When people say “New York” they mean “New York City” when they want to talk about the state they say “New York State.” As an exile from New York, I don’t consider myself a New Yorker and never considered myself a New Yorker. I was never accepted as a New Yorker. My family just passed through New York via Montreal, Canada, and Ellis Island. They never really were New Yorkers or even “Yankees”.
And you know what they say: being born in a garage doesn’t make you a car. I wouldn’t mind visiting it again (I haven’t been there since 2005) but I have no burning desire to return and no family and few friends to greet me.
Cianalas is the Highland word for it -that place you are connected to by heritage where joy and sadness mingle.
But it is quite true. You can’t go home again. The greatest distance between two points is time. New York, Glasgow, Argyll, Inverness, Glenties, Ferindonald represent lost worlds to me. So is Seattle, Washington where we lived for seven years.
There is some warmth of memories in all of those places places where my family lived for over one thousand years but I know them well enough to know they all belong to the past and are not likely to have any place in my future and the future of my children.
They are now part of Yesterday’s Seven Thousand Years.
We may sing of them and memory remembers the ghost of a tune and the ghost of a kiss and the Silent Ones.
But the Silent Ones greet forever as they greet no more.
Gars ye tae greet,aye. “But the broken heart it kens no second spring again thought the waeful heart cease not from its greeting.” (grieving; lamenting -that’s Scots dialect)
But then I am speaking only to myself.
“The world is hard and cruel. We are here none knows why, and we go none knows whither. We must be very humble. We must see the beauty of quietness. We must go through life so inconspicuously that Fate does not notice us. And let us seek the love of simple, ignorant people. Their ignorance is better than all our knowledge. Let us be silent, content in our little corner, meek and gentle like them. That is the wisdom of life.” (The Moon and Sixpence, W. Somerset Maugham)
Of course, the 1890 Highlands is a vanished world and so is pre-1914 Glasgow and so is Brooklyn, USA 1927-1957.
I grew up hearing about Ebbets Field ( I was there in 1955 in utero) and my cousins and sisters went there. I used to be very happy to return to New York but that is because my grandmother and mother and father lived there (plus a few college friends). But since they have passed on -it has been over 20 years so there is no homestead, no property, no address and no welcoming face at any door. The phone numbers still remembered are disconnected.
It is sad when you know your mother’s email and phone number and you know no matter how long you wait there will never be a return message or call.
Phone numbers disconnected and ideas for conversations that would never take place. I used to call my mother long distance at least once a week and she would see “this is costing money” and I told her it was cheaper than a cocaine habit and in any case I know each day is a gift. I told her I would call her now for a modest amount. The time is coming, I said to her, that no matter how much I would spend the door would still be locked and the phone disconnected.
Life and love are just a brief moment in time. My mother used to say that. I half believed it. Now I have learned it.
I thought winter would never come but winter came and the snow is general.
Even on Labor Day. Especially on a holiday. Thank God for my beloved wife! Thank God for our children and the new generation to come!