So here I am, 27 years ago on my first birthday getting ready to dig into some cake.
Last night I found myself in this same spot, in a house on the end of the same road, on the same day of the year, doing the same thing.
Yup. I turned 28 yesterday. And somewhere between digging into the angel food cake my momma bakes me each year, opening presents in my parent’s living room and reflecting on the past while thinking seriously (like I do on August 25th each year) about what I want to be when I grow up, I realized that really, in 28 years of life in this body, not much has changed about me, except for maybe the length of my limbs…
Please, allow me to reflect for a moment:
See, despite being thrust into a world with a big sister who liked frilly, pink, sparkly things…and ballet slippers…it was quite evident at a young age that being stuffed into a tutu was not where my pudgy body felt the most comfortable.
Oh, I will admit, I tested it a bit, having gone through a stage at about 2 or 3 where all I wore was leotards, tights, leg-warmers and velcro shoes. I am not sure whether or not to be thankful to my wonderful parents who obliged this trend, allowing me the freedom of expression, even though that freedom included spandex and a sweaty toddler. Thank Martha that phase only stuck long enough for a few choice photos to exist.
Yes, soon I realized I was much more comfortable in outfits made out of denim and plaid.
That worked for me. Dance lessons be damned, I was going to be a gardener.
A gardener and a vet.
Oh, there was a moment, I think in the leotard phase, that I wanted to be a beauty shop.
Yes. A beauty shop.
But I think that was tossed out of the equation as soon as I got on the back of my first horse.
Then I was for sure going to be a rodeo star. A singing professional horse trainer and barrel racer. That would make my life complete. That and living in a hollowed out tree like the kid in my favorite book “My Side of the Mountain.”
Yes, I would be a gardening vet and professional singing horse trainer who lived in a hollowed out tree and on Fridays I would attend county fairs and jump my amazing horses off of one-hundred foot towers and into tiny pools of water like the woman in the movie “Wild Hearts Can’t be Broken.” Only, I wouldn’t go blind.
I would need my eyesight to attend to the animals.
I remember it that way anyway, being young and full of magnificent ideas about the world I would create for myself once I was an adult. And then you hit about 15 and you start questioning everything that you had laid out so nice and neat in your imagination. And then you go to college and you experience mass confusion. And then you get your first job, ditch your first job, fall in love or out of love, get your own dog or goldfish and continue searching for a spot in this world…the spot you were pretty sure existed when you were four or five or six.
Where the hell did it go?
When I moved back here, to the ranch, a little over a year ago, I made a small promise to myself to do the things I remember loving so much as a kid. That explains the gumbo hill fiasco, you know? And I have. But now that the newness of this back at the ranch experience is wearing off, I have found myself losing sight of that promise, pushing it away to make more room for paperwork and plans.
Yes, paperwork and plans, they exist in an adult’s life. But they don’t have to move everything else–time spent watching the sunset, picking wildflower, exploring the coulees, or trying to catch a frog–out of the way. It’s hard to remind myself of that sometimes.
So when I received an email from one of my long-lost friends last month, a friend who really only knew Jessie Blain Veeder as a young kid in elementary school, I was excited to hear that she had found one of the letters I had written to her as a best friend forever who was left behind at the country school as she moved to the big town.
I think I was in 2nd or 3rd grade. And my long-lost best friend–who used to be as wild as I was, dirty knees, swinging from the branches of the small oaks, falling in creeks and exploring the barn– felt compelled to share that letter with me.
Word for word. Spelling error for spelling error.
As a gift for you all, dear readers, in the week of my birthday, I am going to share it with you now:
Dear Caroline (CBO):
I am writing to you from my school room. I heard that you invited me to your house this summer and I think that would be wonderful. I Miss you a whole bunch and I wish you still were at this school. I haven’t written or talked to you for a very long time. I have this friend and her name is Gwen she reminds Me of you. Thats why I like her. We are going to the Theodore Rosevelt National Park tomorrow for our field trip and it is supposed to be 80 outside. I herd that you are going to a horse camp. I am too. Are you in 4-H? I am. I am going to 4-H horse camp. I am going to Bible Camp and Youth Camp for 4-H. I have been riding horse alot this year. I am sooooooo glad winter is over. Rondee is substitute teaching today because my teacher is sick. She has been gone for four days. Friday Monday and Tuesday and Wednseday. We get out of school on the 20th of May. We have play day on the 20th too. I am doing the three legged race with Gwen. We have been practicing for a long time and we are going to Kick Mike and Dan’s Butt. For sure. They never practice and we are getting pretty good at it. Do you remember when we won the three legged race together? What are you going to be when you grow up. Ever since my runt Dog named Tiny died I have been thinking that there was something I could do to save her. So I have decided I want to be a vet. I love animals and I want to help them. I have been playing vet at recess alot and I have discovered that I know alot about animals. We are bottle feeding a calf his name is A.J. We had twin calves too. I named them Rockey and Bowinkle. We have many kittens but most of them are wild. The calico cat has had 9 or 10 batches of kittens ever since you left from your last visit. Well It is time for class better go.
Your friend forever
Thanks Caroline. Thanks for the reminder that the person who wrote you this letter is still in me–wild hair, wild ideas, wild kittens and all.