Growing Up Strange

Perhaps part of why I have not become a pillar of the intellectual community, aside from the fact I’m not thick enough to serve as a pillar, is that while growing up, I did devour books, but I was mostly interested in stories, particularly stories about horses or animals.  As a teenager, I expanded my interest to include books where girls chased boys, but not much really.  I was only interested in those if there was something especially intriguing about the girl–like if she had a horse.

I especially loved horse/girl books where the girl was the underdog who wanted a horse and succeeded through grit and determination in getting one.  I wanted to be like those girls, and I was to the extent I succeeded in getting a 35 dollar Shetland pony.

Once I acquired the pony, I had big dreams for us.  We would win competitions and show everyone it did not matter if my steed was forty inches tall.  I imagined interviews with sportscasters.  I would ask questions then answer breathlessly, as if interrupted in an effort.

Actually, interviews of this sort also extended to my gymnastic prowess.  It mattered not that by twelve, I was nearly five foot eight.  In my mind I had achieved gold in gymnastic floor exercises. I would breathlessly answer these sportscasters as well.

So while I indeed spent my childhood buried in books, I can say without equivocation it was only towards the effort of avoiding other children and immersing myself in worlds far more desirable than my own.  If I happened across a great piece of literature, it was always the result of happenstance.  I had no illusions about reading my way to fame and fortune.

Ironically, if I think of it now as I seek to live so much in the moment, I absolutely did so as a child.  My parents’ chief concerns seemed to be to first ensure we did all of our chores, second that we did not bother them with sibling arguments, and finally that we entertained ourselves so they did not have to.  I was very good at the latter.

I did the chores grudgingly.  We were promised allowances that never materialized and performed jobs I still consider beyond the necessary scope for children.  The chores usually resulted in fights with my sister.  We argued prodigiously over whose turn it was to do what, then raced to be the first one done, if only to prove our superiority over one another.  The race to finish jobs served my primary purpose, which was to either read a book or ride my horse, and preferably both.  Melanie wanted to play with her friends.  I didn’t really have a lot of friends beyond the horses in my imagination, so rushing off to live in my head was my priority.

Before I got a horse I would pretend I had one.  i once cleared my closet, opened one side, and strung a rope across the opening to keep in my stick horse.  I shredded paper for her bedding.

She was lovely.  Her stick was yellow, her fur head white.  She had large, brown  button eyes with long, plastic lashes.  I called her Snowflake.

I spent the time creating this stable, enjoying every minute I did so, imagining the conversations I would have with my trainer over her care.  Again, I played both parts.  As myself, I explained very carefully what would be the best plan for my horse’s future.  My trainer would nod and take notes, her head cocked to one side as she leaned in the stable doorway, loose breeches puffed around her hips, a cap pulled low over her brow, alá Mickey Rooney.

Snowflake stayed in my closet for months.  I was attentive for about two days, feeding and brushing.  Over time I needed my room for other things and the stick horse was relegated to the corner again, her home prior to the stable.

Finally, when I was twelve, I acquired a real horse. Of course, this horse was only 40 inches tall and therefore a pony, but I did not care. She was mine and I loved her.  Her name was Rosie.  She was a bright, red chestnut with a thick, flaxen mane and tail.  But she was tiny.  I rode her anyway.  My best friend Jodi and I both rode ponies.  We made plans together to start our own pony farm as adults, no horses allowed.

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