Preparations were being made for our upcoming wedding on June 9, 1990 by the Scottish contingency. In America, Donna and I were getting excited by the thought of tying the knot and sealing our love with a pledge of forever. We were amazed at how many of my family members had decided to come over to join in the celebration. My sister, Susan, Uncle Ellis and Aunt Enid, my brother, Robbie and his wife, Carol and their two children five year old Max, and baby Emily and of course, Mom. It was going to be a great adventure for her and a wonderful distraction from all of the sadness and well wishers she had to put up with. Plus, she would be travelling with Susan, landing in London Heathrow and driving a rental car all the way up to Glenrothes, Scotland. They decided to leave a fortnight early so they could bloody well take their time touring the countryside.
The first night in London they stayed at Susan’s friend Helen’s flat and although my sister had a good time reminiscing about old times, my mother found Helen to be a bit of a snob. Knowing Mom, she probably told her so in the most subtle of ways. The next day they headed to Bath but didn’t stop at Stonehenge and my mom loved it there and wished that she could afford to live out her golden years in that ancient British town where archaeological evidence shows that the site of the' main spring was treated as a shrine by the Britons before the birth of Christ. A temple was constructed in 60–70 AD and a bathing complex was gradually built up over the next 300 years.
From Bath they cruised up the motorway to Birmingham where Susan had spent her sophomore year at the university back in 1969 – 1970. It brought a tear to her eye and my mom said, “Is this what you were crying your eyes out about for all these years? It’s nothing but a bunch of old bricks and gargoyles.” They frolicked in the Lake District and then Susan saw a sight that struck her sense of artistic wonderment. There was a herd of Highland Cows grazing in an open meadow and the way the light was streaming down on the heads made them look as if they were angelic, mythological creatures from a different time and place. Finally they crossed the border in Carlisle into Scotland and from there it was a mere two hour drive into Glenrothes where the Smollett’s welcomed them with open arms.
Robbie, Carol and the two wee Haymer’s landed safely at Glasgow airport about a week before the wedding. They had rented a couple of rooms in a farmhouse with plenty of acreage just outside of St. Andrews. One evening, just after the wedding rehearsal at the kirk in Leslie, Robbie was driving home and got pulled over by the Royal Scottish Police. He wasn’t drunk but because he was not used to driving on the opposite side of the road he kept as close to the curb as possible. Every time he felt himself getting too close to the center divider, if there was a center divider, he would jink his car back erratically toward the curbside. The officer got out of his car and approached what he thought was an inebriated driver and said in a thick Fife accent, “I’ve reason ta b’lieve you’re driving affected.” Robbie conjured up his best lawyer negotiating resources and explained to the cop how he got scared every time a car would pass on the opposite side of the road. The polite officer was nice enough and when he realized he was dealing with inexperienced Americans, he let him go with a warning to be more careful, maybe try practicing a wee bit in parking lots before attempting to navigate the open Scottish roads.
Speaking of the wedding rehearsal, it was held a couple of days before the big event in the small kirk (Scottish for church) on the green in Leslie, Scotland which is about ten minutes west of Glenrothes and just off a golf course. In fact, much to my pleasure, everything in Fife seems to be just off a golf course. The kirk was built in the late eighteenth century (one of the newer kirks) made out of stone and granite that was indigenous to the area. It looked like a place where James Barrie or Robert Louis Stephenson might have gotten married. The interior was all dark wood. Even the pews were hand carved with religious symbols. There was no way my mom and sister were going to kneel down on wooden benches, but I, being an honorary Scot, would comply with tradition. I was told by Donna not to worry since only Catholics kneel and this was a protestant kirk. The stained glass windows were exotic and ancient and all of them depicted some type of scene from the Bible. They were beautiful beyond description. In fact, Donna’s Uncle Alec had actually created one of the stained glass windows in the place about forty or fifty years earlier. Alec was an energetic man in his late seventies who insisted on calling me Jamey. He was one of my favorite new relatives who was an art professor in Glasgow and a collector of rare fossils, and I didn’t mind. He was also a brilliant photographer and snapped the photo of me dressed in a kilt while playing my Gibson J-200. His father, who everyone called Uncle Bob, was in his early nineties and was one awarded an MBE for his service with the Boy Scouts taking trips to Ireland and all over the Scottish Highland with his troop. Even at his advanced age, he would spend hours and hours in his wee garden, tilling the soil and sewing seeds. What and amazing man!
Reverend Thompson finally arrived from his chamber and brought out a large wooden cross. I thought my mom was going to faint. Susan and Robbie knew that their brother was marrying a shiksa but had no idea how Christian the atmosphere was going to be but rolled along with those punches. But Mom, she had been a Jew much too long to see her oldest son be blessed by a symbol of Christianity. Whenever they would sing Christmas carols in school when she was a little girl, every time the name Jesus was sung she would tighten her lips and sing, hmmmm, never wanting to betray her faith. Now this. I could see she was struggling with it and hoped for the sake of family relations she wasn’t going to make a scene. She kept it together by the skin of her teeth and we got through the rehearsal without a war. That would come later.
The night before the wedding I stayed over at my future bother-in-law, Roy’s parents, Ian and May’s house on the other side of Glenrothes. It is tradition that the prospective bride and groom should be in separate places as sleeping together was a definite no-no. They brought out a Casio keyboard and insisted I play and sing all of my songs, and a few Scottish favorites they had marked down in the wee songbook. On the morning of the wedding the weather was hot by Scottish standards. It had to be in the eighties and the Brits were thanking the Lord above for global warming. I had a pub breakfast in the neighboring town of Auchtermuchty and as I was walking to the B & B where my mom and Susan was staying, I almost considered walking the other way and keep on going until I reached the sea, maybe then hop a steamer and head for Norway. Was I really going to get married? I pulled myself up by the bootstraps and decided that I was doing the right thing to marry Donna, even though I knew there was going to be a culture clash. I had no idea how much of a clash was going to occur.
I arrived at the Archdoile House at about noon and saw my sister and mother waiting outside in the driveway by the taxi.
I said, “What are you doing down here, I would have met you up in the room, we do have an hour or so until we need to be there.”
Mom said, “Jimmy, the kicked us out.”
She went on to explain that the night before my mother had removed her make-up and used a black towel to wipe off her mascara. She didn’t think it was a big deal but apparently the owners did. It was the last straw that broke that camel’s back. I knew that my sister and mother were, by British standards, pushy Americans and they were beginning to have arguments between themselves maybe from feeling the pressure of the upcoming events. My sister, you must remember, is a producer and is used to giving directions in a somewhat demonstrative manner and I guess their loud voices and demanding behavior would not be tolerated by the owners of the B & B any further. I was appalled. How could these people be so insensitive to their guests who had traveled over five thousand miles to attend a family member’s wedding?
“Jimmy, could you please go upstairs and bring down our suitcases?” My mom asked me. I was already dressed in my tuxedo and the sun was peeking and the temperature was spiking. I was sweating and trying to control my temper. You can tell by the photo pictured here that I was not a happy camper. I was going to retaliate in some way to these proprietors, but first I had to get married and I thought that things would go smoothly from then on. I was wrong.