My daughter Nicola and I have been on a road trip through Scotland. It is a remarkable country, enfolding a vast range of geography: snowy heights, craggy coastlines, vibrant cities, rolling farmland, white beaches and turquoise water to rival the Caribbean (until you put your toe in: that rivals the Arctic). From the desolate beauty of the Island of Mull, to the sacred stillness of Iona, to the Mediterranean-like charm of Oban, to the haunting remoteness of Loch Ness, to the fable-like medievalness of Stirling, to the artistic hum of Edinburgh, to the commercial pulse of Glasgow, the journey’s been memorable from start to finish.
We’ve stayed in Youth Hostels the whole way, ranging from the gothic to the rustic to the exotic (for a hostel, at least). Night to night, we’ve not known what’s awaited us until we’ve arrived, which has been half the fun. Tonight, I write this in a Victorian-era apartment building perched above the city of Glasgow, in what must have once been a dining hall – marble pillars! A chandelier! – but now is a scruffy lounge for travel-worn wanderers.
This week’s been a great adventure. But the best part, by far, has been spending the time with my daughter. Nicola and I have together driven hundreds of miles, walked dozens of them, talked a blue streak, laughed about things that aren’t even funny, and endured each other’s strange sleeping habits – I snore, she takes forever to wake up. We’ve eaten in bistros and cafes (including one J.K. Rowling frequented in her slumming-it days) and pubs and parking lots and dingy hostel mess halls.
I’ve relished every minute of it.
If there’s one regret I have as a parent (how I wish there was only one), it’s that I was too busy for long stretches of my children’s growing up years to have been fully present for them. I never made enough snow men, never played enough hide-and-seek, never read enough Dr. Seuss. I always thought there’d be time for that next week, or the one after that. But it all flew by with blurring swiftness. And then, with one child and then another, it was gone. Soon, Nicola too will say goodbye and not come back.
But that’s not yet. And in the meantime, we’ve had this magical week together.
For me, it was supposed to be about discovering my ethnic roots, reconnecting with my Scottish heritage, exploring the land of my forebears. I guess it’s been all that. I still have no idea if I’m from a line of illiterate peasants or glittering noblemen.
But I don’t care. The week’s really been about being with Nicola. That’s been so rich, I may as well be descended from kings.