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  • December 6Indynow wants YOU to be careful behind the wheel!

Memoir

Emily Brown, Contributor

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Youth is filled with discovery, adventure, whimsy and wonder. It is filled with the ones

you love and the ones you lose, the things you learn and the things you forget. Sadly, as you

grow, the discoveries of play time, the adventure of pretend pirate games, the whimsy of stuffed

bears and toys and the wonders of imagination- they all seem to disappear. You forget how to be

carefree; you forget how to travel to Narnia and make a doll come to life; you forget how to love

unconditionally and how to have faith in others- perhaps the saddest of all. But these fragments

of a better time become preserved like insects in amber, embedded deep in our brains, contained

in the museum known as the hippocampus, and become quiet whispers of nostalgia. These are

our memories, and often times they become frozen under layers of stress and worry and aging-
embedded deep within the insignificant days that too rushed to allow for heartfelt memories. It

takes a certain something to melt them down, and most often this is accomplished with

photographs. Pictures provide the warmth needed to chip away at the permafrost of our dull,

cynical, and mature minds, and allow all the joy to come rushing back to us like a tsunami over a

crowded shore. Once the tide stills, and becomes a tranquil puddle that collects around us, we

have a fleeting chance to be conscious of only one thing: reflection. The two remaining photos

from my first experience on a horse trigger a break in the dam holding back my childhood, and

all the details wash over me.

It is almost impressive how much of our childhoods we actually forget or suppress, but

yet, it is surprising how much we manage to remember. The photos from my first pony ride bring

back so many forgotten details of that day, it is as if I can dream it exactly how it was. But now, I

view it as a legal adult and have the opportunity to perceive the importance of this moment, as

well as how trivial it seems. Looking back, it is one of the most landmark moments of my

earliest years- just one more step in my path of life, as important as my first words or steps.

Growing up in Houston, the rodeo was a regular ritual for my family that I experienced from the

starting age of three. Everything seemed ginormous: the boots, the hats, the rides, the arenas, the

animals, the people. My uncle was a giant; yet perhaps he just seemed that way to me because of

how full he was, from his belly to his beard, from his hat to his heart. He was full and soft,

draped in soft earth-toned stripes and soft blue jeans with a soft smile and a soft voice. My own

clothes never seemed soft to me. They were spectacularly conspicuous and very much ‘me’, with

my red and denim skirt paired with a white shirt boasting sequinned boots that tickled my chest.

They were the only boots I could manage to wear, but they made me feel like a cowgirl. I would

twirl as I trailed behind my parents and my Uncle D, watching the white bandana stitching fade

and disappear in the rushing red hem, and the red hem mesh seamlessly into the blue denim, and

the gray concrete and white and blue walls mesh all into one blurry, ginormous place. My eyes

explored all I could as we traveled from booth to booth, pin to pin, show to show. My tiny heart

raced as we watched the bull riders and barrel racers, and then raced more as I watched the

ferocious animals chase the funny clowns. Everything was so exciting and new and incredible,

certainly a night I wished to remember, but like so many adventurous happenings as a

preschooler, none of these small details would exist past a few months and years, if it were not

for the tiny adventure that excited me the most.

As we had walked through the endless maze of concrete, fences, blue jeans and leather

boots, I was particularly drawn to the animals. I wanted to pet the goats and pigs on display

awaiting judgment, and I kept tugging on my uncle, who at that point had started carrying me

with his soft hands gently supporting my back. However, I could not know that he had a much

better idea for me. My unfortunate lack of height had prevented me from seeing some of the

exhibits, and as my eyes caught a glimpse of the ponies tethered to a circular carriage for the first

time, I could not help but vocalize my excitement. As the hodgepodge of brown and white coats

circled the carousel time and time again, my uncle and I made our way to the back of the

horrendously long line. Time passed with ease, however, as I played games with my uncle and

marveled at the other animals in the area. Time is such an odd thing when you’re a child. There

is no rush, no deadlines- save bedtime- and yet impatience runs high. Why must you wait for

good things? I suppose that is one thing that has not changed since I was so young: I am

perpetually impatient. Age has changed little in this matter, and, like then, I have to always be

doing something in order to not lose my mind from boredom and the child-like symptoms of an

overactive imagination.

Once we were close enough to get a good view of the ponies, my uncle inquired as to

which of the herd I would like to ride best. Being the little girl that I was, my eyes were instantly

drawn to the pure-white one with the clean, flowing mane. I guessed it to be a girl, and in my

mind’s eye I can remember the lettering on its bright red saddle pad, and, probably from my

mom’s few lessons in phonics, I somehow managed to decipher the word “Princess.” That was

the one, my dream pony- the animal that would be my best friend after the span of a two minute

ride. I wanted to ride that one, and I tried my best to point her out, but I missed with the direction

of my tiny finger, and she walked by on the continuous carousel too quickly for me to catch her.

My uncle tried his best but didn’t quite see which pony I was pointing to, so he pointed to the

little guy right behind Princess and asked, “That one?”

‘No!’, I wanted to say at first, no uncle, you have it wrong. The pony he had pointed to

was scrawny and gray and dirty and nowhere near as handsome as the steed I had chosen for

myself. He was the lesser amongst beats, the antithesis of everything I wanted in my magical

little pony. And yet something clicked in me, something that has remained such an innate part of

me to this day: cooperation. It’s strange for such a young child to be cooperative, to have such a

distaste for conflict that you go along with most things in life. I didn’t want to correct my uncle.

He was just a confused adult. That is what I can almost see behind the happy eyes I boast in

those two pictures: the sympathy for the adult-ish misunderstanding. Adults won’t understand

children, no matter how much they try. No amount of reading or experience can make them truly

understand what goes on in our heads or what we truly desire, because even though they

themselves were once children, they have forgotten how to be children. And so as the

cooperative, kind, well-behaving little girl I was, I obeyed and let my uncle lift me onto the dirty,

flea-bitten gray pony, whose name I learned to be Star.

From the moment my bottom rested in the tiny worn out saddle and the straps were tied

around my waist, from the moment my tiny hands clutched his mane and tentatively reached out

to touch his smooth neck, all of my childish judgements were at rest. I loved this pony. He

tottered along, dutifully following the arm of the revolving carousel and placing each hoof with

quiet acceptance. I knew I was safe on this pony, and while I jostled side to side as he lifted each

foot I fell more and more in love with the idea of learning to ride by myself. I wanted to run

away on Star, to let him gallop across a magical field and into the great unknown, his mane

streaking behind them, my own hair being stolen up by the wind. We would fly. Star was now

my pony, owned by my wild imagination and lived deep in my swelling heart.

It’s odd to me now how I ignored that dream for so many years, how long it took me to

take that seed of admiration and let it grow into the wild passion for horses that I have now. I

went through the next seven years or so almost oblivious to that elated feeling I had from riding

Star, even though I had gone back to the rodeo and ridden him again. Horses remained an

interest, nothing more. And yet through my many years of growing up those memories remained

an echo, until one day, aged ten, while participating in my very first lesson, the importance of

that day came through. At that moment, I was no longer the curious but complacent youngster: I

had found passion, the passion that drives all people into purpose and into action. No longer was

I the tentative youth, filled with trepidation about what I wanted to enjoy. This was where I was

supposed to be, which the little girl in a red skirt on a gray pony never realised. I am certain,

though, that my soft and wise Uncle D knew even then. He caught the shimmer of childish

wonder and whimsy in my eyes, just as I saw the kindness in his. He saw me discovering

something groundbreaking. He saw the start of an adventure, something vastly more important

than my romp around the rodeo. I have never thanked him for this though, since he went back to

Costa Rica and I haven’t seen him since, but I will forever be thankful that he stood in that

horrendously long line with me and showed me what would be my greatest passion. It was clear

what that was now, I realised from atop my mount, a dirty, flea-bitten gray mare, just like Star,

who I had too fallen in love with as soon as my now grown hands clutched her mane. The

whispers of that long-ago day had returned once again.

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The student news site of Independence High School in Thompson's Station, Tennessee
Memoir