Long, long ago a little girl is listening to her parents. “We start tomorrow on a long trip, Anna. It will take us home to the Shetland Islands. Your grandparents want to see you. They don’t have any other grandchildren.”
“Why not, Mummy? I have friends with grandparents, and they have lots of grandchildren. And why do you call that place home? Vancouver is home!”
Mrs. Malcolmson sighs. “Be patient, child. We’ll explain it all to you as we travel.”
The trip begins, and long it was. Anna has a lot of time to ask her questions. A long train ride and much to see, with questions to match.
“What’s that? Why are there trees here?”
“It’s different today, where have the trees gone?”
“This is a tiny town, do the kids have a school?””
“What’s an island? How did Shetland get into the ocean?”
“Will we get there tonight?”
Whenever Anna falls asleep, her patient parents heave a sigh of relief and doze off themselves.
The days and weeks roll by, a continent traversed and an ocean covered. Their ship reaches land. Ferries take over along the shallow coastal waters. Finally, after a long night’s travel, the trip is over.
“Anna, wake up, we’re here. I see your grandparents on the dock.” The sleepy little girl slowly opens her eyes, “The ferry has stopped, Mummy. Where are we?”
And so the year’s visit begins. Anna’s world expands – loving grandparents and other family members everywhere. The language is strange, English words mixed with an unfamiliar Scandinavian dialect. The countryside is different from any she has ever seen before. Even the food surprises her. It is plain and cooked with no frills; milk, eggs, potatoes, fish, and something her relatives called “reested mutton”. She sees no fruit trees at all.
When the time comes for the Malcomsons to leave, Anna cries. Her Daddy hugs her and says, “Don’t cry, dear, you’ll be back some day, I promise you. It’s been your home for only a year, but the pull to return will always be there.”
Time proves him right. Anna revisits the Shetland Islands four times after that first experience. Something calls her back to the Islands of her forebears, a sense of being at home. Her life has been enriched by an enduring feeling of belonging.
Installment 1 of “Anna’s Story”. Join us for further glimpses.