People are better known not in need, as not very optimistic folk wisdom teaches us, but around a family table! Especially at a wedding one.
I mean, look, in the morning, before the ceremony everyone is busy preparing, at the ceremony itself – all are sweet and smiling, just line up to take pictures, as they say in Halychyna, but with the course of the day, closer to the evening, after the third speech it becomes clear who is who and this new identity is impossible to hide under the satin dresses, ironed white shirts and silk ties. And at the moment when the veil is taken off from the bride, those crippled social masks that are surprisingly kept till the late night fall off.
If you think that only Ukrainians are lucky enough to have a “dear family” you are wrong: the English even have a special saying – “holiday trial”. Fair enough, a trial. A burden of a chargeable social event multiplied by the friendship which is bound by remotely similar DNA. But someone doesn’t have even this thin thread. This is a true challenge that exposes all nerves and sheds light on those corners of our self, access to which we prefer to strictly obscure.
Recently, I have returned from the wedding of my Scottish friends where I was the only Ukrainian. If in a metropolis like London, no one is surprised even by a stranger from the planet Melmac, dressed up in an elegant suit with a bouquet of violets on a lapel, in a countryside, in the back of beyond, where Nessie monster is about to lurk out of the reeds, the Ukrainian guest is a whole attraction, no less than fakir.
First, the guests came up to me with such a smile that is put on only for puppies like Bichon Maltese and a goggle-eyed pug and with the same sweet voices they said:
“Hello, sweetie! How are you?”
Distinctly. By syllables, even by sounds, it’s good that they didn’t write large red letters on the cards.
By hearing that everything is great and I am thrilled by the heavenly sounds of the Great Highland bagpipe and mellow from the unprecedented luxuries of sunny weather and heat +16, they backed away from me with fear, carrying away the smile aimed for pugs and Bichons.
But why? Because I can imitate rhotic Scottish accent – the ability that would come in handy in a journey around Scotland more than a hundred pounds in small bills. It was the last thing they expected from a girl from the country they would hardly ever find on the map of Europe.
My inner anthropologist was pleased and giggled silently for, in fact, I didn’t get as far as these few ‘rrr-ing’ sentences, but these are details. Astounding experience of sharing the dormitory with Irish and Scottish sooner or later should have brought social benefits! And here they are – aunts Fenellas and uncles Erskines with puzzled smiles.
The next step was to find out where exactly Ukraine is located in Russia. Closer to Siberia or the Baltic Sea. Real sizes and location didn’t surprise them but provoked smile number two that I call awkwardly-condescending: it turned out that I am from the second-largest country in Europe and that it’s better to talk carefully about our northern neighbour so as not to provoke me to a thorough lecture on history, political science and sociology.
Uncle Erskine rescued guests from a lecture on Ukraine’s place on the geopolitical map of the world. Basically, he performed a traditional wedding song Flower of Scotland on the Great Highland bagpipe and I, my dear, advise you to turn it on to the total speakers capacity when your neighbours listen to the deafening rock music at midnight – in half an hour they will look for an estate agent to move the flat away from your Scottish wedding songs to another end of the galaxy. The guests had a good cry and pulling the earplugs out (this was a try to joke like English if someone failed to get it) knuckled down to asking me about the Ukrainian wedding songs.
How is it possible to talk about the songs? This is like describing the colours with words. The songs should be sung. And at that moment, I, standing in a traditional Scottish bonnet askew and Dr. Martens with the English flag on my feet (an unforgivable lapse for which I was fairly berated by the groom’s uncle) and singing “Why is your braid undone”, recalled my father’s teaching: you should be able to do three things in life – recite the poems, sing a Ukrainian song and dance a waltz. Thank God, I behaved well and can do all of these, that’s why a hundred of guests, Scottish mountains and the dinosaur Nessie from the nearby lake could enjoy the Ukrainian song accompanied by the Great Highland bagpipe.
Someone even cried and I hope not for their musical ear offence but the beauty of the melody and a fabulous duet – Ukrainian soul and Scottish passion.
To be continued…