* * * Only THREE more days until I am an Official Middle-Aged Head * * *
In this season of giving, the gifts we give to the important people in our lives are either seen or unseen. We send ourselves to the brink of insanity trying to find the perfect gift, the gift that has “the WOW Factor”. The Wow Factor is measured in several ways. there is the reaction- it’s what the giver is looking for; how wide-eyed and speechless will the recipient be when they open the gift. It’s the reason why men like giving jewelry to the significant women in their lives. Then there is the factor of surprise, which goes hand-in-hand with the reaction.
Last night, I was given an unexpected gift with a WOW quotient that was off the charts. It wasn’t money, expensive clothes, or other lavish gifts. Nor did it come from someone I knew. It came from someone several states away whom I’ve never met, and the gift was given unknowingly. It didn’t have an expensive price tag; in fact, it was free. It was the sound of a woman’s voice.
Before you start thinking I’ve found love, let’s back up a bit and allow me to give you the backstory. I have been enamored with Scotland for a very long time. Since I am a golfer, who appreciates the traditions and heritage of the game, my love begins with the great golf courses – Troon, Muirfield, Machrahanish, Boat of Garten, and, of course, St. Andrews. I have visited St. Andrews twice and always the visit was far too brief. If I were to win a big money lottery, I would purchase a cottage or flat and spend half the year in Scotland.
I love the sound of a Scots brogue. It varies from a rough growl from the Highlands to the gentility,almost English-sounding lilt. But it’s not easy to hear sometimes. When the Scots speak their own brand of Gaelic, comprehension drifts out the window. I once sat in a pub and listened to several men conversing in Scots. It had a gutteral quality that I couldn’t understand, forcing me to sit back and listen, allowing it to flow over and around me. When I speak with my friend, Adam, who lives in St. Andrews, but is originally from Aberdeen, it takes awhile to tune my ear and decipher what he is saying. But, I love the sound and don’t mind asking him to repeat himself.
Over the past several weeks, one reason why I haven’t posted much is because I have been taken a seasonal job, taking phone orders for a major catalog retailer that specializes in clothing and outdoor gear. Their boots are world famous and their flagship store, a mere 20-minute drive from my house, is a tourist destination. Anywhoo, this is the seventh year I’ve been working the phones and taking orders for Christmas. The money is good and it allows me some financial breathing room. The employee discount isn’t shabby, either – 33% – and that’s not counting the bargains in the employee store. I paid a dollar for 4 pair of pants, nice chinos and dress pants, too. It’s all good and I love it. I enjoy talking with customers from all over the country. The brash, rude Brooklyn callers, the syrupy drawl of the customers from North Carolina and Virginia, the no-nonsense tones of the upper Midwestern callers – I love talking with all of them. But the call I took 90 minutes into my shift last night was the best of them all.
It was from a woman from Connecticut. Her voice had a slightly frail tone, indicating her age, and a familiar lift. There was something about her voice that immediately caught my ear, something that made my eyes open wide and my heart lift. I waited before taking the order to ask her where she was brought up, and when she told me she was from a place just north of Glasgow, I felt a smile engulf my face. I closed my eyes and listened to her tell me about her daughter, who had an opportunity to study abroad in St. Andrews but declined to be with boy, whom she later married. I melted on the spot. Her brogue had captured my heart and lifted it up, like a freshning breeze across the linksland.
I wasn’t expecting this gift and I knew my caller had no idea it was her gift to give. I felt my spirits lift and my mood brighten. I’d come to work that night feeling a bit rundown and I came away from that call refreshed and renewed. After I’d taken her order, I thanked her – not just for her purchases, for the sound of her voice that transported me back to a place I keep near to my heart. She laughed softly, almost apologetically, not fully understanding what had transpired. She extended to me her hopes that I would soon return to Scotland, and that it was a pleasure to speak with me.
As I rapidly approach my 50th birthday, I think about returning to Scotland (and England). I also look forward to exploring my mind and soul, to search for possibilites, and discover why Scotland has this pull of my being. Why do I feel that I was meant to be there, to possibly live there and nurture my spirit? I would’ve loved to spend my birthday there. Perhaps another day.