In second grade at Jefferson Elementary, Mrs. Pendergast attempted to teach us about cultural heritage. She explained, “For example, my mother’s family is from Germany and my father’s family came from Ireland, so I’m half German and half Irish.”
Excitedly, kids raised their hands to share their family backgrounds. I pondered what I knew of my own history, and when Mrs. Pendergast called on me I was ready.
“I’m part German, part Scottish, and part Arkansas,” I said.
My classmates seemed impressed until Mrs. P. ruined everything by informing me that though my father was born there, Arkansas was a state, not a country, and therefore not culturally significant.
That response dampened my budding curiosity to explore my roots. Later, I learned that I actually came from German, Russian, Irish and Scottish stock. However, only the Scottish part of my ancestry held any interest for me.
This was due to my huge crush on Scotty from “Star Trek.” While my friends swooned over Captain Kirk, I pined for Scotty. His delightful brogue made everything sound sexy. “Aye, the haggis is in the fire for sure!”
So, recently, when I got a note from Highland Games Association chairman Stephen Schneider informing me of the annual Robert Burns Supper on Saturday, I decided to resume researching my Scottish heritage.
My previous experience with the local Scots community involved fondling a lot of men’s knees when I served as the judge of the Highland Games Knobbly Knees contest this summer.
That’s one way to get to know your kinsmen.
Schneider assured me that I wouldn’t be required to touch any knees at the Burns supper, unless the spirit (or spirits) so moved me.
In fact, he said, the supper would include “many toasts to lads and lassies, heartfelt tributes to the immortal memory of Robert Burns, and old guys in kilts trying to drink and recite poetry. … ”
Who could resist a party like that?
Sponsored by the St. Andrews Society of the Inland Northwest, the event is both a celebration of Robert (Robbie) Burns and all things Scottish, and a scholarship fundraiser. The proceeds fund a scholarship for a student in dance, piping or drumming to attend a course in their art – like the summer bagpipe school at North Idaho College.
I enjoyed every minute of the event. Music played a prominent role in the festivities. Lilting strains of Celtic tunes performed by Nine Pint Coggies greeted guests arriving at the Lincoln Center. Throughout the evening, music continued with Crooked Kilt, Angus Scott Pipe Band and the Shadle Park High School Pipe Band.
Of course, Robbie Burns was toasted and quoted, as Schneider recited a medley of his poems, which included this line: “The sweetest hours I e’er I spend, are spent among the lasses, O.”
Speaking of lasses, Stuart Smith led the gentleman in the traditional toast to the lasses, followed by Christine Smith with a toast to the lads. “For the bonnie flow’r of Scotland is one that never wilts. And it makes a lassie say with pride, ‘Down with yer trousers! Up with yer kilts!’ ”
There’s more toast at the Robbie Burns Supper than most of us see in a week’s worth of breakfasts.
The delicious dinner was accompanied by a generous serving of haggis at each table. But before we dug in to the delicacy, Jason Gordon performed the ceremonial Address to a Haggis. I didn’t understand most of what he said, but I sure enjoyed the way he said it!
No Scottish celebration is complete without dancing. The Scottish Country Dancers, Spokane Valley Highland Dancers and Northwest Highland Dancers delighted the crowd. But we weren’t merely spectators – throughout the evening Marie Grimes taught guests a variety of social dances.
There was reeling.
There was flinging.
There was waltzing.
It takes a lot of energy to be Scottish. By 10 p.m. I was pooped, but folks decades my senior were still dancing, and so were a lot of youngsters.
On Saturday night, the echoes of pipes and drums rang in my ears, and the taste of haggis lingered on my tongue. And I mean that in the best possible way.
I’m glad I didn’t let Mrs. Pendergast’s dismissal of my Arkansas heritage permanently dissuade me from further exploration of my roots.