“It’s not about the setback, it’s about the comeback.” (Author unknown)
Once in awhile, a long-time reader of this column will mention a story written years ago and how it touched them in some way. This happened recently at a local event. I had almost forgotten the story, so I looked it up in my old files, and when I got to the ending, I was struck by the irony. Here’s the story.
• • •
A Pony Tail and a Carousel
(Published in the Newport News-Times, 1988)
Have you ever ridden a merry-go-round? Have you ever stopped to watch children riding on one? I’m still thinking about the 1986 World’s Fair (called Expo) in Vancouver, B.C. We went with friends, and one late afternoon I decided to quit rushing from one exhibit to another and wandered off alone to people-watch.
The music and sight of an exquisite carousel tugged at my senses. It had just started up, and every single place was taken. There was one child who caught my eye, mostly because of her animated face and her long, blonde ponytail. She looked to be about 9 years old, and you could not help but notice such a beautiful little girl. I waited for her to come around again so I could get a better look. She was wearing an over-sized pink sweatshirt and white jeans. Her long legs were hanging free instead of in the stirrups. On her feet were moccasins, which seemed appropriate because she had chosen to ride an Indian pony. I counted 56 horses and ponies on the merry-go-round — all painted in brightly-colored enamel.
A sign said the carousel was built in 1907 by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company and restored for Expo by the Portland, Ore. Carousel Museum.
The little girl’s pony was chocolate brown, with a white mane and a flowing white tail. It wore a red halter, and attached to the halter was a bright red enameled feather. The pony’s head was higher than the others in the row, which made the little girl ride taller and look more outstanding than all the other children.
I leaned over the rail, anxious to see this child come around again. As the Indian pony came into view, I wondered what was going through the little girl’s mind. Just then she called out to the woman standing next to me, “Mother, Mother” the little girl shouted. “This is so wonderful. Isn’t he beautiful?”
For another few minutes the music played, the carousel went round and round, and I was totally caught up in the joy of this child. As the merry-go-round came to a stop, all of the adults and children were hopping down off their horses — except for the little girl. She stayed on the Indian pony, her arms wrapped around its neck, carefully examining the red feather as if she just could not give up this experience.
Then I realized why she didn’t hop down like everyone else. She couldn’t walk.
The mother made her way through the oncoming people, carrying a pair of small crutches. Gently, she helped her daughter down from the pony, and the two of them disappeared into the crowd.
I stood there a long time, thinking about the little girl and the few minutes she spent on the carousel. Where did she go in her fantasy-mind? Perhaps off into another world where all animals are gentle and children run freely on two healthy legs while their hair flies in the wind.
The more I thought about the little girl, the more I wanted to feel part of what she had been feeling on the merry-go-round. This was one line I didn’t mind standing in, and before long, I, too, was riding the same Indian pony with the red enamel feather — around and around, my feet in the stirrups, lost in thoughts of a beautiful little blonde girl. And very grateful to have two healthy legs.
• • •
Here’s the irony. Due to a serious freaky leg injury last July, followed by surgery, weeks in rehab and months of physical therapy, I still can’t honestly say I have “two healthy legs.” The surgeon thinks I have made a remarkable recovery, but I still have pain, walk with a limp when tired, and am certainly not in the energetic shape I was a year ago. When it gets frustrating, I try to do what I’m always advising others to do when life hands us a lemon — make lemonade!
Or, find yourself a carousel.
Bobbie Lippman is a professional writer who lives in Seal Rock with her cat, Purrfect. She is the author of “Good Grief: A Collection of Stories As One Woman Journeys From Heartbreak To Healing Through Honesty and Humor” (Dancing Moon Press). The book, with all proceeds going to Rotary International Foundation, is available on Amazon, at JC Market in Newport and directly from Bobbie, who can be contacted at [email protected]