Sometimes, as I lay in bed at night, I think I
can hear seagulls shrieking in the distance. If I close my eyes, I can
visualize pieces of fish bobbing on the frothy whitecaps of the North Sea,
after falling out of the nets of the colorfully painted trawlers coming
into the harbor. Sometimes a tear runs down my cheek onto my pillow as I
think about Edinburgh, Scotland, my hometown.
I lived in an older part of the city, known as
Newhaven, which was eventually incorporated into the larger city and
capitol, Edinburgh. It was settled in the 1500’s, after King James IV
decided to use Newhaven as the place to build warships. My ancestors came
over from Flanders, bringing fine linens and ropes for the King, and ended
up staying there permanently.
After the great warship era had passed,
Newhaven settled down into a quiet fishing village, which is the way it
still was when I was born. When I was a wee lassie, I’d go with my mum and
dad to watch the fishing boats. They sailed into the tiny, man-made harbor,
passing by the lighthouse that perched on the sea wall. The trawlers were
filled with herring and cod. A plethora of seagulls screeched overhead,
swooping down at the boats, hoping to scoop up a herring that had fallen
overboard into the choppy, black sea.
The women scurried down the steep,
cobblestone streets, towards the maddening crowds at the fish market,
trying to fill their creels with the largest and freshest fish. My grandma
always smiled at me as she walked by with her load of fish. She dressed in
a yellow and white striped pinafore that fitted tightly over a dark blue
canvas-like dress. All the fisherwomen of Newhaven looked much the same.
They wore the same pinafores and dresses, and wore their hair pulled back
off their faces, very severe looking; nevertheless, I could always pick my
grandma out of the crowd.
Just before my family left Scotland to sail
to Australia, my grandma gave me a striped pinafore, just like the one she
wore. She stood sadly, on the quay and waved to me as I boarded the ship.
I wept as I waved my final farewell. A lone bagpiper seemed cemented to
the dock as he played, "The Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond." The anchor was
then devoured into the bowels of the ship. Seagulls squawked and soared
around my grandma as the ship pulled away from its berth.
It would be twenty three years before I
would see the heather’d hills of Scotland again. The years passed quickly.
The winds of change left their mark on my homeland. The fishing trawlers
vanished, the old lighthouse and fish market decayed into rubble,
time-weathered and in disarray.
I walked through the ancient cobblestone
streets of Newhaven, memories of my grandma and my life as a child haunted
me. I could picture her in her fisherwoman attire, calling, "Who’ll buy my
As I stood at the harbor, I observed
several seagulls flying overhead. I could still smell the odor of fish
clinging to the stone floors of the market. I heard the never ceasing
waves as they dashed themselves against the old walls, throwing a misty
vapor high into the sky. I ran my hand along a steel railing that had been
painted apple red. It was icy cold to my touch. I wished, just for a
moment, that I could go back to the warm days of my childhood in Newhaven,