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  • I was seven or eight when, in school one day, a little boy confided to me he was going to run away. I don’t think I ever asked why because my first question was how? In fact I became so curious about how, that I didn't even voice the question, just turned to look at the open school gate and the no mans land between the nursery building and it’s gaping exit. When the bell rang at playtime I turned past the other children, walked towards the nursery and then straight and slow right out of the gate. Just to see what would happen.

    Up the street I kept going, elated. Waiting for someone to come up behind me and call me back. Nobody did. I clearly wasn't caught.

    It wasn't the first time I’d ‘run away’ as my parent’s called it. I’d been going off alone to do things since I was three or four. I was quite the escapologist and my house had more locks than Fort Knox to keep me in. I wasn't ever trying to run away from anything, I would just get an idea to go somewhere and so did. I never really understood what should stop me. It never felt wrong to circumvent the things in my way like locks or gates or people. I was independent, very determined, and utterly fearless in daylight.

    Today I’d had no destination. Escaped just to see if it could be done. Halfway home I realised I was now stuck. I couldn't go home or back to school or I’d be in trouble either way. Fortunately I was near the swings at the bottom of my road by that point and decided I could have a swing, and a think. Perhaps when I saw the other kids going home from school I'd pretend I walked home by myself.

    It wasn't a well thought through plan. For starters I neglected to consider mummy would be at the school gates before any kids came out. I hadn't followed that thought through to its conclusion until writing it down now. But in any event what happened (that I also didn't consider) was that school rang my mother. Down the lane searching she came and, rounding the corner, put hands on her hips at sight of, her little girl happily sailing back and forth on a swing. From my point of view, the sight of mummy made my stomach leap in a way the swing alone hadn't accomplished. I was in deep trouble now and the stone in my belly knew it.

    Back at the school a ‘talk’ was had in the headmistresses office. Too young to articulate burning curiosity, I simply nodded at the convenient explanation handed to me by adults.

    “Was it because I was unhappy at this school?”

    I nodded

    “Were other children mean to me?”

    Hung head.

    “Would I be happier at the Catholic school across the road where my friend Katherine went?”

    I nodded

    “Was it that I wanted to have my first communion like my cousins in Ireland?”

    Suddenly curious about an option for new adventure, I smiled.

    Teachers and mother smiled then too, with regret but also with a happy solution. I would change schools and never run away again. That was the deal. Up to my neck in trouble, I nodded.

    In the meantime I was sent back to class, where a disgruntled boy who had been making his own escape plan was annoyed I had ‘ruined’ it for him now. Whatever the trauma was that had made him want to leave school, it went forever unnoticed.
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