This story is not about me. Well, it is. But it isn’t…
More often than not, my name is misspelled. The vast majority of the earth’s population insists on adding an additional “s” so that Ros becomes traditional Ross. Or my name is edited in the other direction and an “e” is added so male Ros becomes female Rose. It’s been a hard life correcting the billions of misinformed and assuming editors.
So, for the record: Ros is short for Roscoe. (My parents shortened it just after my birth.) Therefore, if you want to add anything to my name—if that one “s” is nagging you like an evasive mosquito—then just add “coe”. I have a good friend, Ross King, who tells everyone that the reason I spell my name with one “s” is because I’m illiterate. (Correction: he’s not that good of a friend.) I tell Ross I spell my name that way in order to save ink.
Though there are not a lot of one “s” Ros’ to be found, there is, however, one in particular that I would love to meet: in fact, another Ros Hill. The trick is it’ll take a transatlantic flight to do so.
There is a place in northern England where I want my picture taken. All I have to do is fly to Edinburgh, Scotland, rent a car, then head south along the North Sea and make my way into the region of Northumberland. The drive will take a little under two hours. Enough time to take in the scenery and, for the first time in my life, feel as close as I ever will to the ancestral land of my distant relatives. Relatives whose names dating back to the 1700s show no resemblance to mine. Not even close. And yet, my name—however this coincidence arose—is linked through its spelling to a place 4,700 miles away.
The place has a hill with an elevation of 1,033 feet. Its name: Ros Hill.
How strange connections can be. This odd coincidence has evoked a curiosity of unfinished business in me. I want to climb Ros Hill and look out over the surrounding countryside so that this Ros Hill can see where he came from. I want to get to know all sides of Ros Hill. I want to return with a small jar of soil from its peak. I want to ponder the possibilities that my ancestors, some 300 years ago, might have travelled there, or even stayed a night at the base of the hill, to rest for a long day’s trek into southern Scotland.
We live in a time when future generations will be able to look at our lives with the click of a button. Photographs and video files will always be accessible. But no matter how advanced our technology may become, they, like us, will have to rely on written records of our ancestors who lived before cameras captured moments in time. What did our great, great, great, great grandparents look like? Brown eyes or blue eyes? Tall or short? Smiling or the hardened look from arduous labor? Endless questions that can only be answered with speculation.
But if you’re lucky enough, may I suggest you go to the place where you know your oldest ancestor lived. Do whatever you must to get there—call in sick at work if needed. When you arrive, talk to the locals, talk to anybody. Listen to their accents, and listen to the way they laugh. Drink it all in. You never know what shared traits may be going on, handed down from centuries past.
Then find an open field, or a hill, and look out at the land. And there, in that moment of solitude, let your imagination open up as you watch your ancestors sitting around a campfire. Watch them sharing memories as they eat cooked meat off a stick. They are tired, and they are worn, but they are also history.
And history has everything to do with why you are who you are.
Copyright Ros Hill 2016