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When I Was 12
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The rain was soft that day and I decided to walk from Lochgilphead back to Achnaba. Lochgilphead, as the name implies, is at the head of Loch Gilp, but the loch is merely an inlet from Loch Fyne, which opens from the north of the Firth of Clyde and is the longest of the Scottish sea lochs, stretching 43 miles inland to Inveraray.

I followed the road, the loch on my right, and fields or hills on my left. There’s a rhythm to walking that gets my mind going and it usually starts with a song. That day, the Skye Boat Song ran through my head, then morphed into the Eriskay Love Lilt, Ca’ the Ewes, even the lowland Annie Laurie.

The rain was warm that summer day, my day of decision. I was about to be moved to Canada by my parents and I didn’t want to go, didn’t want to leave my friends, my school, my land. In the way of parents at that time, no one had told me what was going on, what was being planned, until they had to. What prompted the revelation was the need for everyone to get a smallpox vaccination.

“Why am I getting a jab,” I asked, “when none of my friends are?”

The question forced my mother to answer. “We need one to move to Canada?”

“Canada? We’re moving to Canada? When?”

“Two weeks.”

I suppose it would have been a shock at any time, but with only two weeks before I left, I was catatonic. My father was already over there, I discovered, so it was more than a “done deal.” It was an “already in progress.” Inevitable. A foregone conclusion.

I ate resentment every moment after that. Resentment, anger, frustration, the list went on. I couldn’t imagine being in another place. It prompted my walk that day, having that hour of walking by myself, with the rain, the loch, the hills. I was in a turmoil at first, but I knew the rhythm and the songs would make it recede — at least for a while.

It was the calm, the eye of that storm. I gave in to it, reveled in it, wanted to walk forever, past Achnaba, even past the loch, past Inveraray, past it all. As I approached Achnaba, I considered giving in to that ‘want’ and walking on, but I knew I’d tire eventually, that I’d have to face up to the change, and I turned off the road and walked towards the house.

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