Image # Used: 5
Title: Never Ever After
Word Count: 2088
Summary: What you learn early can help for a long time.
It was summer here on the rez. We had returned from Alaska to help with the big family project. When Alice calls, better to come quickly than face her wrath. Charlie and Sue had decided to build a new house, and clearing out her place first was a priority; as she and Charlie consolidated everything into his place until hers was ready. My parents and the rest of the family decided to add to the mix. This would be epic, with Alice in charge; it might go beyond that.
I picked up the snapshot from Grandma E's end table. The living room looked nothing like it should, boxes and furniture pushed about, rolls of bubble wrap on the couch and general disorder. Grandma Sue's home had become the battle zone for the yard sale from hell and it wasn't helping my disposition.
I stared hard at the shot. I had never seen it before. It must have been taken at my 1st Birthday. I did remember all the details of the day; it was a mix mash of colors and music, my parents and my aunts planned it. That afternoon I found the second greatest passion of my life.
There I was in all my glory, my first pair of cowboy boots, long gone, my first cowboy hat that still sits on my closet shelf, and a tutu, from when I wore them 3 days out of five.
I remember thinking there was no way to wear a tutu when riding a pony, and realizing that there would be no ponies due to the fact we had arrived at a Pizza Palace Place.
I remember wanting a ballerina and pony party. The closest we came was this picture. I suddenly recalled had asked them to stop afterwards when I spotted the horses from the road. Jake held my hand as we walked toward the fence, then I broke away, going closer than anyone wanted me too.
The smell of the fresh grass and the special scent of horses came alive in my memory as if I was standing at a pasture gate. There were several in the field we stopped at, a bay, a pinto and a beautiful chestnut. They had magnificent flowing mains to my young eyes, and I could envision a kinship with those great beasts, much different from the appreciation of the hunt or my closeness with my dearest one, my cousins and the pack in total.
That party sticks out in my mind suddenly as I regard the pennant flags on a string that flap around the yard, announcing to the passer-by that they should stop and look. They reminded me of the decorations and balloons for that party. I remember the games for my cousins; at least I called them my cousins' back then; loud colors of red and yellow, nothing pink or pretty. I was the first grandchild for Charlie and the first granddaughter too, so I was heaped with pink and dolls as presents. I am a girly-girl to a point.
I remember opening each box with a prayer for a harness or a pair of cowboy boots. I did get the hat and boots.
No brushes, No saddle
No riding lessons;
No rocking horse,
Not even a stuffed stick horse.
That was the day I told my parents of my deepest desire. A Horse, not a pony, a horse I could race around barrels.
I remember my mother's face; she turned around in the car and looked right into my eyes.
"Honey, that's a big responsibility. For your golden birthday, if you still want one then; we'll get you a horse."
I recalled thinking I should have told Uncle Emmett first, he would think me on the back of a 1400 pound animal, racing around barriers at top speed and trying not to fall off in the process would be a good thing, a fun way to pass the afternoon.
I never forgot her words. I was born on the 10th; Mom's was the 13th luckily not on a Friday, but still.
I never asked again – for the Horse. I asked for stuffed and toy horses, got some, got silly Barbie dolls too – I only kept the one that came with a horse. I asked for tack.
I asked for horse camp. I think, when my parents sent me, they hoped to cure me.
I attended school from time to time, depending on where we were living. It was 4th grade.
It was my first experience in regular school. I found the academics to be a little, well completely boring.
I preferred the social aspects. To set up this plan, I called in my aunts for reinforcements.
I wanted to feel like a regular girl, at least part of the time.
It drove Jake nuts, because he couldn't watch over me much during the day.
I was a Girl Scout, I had dancing lessons and I decided to learn the flute.
I had made friends with several of my classmates and attended their 10th Birthday parties, at Skating rinks
At a beauty-school (oh the memory of Jake picking me up, the look of horror on his face with my purple finger and toenails, and all the glitter and gel in my hair; now that would be a good picture to find)
At home sleepovers, too.
I wanted a pony party again, even if I was only 3, technically. I first tried Mom and Dad, then I went to the big guns, and I knew Uncle Emmett would be game for some fun. Aunt Alice could set up the affair as one never to be forgotten by the 4th Grade Girls of Mrs. Kremetski's class.
I had to rein them in on the circus tent and the Royal Lipizzaner Stallion Team, it had to seem a little bit realistic, I was supposed to be my Mom's sister-in law, adopted of course. The day was extra memorable because mom's mom and her husband had been invited, courtesy of Alice. Whatever it was she saw was much worse than what happened after she decided to send the invitation. We have great storytellers in our family on both sides, but the tales I heard on the phone from mom and dad should have gotten them Pulitzers. I remember Grandma Renee's eyes. I'm pretty sure she had figured it out, but she and Grandpa Phil never said a word. I don't think I saw them again in person until the wedding. She patted my hand, kissed Jake on the cheek, and pronounced me "precocious" telling Jake he was a shining gem, and not a wolf in sheep's clothing. It was one time I was sure I was going to witness what happens when several immortals are struck with a panic attack. Jake had smiled and laughed, thankfully breaking the spell; oh my mind can be a Swiss cheese block of wormholes some days.
I remember the morning of my "10th" Birthday. I was hoping to see a saddle with a ribbon, or maybe a certificate.
The day wore on; I donned my favorite boots and jeans for my party. I still had that little cowboy hat, it was battered and much too small, but I could not bear to part with it.
I never forgot the look on my mother's face, or my father's either, as I finished opening my presents, and I began to look franticly around. They hadn't promised me too much, but they had never
Forgotten to fulfill a promise.
All I said was "It's my GOLDEN birthday."
Their eyes lit up with understanding.
"Oh, yes, well…"
"It's a little cold and dark now, uh, we need to talk." They hurried into the kitchen, hushed voices deep in conversation. While I waited, I sought out the company of my Uncle Jasper.
I remember the look on my Uncle Jasper's face, such longing, as I described my dream companion for roaming the local woods and churning up the ring, doing a fierce "Turn and Burn" in a Barrel Race competition. He and I shared a love of horses, he had not been on horseback in over a hundred years, he had scared a few as a newborn, and he had never ventured near one since that time. I was bound and determined to see him back on a fine mount, something befitting the Confederate officer that was just below the surface in all his behavior.
The upshot was the beginning of realizing my dream. First, we tried a "lease" whereby I got to spend certain days with 'my' horse, "Sunny" except that the one we chose suddenly wasn't available and then the days had to change and we had to drive and the drive was over an hour each way and we couldn't move the horse….
Owning was looking better. We usually had at least one rural property with several acres. That solved the problem of where to put the horse. Making sure Jake didn't feel neglected was my other concern. My best friend understood. Owning, it's still better.
Emmett brought the first horse home, a rather wild Pinto we named Flame. He was fast and if I wasn't made of, in the words of Charlie, "stern stuff" he would have been the death of me. We got him calmed down and I went with Jasper to pick out the next mount. Star's Bright Promise, a beautiful dapple-grey, nicknamed Cloudy, was with me for many seasons before I donated him to a therapeutic riding program where he still changes children's lives. Shadow was my favorite. We raced barrels, I could hang on, but it was how we worked together than made the difference. I did not always win.
It was a tough lesson. I had so many advantages in my life that I usually chose to lose, to maintain our cover; live our lives in the world and not in hiding. Those beautiful animals taught me lessons every day. Lessons my family learned first in their human lives, found again in their new form. This gift, my love of all things equine, was well worth the anxious moments over the years. It became my school of humanity
I learned humility is not to be an affect, it must come from within. I learned the importance of doing things right, that someone else was depending on me and I could not get away with doing less than my best. I learned that in the greater world, the clock is ticking and it does not forgive or forget. The timer decides the winners and no matter how fast I am, I did no better than what we both accomplished, I put my horse's comfort before my own and I learned my Shadow had a magic all her own. I basked in her reflected glory when she brought a smile to a shy child's face at a show. She seemed to seek out the little ones who needed a little encouragement; that they could make friends with such a large creature and gain their place in the world.
Best of all, I finally got my Uncle Jasper, to ride again. Alice obtained a set of period clothing for each of them, she looked like a tiny flower in her hoop skirt, and there was nothing more dashing then Uncle Jasper in full dress Confederate officer regalia.
So many memories, so many lives touched, so many helped, just because I saw some horses by the side of the road.
Because my mom decided that her mom needed to be free.
Because my mom decided to get to know her father.
Because I have my father wrapped around my little finger, according to my grandfathers'
"Mom, when can we go? I hafta get my stuff together for the 4H…"
My little shadow, whom would soon be taller than I at the same age, wrapped her arms around my neck, looking over my shoulder at the photograph.
"Is that you and Shadow?"
"No, Lil' bit, that is before I had a horse" and when I learned the most important parent lesson ever. Kids NEVER forget a promise of something good. The lessons we learn as parents and children never run out.
"Get your bag and I will drive you over to Seth's. You can go with them tonight." I picked up the photo and put it in my bag as I took out my keys, musing.
Never ever after.