It was only a few hours after another concert. I had slept only a couple dozen winks that night, filled with adreniline from the Demi Lovato concert from the previous night, and the anticipation of what awaited me the next morning.
Peasants of the internet, this was the day I was to get my first very own, honest-to-goodness-mine, beautiful and perfect gorgeously amazing horse. My own horse.
I woke up about four or five– who’s to say? This was in the days before blogging, so I wrote a journal entry recounting the Lovato experience and my excitement over the day to come. Tossed and turned until the acceptable time to awaken and then threw on some clothes. Had I been paying attention I would have realized the shirt I put on in the dark of the early morning had a hole, broken hem, and was two sizes too small, but my judgement was clouded (not that I’m a very clothing-concious person in the first place. When your closet only contains t-shirts and jeans, there’s not a lot of leeway to go wrong).
I don’t remember having a stomach to eat. We drove out to the barn, me bouncing on the seat in anticipation. I didn’t know what my horse would be called, or how she would adjust, or what type of chocolate she would like best. All I knew was that the dapple-grey grade mare I’d test-ridden earlier in the week was actually to be mine. Her owners (ex-owners, I already thought of them in my head) would bring her by about eight and the vet would come out to check Shanghai (said dapple-grey mare) for disease, lameness, et cetera.
Mom repeated consistantly that I shouldn’t get my hopes too far up. I’d already been at this stage before with a 3-year old Paint gelding who appeared perfect but, upon the vet check, had serious lameness problems masked with Bute (painkiller) and stellar care from his owners. The experience was admittedly horrible, as I had already named him and prepared the next twenty years of our lives, of how me and Rio would be best friends forever. (And created the guest list to the “Come to the Sanctified Union of *Aloha* and Rio on the 24th of August“, as well as the RSVP email and some posters.)
That’s why I refused to name Shanghai (her old name, I accidentally kept thinking) for myself until after the vet check passed. Still, every time Mom told me to leave my expectations at the door, I felt the anticipation rising in my stomach. This felt right, I knew it in my gut. She would be the one. The guest list and date/time on the flyers could be altered and we could start anew.
Shanghai was late. Her owners (ex-owners, I tried to stop thinking) had slept in. This was unimaginable to me, having been up so early and bouncing off the walls ever since. They trailered her in, sweaty and still gorgeously tantalizingly almost-mine.
The vet check took several hours, but she passed with flying colors. There had hardly been a healthier horse. Seven years old, perky grey, and with a comfortable hay belly (although in comparison to Picasso it paled), Shanghai was the picture of health.
Although her [ex]owners were anxious to finish the sale and get home to take care of their 50+ other horses, my parents decided that I would ride Shanghai a second time, on home territory, before the sale would be complete and the deal finished.
The ride went well. Shanghai was a bit unsettled, and kept looking around at everything, but this was obviously normal for a horse that had been trailered three hours to a completely new barn and ridden by someone who’d only been on her back once.
It was just a short ride, me beaming the whole time. I took her back to the stable area, untacked her, brushed her lovingly, and went to take her out to the wash racks to hose her down before putting her in her new stall.
The funny thing? I got a bloody nose halfway through her bath. My riding instructor’s daughter offered to finish and put Shanghai in the stall so I could go inside and take care of the blood.
I happened to walk into my riding instructor’s kitchen just as Mom, Dad, and the (ex)owners were exchanging papers–large, official-looking white ones, and small, thick-looking green ones.
And thus I witnessed the transfer of Shanghai and the true transformation to ex-owners and owners.
Shanghai became Aloha, her ex-owners became one horse short, and I became the happiest girl in the world.
A few years earlier….
It was May, and you could almost taste the summer. The forecast was clear, bright, and sunny for weeks ahead. Plans were being made, yearbooks signed, the bittersweet feeling of leaving school (and friends) for a few months.
This particular last day was a little more bitter than sweet.
Every year, the fifth graders of my elementary school took buses to a water park on the last day of school. They spent almost the entire day basking in the sun, soaking in the waves, and hanging out with their friends. Sometimes the park was even closed down that day, just for the fifth graders.
The forecast was sunny, but the day didn’t dawn quite as warmly gorgeous. Nay, rainclouds threatened the sky and took the sun hostage. The winds obliged in showering us with their whipping chill, while the weather forecasters must have been scratching their heads and wondering which intern was allowed to read off the percipitation reports.
And yet the fifth graders still took the buses, silently hoping and praying for a sudden burst of sunshine, to the water park.
By the time we got there, it was raining.
Half an hour later, everything but the Kiddie Spash Zone was cleared out because of lightning threats.
The water was cracking to reveal ice (or at least that’s how it felt to us ten-year olds).
The winds grabbed us and yanked at our hair, our towels, our hopes. Thinking it would be warm and sunny, naturally everyone wore swimsuits, tank tops, and shorts to the water park. You don’t exactly pack a parka along with the sunscreen.
We used our towels as jackets the best that we could, and the entire fifth grade huddled under a ramada hoping to beat the chill. There was nowhere to go indoors for shelter except the gift shop, so we took turns trudging up the hill to warm ourselves in the tiny Beach Shack that offered $20 sunscreen and $5 plastic water bottles. No hot cocoa.
The food the adults had brought had been exclusively cold sandwiches, juice pouches, and popcicles. This was a crazy random happenstance. Middle of May’s supposed to be HOT. In the nineties, at least. And here we were in the 50s and 60s, shivering, huddled together.
In a few hours the adults decided we’d been exposed to enough of the chill. They took us back to school and we engaged in the [apparently mandatory] reading of “Oh the Places You’ll Go”, then the tragic, sob-inducing goodbye ceremony where you have to high-five every kid in the school as a way of passing on the traditions of your class.
Bittersweet? Yes. Cold? Very. Do I miss that day? Yes and no. Which brings us back to ‘bittersweet’.
AND THAT WILL BRING US BACK TO B-I-T-T-E-R-S-W-E-E-T….