Glad to wear plaid

I’ve just spent three days with my mom and dad at the annual Clan Munro reunion. It was my parents’ second year, but my first.

This year’s location—Olympia, Washington—was of particular significance because my dad’s parents were born there. In fact, my great-grandad built several of the old stone buildings that still grace downtown.

I’d hoped to see some of those buildings, but we didn’t get the chance: The activities every day went from about 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Not that I’m complaining. Instead, we attended the annual meeting, laid a wreath to honor Douglas Albert Munro (who sacrificed his life to save 500 Marines at Guadalcanal), toured the Capitol, visited the Squaxin Island Tribal Museum, toured an archaeological dig on Puget Sound, enjoyed a clam bake, and had a sing-along with Alex Beaton. And that was just the first day!

The highlights of the second day included seeing a 400-member bagpipe band at the Highland Games in Enumclaw. I’m sure they could be heard 40 miles away.

Later that night, we had a formal dinner. Most of the lasses wore long black gowns, but we didn’t hold a candle to the laddies. The men looked striking in their matching kilts and Prince Charlie jackets. Who knew that a skirt could look so macho? I got weepy as we joined hands and sang Auld Lang Syne.

The events were great fun, but for me the high points were spending time with my parents, and meeting our wonderful shirttail relatives.

I was especially impressed by our hosts, Ralph and Karen Munro. Ralph is Washington’s former secretary of state, recently retired after serving five terms. He is obviously much beloved, as he was greeted warmly wherever we went.

Then there was Admiral Bob, who regaled us with tales from World War II. I loved that my dad—a former Navy man himself—always addressed the admiral as “sir.” I was also struck by the disproportionate number of attendees who had served in the Navy. Did they perhaps have a genetic imperative to follow their forefathers’ seafaring heritage?

I enjoyed talking with Mr. Hoffman, the bookseller from Boston. And Earl, who used to be a rodeo trick-rider. (It ran in his family; his dad had toured with Buffalo Bill.) Then there was the couple who had served as extras on Eyes Wide Shut. Imagine having to walk past Tom Cruise 96 times, over the course of several hours, to film a single take.

For three days, I was surrounded by kind, funny, fascinating people who share a common ancestry. The experience far exceeded my expectations.

Over the past three days, I also learned more about my family’s heritage than I had in the previous 42 years. I’m suddenly itching to go back to Scotland.

I hope I can make next year’s gathering in Williamsburg. In the meantime, at least I have my memories.


    • It *was* wonderful. I even got to hear a bagpipe explode! (Awful for the piper, but hilarious for the rest of us.) My only regret is that we didn’t have more time.

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