Spoiler Alert **If you haven’t finished A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon, some things may be spoiled!**
When I say “Goodbyes” I am thinking most especially of the “goodbyes” that we see before someone must travel through time. It was at the end of ABOSAA that it first really hit me how much I could relate to Brianna and Roger as they said goodbye to Claire and Jamie, probably for the last time. That was the most heart-wrenching moment of the entire series so far for me. I think because I feel like I have lived that scene multiple times as I left the U.S. to head back to my life overseas over the course of 4 years. Since I worked in a school and had summers off I came back to the U.S. multiple times during the four years but each time I had to say goodbye to my parents it was heartbreaking. They cried, I cried, and I get teary-eyed just thinking about it now.
Especially painful to me in ABOSAA is the moment when Brianna gives Jamie one last hug and he grips her tightly. He knows he will never see her again if she doesn’t come back to the 18th century. Claire could always go back to the 20th century, and Jamie plans for her to do that when he dies. But he knows he will never see his daughter or grandchildren again.
It hit me then that traveling in time is not so much unlike moving to another country and culture. They say there are different kinds of culture shocks: big city/small town, one ethnicity to another, and I think also the shock of the way culture is throughout history.
I used to participate in Revolutionary War Reenacting. Learning some of the behaviors and reasons that people did things the way they did back in the 18th century is a form of learning another culture, even just here in the U.S. When Brianna and Roger went back to the 18th century that had a lot of things to adjust to in order to live their “ex-pat” life on Fraser’s Ridge. They did a good job of it though. The conversations about the things they missed were so familiar to me. I’ve participated in countless conversations like that while living overseas. The things you miss the most, what is hard about living in this new culture, the things you just cannot understand. These are universal themes that people who have moved cultures have experienced throughout time.
As a reenactor, I also had to learn about how life was different then than now. Such as a woman would never go around with her hair uncovered, because she would be thought to be a prostitute. But do you know why women (and men also) kept their heads covered in the 18th century? Because their hair was gross! They didn’t bath much, and they would often put bear grease in their hair to keep the fleas and other bugs out of their hair. So for women there was a cultural reason, but also a practical reason to keep their heads covered. They also had to keep the elbows and knees covered as well. Partly for modesty, but also partly because people thought that those parts of the body were ugly.
I think what we discover, if we care to find out, is that some things that seem weird to us about another place or time are often for a reason. There is a reason behind something that seems unreasonable to an outsider. But we have to care enough to learn about another culture to find out what that reason is.