Monthly Archives: May 2013

Maybe the Horse Fairies Took Your Baby

By Esther C. Baird
First Published in the Tri-Town Transcript

Boxford Topsfield Middleton —
It all began in Costa Rica.  We were there two summers ago on a family vacation and spent one day with a guide navigating waterways by boat, and jungle paths by foot, in order to visit a secluded beach.  Apparently though, there was a short cut to the beach, because that afternoon a man emerged from the dense foliage with a large horse tied to a rope.  It had no saddle, no blanket, no reins.  But the man looked at our two girls, then ages five and three, and communicated that for a few dollars he’d give them a ride. 
I figured this was a clear ‘no’.  Neither daughter had any experience with horses and our older daughter was nervous around anything large and alive.  It was one of the reasons we had gotten Blue Ears who, at the time of the trip, was only a puppy but held the promise of being gigantic.
So it was a total surprise when our eldest sat up and said, “I’ll ride.”  The man nodded, lifted her onto the bare back of the horse, and led her off down the beach. 
Both my husband and I saw it immediately.  She is not a laid back child.  She is the firstborn of two Type A parents — you do the math.   But sitting on that horse, her entire demeanor changed.  She looked relaxed, peaceful, confident.  She’d never even touched a horse before and there she was riding one in a strange country led by a strange man.  Who had taken our daughter?? 
The horse fairies had, and, I could see that we were in deep, deep, trouble. 
We held off for over a year.  I kept hoping our daughter would find that same sense of peace and confidence say . . . painting watercolors or you know, weaving; some hobby with a few less dollar signs attached to it.
But no.  And living in Boxford it’s not exactly easy to avoid horses.   Every time she saw one she’d ask, “When can I ride a horse again?”
So we finally signed her up for lessons at Gaston Farms.  I can take horses or leave them.  And by ‘take’ I mean I don’t mind their general existence.  But our daughter loved the whole process — getting the horse ready (“It’s called tacking up, Mommy”), learning how to ride, and cleaning the horse when done.  After each lesson she beamed, “Can I have my own horse?”
Uh, no.
But she could keep taking lessons.  It just seemed to work for her.
And then a few weeks ago my husband and I were out of town and my mother-in-law was staying with the girls.  My mother-in-law loves horses so I scheduled my daughter’s lesson while she was here.
That evening, many states away, as I was getting ready to go out to dinner, I got the text:  “Took a fall.  Was thrown when horse spooked.  Sore but fine.” 
A million things went through my mind as I quickly called home.  But most of all, I found myself saying, after I had ascertained that our daughter was really, truly ok, “I hope she got back on.”
What was I doing!?  This was my easy out!   She had been thrown off the horse, who could blame her for never riding again?  But oh, the irony.  Her fall ensured that I couldn’t let her quit. If I had to fly home that night and stick her on a horse myself, I would.  Forget watercolors or weaving, my daughter rode horses.  Period.
My mother-in-law confirmed that she had gotten back on and was now a member of the ‘Eat Dirt Club’ at the farm.  She’d been nervous but she’d done it, and with a little Advil and rest she’d be good to go for her next lesson.
I was so proud of her and so stuck with horses. The horse fairies had won.

One Closet at a Time; A Mother’s Day Tribute

By Esther C. Baird
First Published in the Tri-Town Transcript

Boxford Topsfield Middleton —
Well, I’m willing to believe that it’s finally spring.   I’m still often chilly but I can sense that soon I will feel consistently warm, perhaps even hot.  So in a fit of optimism, I tackled that spring time task that strikes fear into the heart of any mother:  I switched over our daughter’s closets. 
The horror.  The horror. 
I’m not talking about the mere tedium of weeding out the winter corduroy and sweaters and wool dresses and furry boots.  No, I refer to the state of chaos — the pack-ratty, hoarding, mayhem — that exists at hazardous levels in their closets so deep I need a snorkel to get to the bottom, or at least a stiff drink. 
The socks alone, the impossible way in which plain, white socks bought in bulk never match any other plain, white socks, makes my heart palpitate.  Then there are the fruity smelling lip balms and sparkly fake gems,  the opened markers and wads of silly bands, the favorite rocks from vacation and endless legos pieces that all, for no reason whatsoever, end up in the shoe pile, strewn through the underwear, and tangled up in the tights. 
Nothing matches.  Nothing fits. There is no rhyme.  There is even less reason. 
What there is however, is a bigger force at play.  You see, they come by this naturally.  My own child-hood closets caused my mother anxiety that I thought was ridiculously overwrought.  Clothing only brought me down. I was a tree elf.  A space princess.  A pirate queen.  A scientist saving the world one afternoon in our back woods at a time.    Closets were for hiding my invisible army of talking flying horses, plus, it goes without saying, my time machine and my own favorite [magic] rocks. 
But my mother knew that my closet also represented who I could and would become.  Talking animal armies were fine, but someday I’d need to go to college.  I’d need a job.  I might even get married if she could ever get a dress on me.   
I now realize that she must have agonized about buying outfits for her sap-covered, tomboy daughter. It was up to her, against extreme odds, to plant the seeds of what she knew was possible.   And if she did find an outfit that didn’t have itchy seams, tags, frills, lace, or heaven forbid, the color pink, if she found something cute, possibly even stylish, that I actually enjoyed wearing, to then lose it in the compost pile that was my closet would have been heart breaking. 
I can see that now. 
And to her credit, as I type, I’m wearing clothes.  Nice ones.  Ones that match and which I hang on hangers and try to keep clean.  Sure I’m nearly 40, but her efforts have finally paid off and – – much to her glee — have come full circle.
I spend hours trying to find outfits that say my third grade daughter is confident and beautiful.  Clothes that are classic but with a hint of flair to help her be brave and not shy; cool so she’ll fit in, but not like she’s trying too hard.  For my kindergartner I look for glitter and bright colors and skirts that twirl but that are pretty and not trashy, outfits that say that nothing will squelch her enthusiasm for life but that she is also sweet and kind.
Is it too much to want these clothes, which I buy lovingly considering their individual gifts and dreams, to stay nice?!  Clean?!  Not mixed up with squirreled away gummy bears left over from a birthday goody bag?!  For heaven’s sake!
And so, this Mother’s Day I hope for clothes on hangers and white socks that match and rocks to be left outside.  Happy Mother’s Day to my Mother, and to all of us, shaping and growing children across American, one spring closet changeover at a time.