Coming November 30th, 2017
“Kenna, I’m right behind you,” my brother Robert said.
“The Alford’s are duly represented.” I exited my car and squeezed his hand.
We waited in silence in front of the Greek Revival structure, Old Bluff—one of the first Presbyterian churches in North Carolina, set close to the River that brought the first Scots over, on the highest bluff overlooking the Cape Fear River for the cue to mount the steps. Low-hanging branches reached out from deep-shadowed alcoves to envelope us where I had played as a child. Unexpected chills ran down my back beneath my black suit this mid-August. The trees were ominous.
At the proper moment, car doors opened in synchronized fashion, and family emerged as one, fanning, gathering near the funeral director. We ascended steps in designated order—I was behind Douglas in line. She was Uncle’s daughter, after all. I was adopted niece, theirs ever since my parents died. Robert followed.
Bagpipes pumped hymns loudly as we entered. Kidney-shaped pipes covered by dark green Campbell plaids or red McAllister ones added color to plain white walls, stood out in relief against white painted windows and dark brown pews. After the powerful lungs collapsed came the funeral service for Uncle. I resisted my Scottish Presbyterian heritage, plain, stiff, mostly silent. Today, clean lines spelled consolation.
Next morning I left, pulled into the same paid parking lot I always used. Off-kilter, half-formed thoughts nibbled around the edges of my mind…I wanted to take the day off.
Inside the suite, I opened the office door, spoke to reception and sat down.
The receptionist appeared at my door. “You have an assignment, Kenna. Gaynelle wants you to do a special on the Stone of Scone’s return to Scotland.”
“Sounds intriguing.” I perked up.
“Yep. Here are a few references. By the way, I’m sorry about your uncle,” she said chirpily. She left papers and returned to from whence she’d come.
I fingered the articles while I fired up my computer. If I had to work, at least the assignment was worth it. Soon, I was reading about high-brow Scottish thieves making off with Scotland’s coronation stone from its English location. In November, British Royals were returning the stone to Scotland—close to the area from where my ancestors hailed. What a coinkidink, I thought, using Uncle’s made-up word. Such a sweetheart he had been.
Then it hit me like a bullet: Douglas’s research for our ancestors, the Stone article requested by my editor, expanding my professional scope to an international level, couldn’t this be done better in Scotland, on site? Life as I knew it was over. I could take a year’s sabbatical. Suddenly, I wanted to move to Scotland for a year more than anything I’d ever wanted. Just think, kilted men, Highland games, bagpipes playing piedrocks, wandering on hill and in glen, somehow spiritually connecting to my past while remedying the family reputation for Uncle. Scotland whispered, hope. Scotland screamed, we are waiting for you.