For FMM- Jamie meets this guy named Murray, that comes from a Scottish family and for the story he tells Jamie he could be a descendant of Jenny and Ian.
Flood my Mornings: Hogmanay
Notes from Mod Bonnie:
- This story takes place in an AU in which Jamie travels through the stones two years after Culloden and finds Claire and his child in 1950 Boston.
- See all past installments via Bonnie’s Master List
- Previous installment: Flood my (Christmas) Mornings
December 31, 1950
“Is it ridiculous that I’m feeling nervous as a girl on the first day of school?” I asked, smoothing my coat with one hand and squeezing Bree’s hand with the other as we waited in the tidy hallway outside the MacAlister’s door.
“You’ve no reason, lass,” Jamie assured me. I knew he wanted to put his arm around my back, but his hands were full of whisky bottles and Bree’s diaper bag. He did manage to lean in and kiss my cheek. “They’ll take to ye just fine.”
This particular get-together was long overdue. I’d been delighted to learn about Jamie’s serendipitous meeting with the Irish hurling group, and the subsequent connection with the lone Scot, Charlie MacAlister. Though Jamie had gone several times since to join the game or else get a drink one-on-one with Charlie (apparently a chap after Jamie’s own heart in many ways), the several times we had tried to schedule a family dinner since Halloween, the fates had always seen fit to intervene, with holidays, birthdays, morning sickness, et cetera, et cetera.
Fitting, though, that at long last, we should be spending this thoroughly Scottish holiday with a thoroughly Scottish (well, Gaelic, collectively) family.
The door opened with a bang and a roar of “A GOOD NEW YEAR TO YE!!”
Even in the first five seconds of our acquaintance, Charlie MacAlister gave me so strong a recollection of a MacKenzie clansman, I felt like I’d been jolted back into Castle Leoch itself. Jocular, irreverent, fiercely protective and loyal to a fault, those men had alternately vexed and delighted and protected and astounded me with their vigor and kindness and overall enthusiasm for living, in all its forms.
Perhaps that’s why it didn’t perturb me in the slightest that Jamie’s friend’s choice greeting was to lift me clear off my feet in a massive rib-crushing hug; and even though it was the first time I was laying eyes on the man, I couldn’t help but laugh and hug him back , brimming with warmth and affection at once. “Well, hello to you too!” I felt Jamie relax behind me: I’d given my permission, so he would not come to my rescue. I thought I could actually sense him grinning.
“I’m so glad to finally meet ye, Claire!” Charlie boomed as he set me back on the ground, taking me in. “From the way Jamie speaks of ye—” His eyes suddenly lit up and he whipped them up to Jamie with a grin. “Why, ye wicked wee dog, Fraser: ye didna say!!” He threw his head back and roared with, “Meal a naidheachd to ye both!” He straightened to give me a wink. “When are ye due, then, lass?”
“CHARLIE!!!” barked a red-haired woman behind him, his wife, Saoirse.
“What? It’s—” Charlie spluttered and made vague gestures between himself and my notably curved belly. “I’m only—”
“You’re only about making a fool of yourself, Charlie Mac. Keep your mouth shut, if you please?” She gave me an apologetic look that was nonetheless warm and kind. “Please be accepting BOTH our apologies for that great gowl over there.” After greeting Jamie, she turned and swatted her husband hard on the shoulder, her eyes blazing as she said between clenched teeth. “Have you no control over that tongue??”
“I do—and ye tend to like my control of it, lass…” and he bent her head back to kiss her thoroughly. She tried to push him away but she couldn’t resist laughing as his hands roamed and she relented and kissed him back.
God, this. THIS I’d missed—to see another couple who loved our same kind of irreverence and warmth and informality. Husbands and wives in these times—at least in post-war America—tended to err on the side of reserve in public, bordering on primness. Even Tom and Marian, as dear as they both were to to us, weren’t free with public displays of affection toward each other. Jamie and I tended to act precisely the way we wished and damn whoever should judge us for it, but it was unbelievably refreshing to not be the only ones in the room who would not be scandalized by lewd jokes.
On top of that, “Pregnancy” was considered a rather rude word, in American culture at present. Considering the massive increase in childbearing after the war, this seemed an enormously ridiculous cultural hangup (“be fruitful and multiply, but pretend the penises and vaginas don’t exist”). Those in the family way —as I now found myself—were treated with a delicate, pointed kind of embarrassment, as if to say, ‘look what she’s been doing…Heavens, what if she actually enjoyed it??’
I was used to the taboo, of course, having experienced it with Bree, and seen it around me, since; but it was an unexpected kind of relief to have it be so singled out with such joy and goodwill by these new friends. In fact, I was grinning like a prize idiot as I assured them both, “It’s quite alright, really.” I felt a rush of joy and pride at finally being able to share our news. I felt Jamie’s hand resting on my back. “You’ve spotted it right: we are expecting!”
Charlie gave a crow of triumph “I thought you’d been a little shifty these last few months about ‘family’ and things happening next year! When will the wean be arriving, then??”
“Late July,” I said, “or it might be the first of August.”
Charlie stepped forward to clap both of us on the back, at which Saoirse looked absolutely mortified. I made a point of reassuring her when she leaned in to kiss me on the cheek and offer her own comhghairdeas.
Jamie accepted the hearty congratulations, grinning like a fool himself, “Let’s keep it between us, aye? We havena told Brianna yet.” He nodded at the children, who were already playing on the living room floor. “Perhaps talk in a wee code if it should come up?”
Saoirse nodded agreement. “Wee Nolan has ears like a hare and a mouth like a magpie.” She gave a pointed roll of the eyes. “Wonder who he could possibly be getting it from…?”
It had all the same modern conveniences as our own house, the MacAlister’s little flat, but something about it—the spices, maybe?—or—no, that wasn’t it….Something about it just felt like Scotland. Like home.
If nothing else, I could see it in Jamie’s posture and manner. As for my own country of birth, I had rarely felt any great attachment to England that went beyond good tea and rolling hills. Home had been wherever I laid my head that night, and between Uncle Lamb, the war, and my experiences in the eighteenth century, I’d certainly spent more of my life amongst strangers than my own proper countrymen. But Jamie was Scotland, through and through, and even this small taste of it—Americanized and quasi-Irish as it might be—was enough to make him glow with an ease that filled my own heart in the seeing. He was happy with our life in Boston, I knew; blissful, even! To have our family together and safe was all he desired; but something about experiencing that deeper home-ness again was a restorative to his soul, and I thanked God for putting Charlie Mac in Jamie’s path. It was pure delight to see the two of them going on in rapid Gaelic, like brothers.
“They’re like two pups together, aren’t they?” Saoirse said fondly, echoing my silent thoughts as she took a seat beside me on the sofa.
“Indeed they are,” I laughed, looking at them through the dining room doorway.
Saoirse was as red-haired as Jamie, freckled and cheery-eyed. “Will you be speakin’ the Gaelidgh yourself, Claire?”
“Very little,” I attempted in that language, my accent horrendous but the words correct, I was fairly certain.
“Very well done,” she replied, laughing before switching back to English, her Irish accent broad and unashamed. “That’s about as much as I know of it, myself. My parents weren’t too keen on my marrying a Scot, but I’ve no regrets. Except maybe Charlie’s tendency to put his fool foot in his fool mouth.”
“It’s rather endearing, actually,” I assured her.
Despite herself, Saoirse grinned. “Damn me if it wasn’t one of the things that had me head-over-heels for the idiot.”
We laughed and settled deeper into the comfy couch, covered over with homey afghans. “So, Charlie tells me you and Jamie met in Scotland, originally? Did ye like it, there?”
“I did!” I paused just for a moment. “Well, to tell it true, a lot of sad things happened there…but we had some of our happiest days, as well,” I added, thinking of those days at Lallybroch before the war.
“Do you think you’ll ever go back?”
I thought about that for a long while. “To visit, certainly. When Brianna and—” I gestured to the baby, “are old enough to see and hear the stories, I think.”
“You’d never think of moving back permanently? Seems to be a dream of Charlie’s—It’d surprise me if Jamie had no similar desire.”
We had indeed talked about it, and I knew Jamie’s very conflicted thoughts on the matter. “Part of him wishes for Scotland, yes—but it’s a Scotland that’s long-gone.”
That surprised her. “How so?”
“Jamie had…a lot of hard things happen to him there. He lost his family, and so doesn’t have anyone left.”
“Not a soul?”
“No one,“ I said, feeling the ache of it. I rubbed the baby absently. “So, he misses it, the land and its people and ways, but there isn’t anyone left in Scotland to make it home for him.”
“That’s very sad,” Saoirse murmured, sparing a glance toward the men in the dining room.
“It is. But you see, it’s easier to have our life in America: to keep Scotland in his mind the way it was, rather than feel the ache of it, seeing always what’s missing.”
“Aye, I understand….At least he has his lady—and his little ones.”
We shared a smile, and I wanted to ask her more about her own family, but just then the children descended, Bree, four-year-old Nolan, and little Will, just barely walking. No impromptu migration, this: the pack of them squealed in, chased by their fathers at their heels.
“You lot are no better than the children!” I laughed.
“Aye, maybe no’,” Jamie agreed, grinning, “But at least we’re old enough to drink, and they’re not.”
“I AM!” Nolan insisted. “I’m plenty grow’d up!”
“Oh, aye, to be sure,” Charlie said with a wink. “I forgot we had a grown wee mannie in our midst.” He went to the kitchen and returned with an armful of ginger ale bottles. “A man needs a stiff drink.” He cracked open a lid and handed the glass bottle to his son, who looked terribly important at acknowledgment of his maturity.
Bree was NOT intending to be overlooked. She put on her hips and insisted, “I’M mannie, TOO!” daring Charlie to say otherwise.
Nor did he, bless him. He already had a bottle ready for her. “Here ye go, wee mannie.”
Bree had never had soda pop before, and she recoiled in surprise at first taste of the bubbly treat, looking as thought she’d rather skip this novelty; but, a true Fraser, she would never admit defeat with Nolan so proudly enjoying his, and so she gamely drank, getting violent hiccups almost instantly.
“A Hogmanay toast?” Saoirse suggested, rising to her feet to pour some whisky. She offered one to me, but I accepted only a ginger ale. Many people drank alcohol regularly during pregnancy, I knew (as had I, in the past) but somehow now it made me feel ill to think of accidentally intoxicating the poor thing.
The toasts flew thick and fast. To our families! To the new year! To a better season on the pitch! To the whisky! And even—
“To our Bonnie Prince!” Charlie said, with an eye to Jamie, making a rude gesture toward the ceiling. “May he sleep wi’ spiders in his grave for the feckless wanker he was.”
“AAA-bloody-MEN!” I intoned with feeling.
“Aye,” Jamie said with a rueful nod as he drank, though he crossed himself.
He promptly choked as Bree squeaked out, “Whatssa WANE-gr?”
Before the rest of us could react, Nolan grinned fiendishly and started in with, “It means a–”
“That’s QUITE enough from you, a blalaich,” Saoirse said sharply. “And what would Great-Gran Murray say if she heard ye were knowing such a word??”
I shook with silent laughter along with Charlie, such that I almost didn’t hear Jamie’s quiet question:
My belly tightened and I whipped my eyes up to look at him. He’d schooled his face into a mask of control—a sure bellwether of the deep emotional turmoil within him.
“My mother’s mam. They live together in Cambridge,” Charlie said blithely as he poured more whiskey all around. “The MacAlisters were none too pleased about my Da’s choice, but even they had to admit in the end what a fine woman she was. Strong and certain and wi’ a mouth on her that could wither fruit. Not one to charm royalty, she, but a damn formidable sort, Murrays.”
Formidable. Like Jenny.
“From, erm, which part of Scotland, is your mother’s family?” I asked casually.
“Roundabout Inverness, mostly.”
My heart quickened with excitement. Not far at all from Broch Morda. I was opening my mouth to ask more questions, to narrow and ascertain, but then I caught Jamie’s eye, his ever-so-slight shake of the head. I closed my mouth.
Later, after supper, while Charlie and Saoirse cleared the table (refusing our many offers of help), Jamie and I took the children into the sitting room again.
I took Jamie’s hand. “Why not, my love?” I asked gently.
He knew what I meant, but he didn’t answer right away, nor did he look me in the eye. He pulled me close and pressed a kiss to my cheek.
“Does it—” I began tentatively, but he was already speaking.
“Tis enough to me,” he said, simply, “that they might be.”
And though it at first struck me as utterly ridiculous, not to wish to know for certain, I did come to understand what he meant, as the evening went on. To KNOW was so final. Jenny and Ian certainly had THOUSANDS of descendants, and even so, the chances that we’d encountered someone from their direct line was highly unlikely, or at the very least, very difficult to prove. To allow himself to believe–that was the gift, here.
And I could see it in his eyes, the soft contemplation of it, the sense of true brotherhood between he and Charlie now even deeper. The tenderness that radiated out from his face as he knelt to speak to little Will about a toy. I could almost see the thoughts rolling through him.
Might some scrap of this lad owe itself to Ian?
To Ellen of Leoch or Black Brian Fraser?
“Bree, a leannan, do ye want to come sit wi’ Da?”
“No,” she said, shrugging back and rubbing her face, “I wan’ Mama.”
“Fair enough,” he laughed. “I would want your Mama, too.”
“Come here, baby,” I beckoned, groaning a bit as I gathered her up against my chest. “Oof, there’s my sweet girl.” I savored the feeling, as I always did, of holding Bree in my arms and the baby in my body. The sounds around us were muffled and distant as we settled into a warm heap of love.
The radio was switched on at 10:00, detailing the new year’s celebrations happening around the country. We’d arrived late in the evening, with the little ones having taken naps late in the day to stave off sleepiness, but the late hour was still wearing on them. Hot chocolate and slices of Black Bun cake at 11:00 were enough to rouse them temporarily, but it still took a great deal to get them all conscious for the big moment as we all got to our feet for the final seconds of 1950.
And as it always did, Auld lang syne began to play. It meant absolutely nothing to Jamie, of course. He had predated Robert Burns and his lyrics, and couldn’t have discerned the tune in any case, but he listened to the words with eager interest. Charlie was drowning out the radio with the traditional scots rendition, though I only knew the same anglicized version that was playing.
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne?
And for the first time in my life, with my children held close and Jamie’s arm around my back, the song gave me chills:
We two have run about the slopes,
and picked the daisies fine;
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot
since auld lang syne.
We two have paddled in the stream,
from morning sun till dine
But seas between us broad have roared
since auld lang syne.
And both of us had tears running down our faces as we locked eyes. No, we wouldn’t ever forget the things of our past: neither the daisies of our life, nor the weary feet from the trampings of war, nor the roaring seas of tragedy that had indeed once swept us apart.
And there’s a hand my trusty friend!
And give me a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.
And as we moved toward the front door for the first-footing, I kissed my trusty friend, and didn’t need to see any dark stranger outside to know that 1951 would be the best year of our lives.