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Highland Dancing & Scotch Mints

Like every little Canadian girl of Scottish dissent, at a young age I was enrolled in Highland Dance classes. Imagine tidy little girls all in row with their tartan skirts, crisp white blouses, knee-hi's and black dance shoes. Then there was me. My unruly cropped hair wouldn't cooperate in being contained into the traditional dancer bun. My shirt may have started out tucked in but one side inevitably untucked itself and my skirt zipper would end on the side or front instead of in the back. Even my sun kissed freckled face seemed defiant in comparison to other little girls who resembled Scottish dolls that stood perfectly still and quiet on the shelf at the store. I still find it difficult to be still and quiet at the same time. 

On the first day we sat in a circle with our legs stretch out in front of us and our toes touching in the middle. I was the only one with multiple bruises and scraps down my legs. I recall one curious dancer sweetly whispering "What happened?" in reference to my embattled limbs. Surely she thought I'd been in car accident. The truth was I didn't really know what happened. Sure some wounds were badges of honor from my epic tree climbing adventures but there were simply too many marks on me to keep track of.

Although I didn't practice outside of class and stomped through a few of the feather light steps, I was good enough to advance to the SWORD dance. For those of you unfamiliar with this particular dance, the dancer's steps take place within the four quadrants of two crossed swords precisely placed on the ground. Of course, the swords had my full attention and I was much more interested in playing pirate than placing them gently on the ground. Despite my lack of ability to conform, my dance instructor encouraged me to keep dancing and my parents cheered me on like I had the talent to be a world famous dancer.

My Scottish Grandad in particular seemed pleased with me when I danced. I remember Grandad  being quite gruff but pleasing him had an upside. He was never without Scotch Mints candies and would hand them out when you "did well". These white candies had a hard candied shell but were soft and sweet in middle. Kind of like Grandad. I was convinced these distinct candies were rare and that he must have brought them with him from Scotland. I recall being rather concerned he'd run out and never quite clear about how to earn one. My Grandad would tell me with a slight smirk that I was a "good girl...seldom" as he rationed out a single mint. Not knowing what the word seldom meant, I'd thank him, pop the candy in my mouth and be on my way. 

I only participated in Highland dance for a few years and soon enough was back to full time tree climbing and strategizing about how to be blessed with the elusive Scotch Mint.

Photo credit: Scotland Dance Festival, Edinburgh 


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