We passed this way twice a day – up and down the hills – early in the morning as we set about our day, me on my way to the office and you on your way to daycare, and again late in the afternoon on our way home. I found peace in this small stretch of road still marked as rural in the midst of two subdivisions – a modest ranch home and barn flanked by two pastures on either side. Sometimes the horses corralled in the south pasture, and sometimes they romped on the north side. It was the highlight of our going out and our coming home – to see the horses.
From the backseat, safely strapped in, you would announce: “Mommy, I wanna pet the ponies.” And if they weren’t in the pastures – “No ponies today …”
They grazed deep in the pasture – at least a football field length away. And I was always in a hurry rushing to work or rushing home – no time to pet the ponies. You never cried or fussed but simply reminded me at least once a day: “Mommy, I wanna pet the ponies.”
One mild autumn day just before dusk, when we reached the bottom of the first hill in the south pasture, I saw one horse with his head hanging over the fence. Before you had a chance to utter those familiar words, I offered: “Wanna pet the pony?”
I pulled onto the crossroad because there was no off-street parking, unbuckled and lifted you out of your car seat, and carried you across the street. I managed to hop the ditch in my royal blue trumpet-flared wool skirt and matching pumps with you on my hip. The horse seemed to be in waiting just for us with his head still hanging over the barbed-wire fence. I glanced toward the house across the pasture and saw a gentleman in overalls walk out onto the front porch.
“Go ahead,” I encouraged. “Pet the pony.”
You sported that familiar crooked smile, “Mommy do it.”
I reached up and stroked the long bridge down to his nose. Then you safely followed my lead and grinned the widest I had ever seen. I wished we had an apple to reward the horse for his hospitality, but all we had to offer were our hands of love and appreciation. I waved to the gentleman observing from the porch as we hopped the ditch back to the car.
This is one of those moments etched in my memory, a stop-and-smell-the-roses moment in the middle of a jam-packed life. More than 25 years later I stopped and smelled the roses again.
Last weekend, my sisters and I gathered at Mother’s to organize and sort, preparing for a sale. So many things will be gone soon. Evolution and age is a part of life. The days in this home are coming to a close. My nephew brought his young family for a visit. After dinner, we looked out the back door and saw two horses and a pony in the distant field strolling to the other side of the pasture. One of my great nephews cried out, “Ponies, ponies!” Several exited the patio door with him and sat on the porch.
When I walked out a few minutes later, I noticed the setting sun … deja vu
I picked up my great nephew, “Wanna pet the ponies?”
I walked over to the fence with him on my hip and showed him how to call for the horses. I had no idea if it would work but made a clicking sound with my tongue and cheek followed by a luring coax, “Come on baby, here baby, come here …” chiching chiching
In a few seconds, the tall chestnut one turned our direction. His mane slung back and forth as his head bobbed up and down. The little boy bubbled over, “He’s coming, he’s coming!!”
The other horses followed his lead. He hung his head over the barbed-wire fence. I stroked the long bridge from his eyes down to his nose as he nibbled at my hand and the lad squirmed in my arms. Someone threw out carrots from the patio door, and I wondered if this is exactly what the beautiful creatures had in mind. The horses extended their stay, and we had such a delightful after-dinner treat.
Yes, some things change, and some things don’t. Lines around the eyes are a reflection of life. But on the inside, things are still the same.
And life continues on …