to perform. He takes me to the town library where the genealogical records are kept. It’s closed today. Never fear! Chivalry Man in Blue Overalls is here!
“Wait!” I squeak when I see what he’s doing. Nope. He did. The broken lock hangs loosely from the old-wooden-door-painted-olive-green as he swings it open and offers me the whole place for as long as I want to visit.
Picking up my jawbone from where it lies next to my shoe, I thank him graciously and make my way into the dim interior. A million gilings swirl in the light piercing through the windows like stardust. I am swimming in sensation. Old wood. Cold stone. Parchment. The history of hundreds of years born on the death of a forest and the land on which it flourished. All are dead now and only the ghosts remain. But what magnificent ghosts!
I paged through a few records. Pondered, wrote, and gave thanks for my life. My pilgrimage is at an end.
As my eyes drifted in and out of focus on the endless stone wall blurring by, I sat on the train, daydreaming. Mr. Chivalry Man in Blue Overalls was telling his neighbor – someone by the name of “Gruffydd” over an half mile away, “Dat was ‘ur naim, Oy sweah’t! She stoid uhn’t w’ mi’un ‘miss’s. Oy sweah!”
Chivalry Man in Blue Overalls had invited me to stay with he and his wife for the night. Though not well-to-do, they shared their dinner, their home, and their son’s bedroom with me. (Pity he wasn’t there.) They did so with the honorable graciousness that most would think only belong to kings.
Rain pelted the train window as I opened the sack lunch she’d made for me.
I watched Mrs. Chivalry Man in Blue Overalls make her way into her son’s room to change the sheets. She picked up the twenty pound note from my pillow and made that face everyone makes when you see a really cute puppy. Yeah, that one. Then she looked inside the boxes of Mom’s homemade peanut butter fudge. For this reaction, I couldn’t tell if the sniff and teensy bite off the corner was (A) “I’ve just discovered America!” (B) “Although my ninth CN* is killing me, my Spidey sense isn’t tingling so it must be OK;” or (C) “What the…?” Hmmm… I’ll choose to go with “A.” It’ll go well with the vision of her reading the tome of thanks that I left, a gentle tear brimming in her eye.
Wait! Did I leave the Thank You note that I stayed up ‘til one in the morning to finish writing?
Oh well, there’s always the mail.
*“Gyri,” plural for “Gyrus.” Specifically, the superior temporal, inferior frontal and middle temporal gyri which are responsible for language processing, memory, syntax and integration in the brain.
*Ninth Cranial Nerve (glossopharyngeal nerve): attributed to taste response, among other things.