When I was a girl, I was the only girl. You're intrigued with that sentence, aren't you? Well, it was an interesting childhood, so being provocative comes naturally to me. I really was the only girl...at least in my family. I had brothers, boy cousins, and uncles who were all brothers...no little girls in my Father's family or in mine. I was it, the focus of my Mother, my Grandmothers and the Aunts.
One half of me was very feminine too. I loved to rock my Tiny Tears doll to sleep and to dress my Betsy McCall doll in all the latest fashions. But my favorite was my Raggedy Ann. She'd been with me for as long as I could remember. I loved her until the threads holding her face together began to disintegrate and the stuffing came out. I loved her pretty eyes off and she lost most of her hair to my little fingers pulling and carrying her about with me. I still have her with the old band-aids stuck on, put there by my Nana (my Mom's Mom who was a career nurse). She did "emergency surgery" on my Raggedy Ann, saving her from certain death. Nana was my hero for that forever.
I can still remember how my Mother smelled when she went out. She wore Shalimar perfume, a deep, rich, elegant scent. She didn't have to curl her hair. It had a beautiful, soft natural wave to it. She'd put on her deep red lipstick, stop one more time to touch her hair while looking in the mirror, stop to kiss me and my little brother good bye and out they'd go, off to play Bridge or to go to dinner with friends. She wanted me to be feminine too, so I worked at it very hard for her.
I wore pretty dresses with bows tied in the back and real French smocking on the front, made by Nana. She could sew a dress even better than she could stitch a wound. I had a closet full of hand made clothes, fitted to me. They were green and white checks or pink with white lace, red velvet or yellow taffeta. I tried as hard as I could to be what they wanted me to be. I wore patent leather shoes and pretty white lace ankle socks.
But there was also the other side of me, the half that had to keep up with brothers and cousins who were all rough and tumble little boys with Fanner Fifties strapped to their waists and and coon skin caps on their heads. They all had real leather baseball gloves, of which I was very envious. I loved to play baseball! And they had bicycles...with big fat tires that had spokes you could clothespin cards to so the wheels would make these loud 'BBBRRRRRRRRRRrrrrrrrrrr' noises when they went round.
They'd play Army with these little green plastic men, blowing them up with cherry bombs on the Fourth of July. And they'd run races or climb trees. I couldn't just stand there and watch them. I HAD to keep up and do my best to win too. So out the door I'd go, promising to stay neat and clean for church or school. And then I'd go climb a tree, going up one branch higher than my brother just to prove I could. Or I'd race him to the stop sign on the corner and back, doing my best to beat him. Most of the time he won, but sometimes I'd beat him if I really, really pushed myself as hard as I could.
And nearly every time I'd do something to one of the pretty dresses I wore. I'd tear the bow on a branch when I was coming down or fall and skin my knees...oh catastrophe! I'd not only get dirt on my newest dress but my knees would bleed and ruin my new lace socks. And I'd scuff up my patent leather shoes too. As hard as I tried to be good, I'd still forget and work even harder at keeping up with the 'guys'.
Not much has changed, in all these years. As much as I work at being pretty (much harder to do these days than it used to be!), at remembering to make sure my hands are clean and my shoes are polished, I stop off at my barn to throw hay before we go into town, forgetting to watch where I stepped (with the inevitable consequences!) or get hay stuck in my hair and on the back of my new sweater. Or maybe Lucky will stop his eating long enough to lean down and carefully exchange breath with me, leaving a smudge on the end of my nose that I'm completely oblivious to until John patiently points it out to me, trying not to laugh.
There's still some part of me that likes to play hard, only now the 'boys' weigh in at a thousand pounds. After spending all this time with them, watching them in the field in the morning when they play with each other, I have a better idea of what my Mom meant when she'd say " Alright you two. Stop horsing around!" When horses play, the ground shakes and, sometimes, there are bite marks that take the hair off and kick marks that leave dents. God, how I love to be one of them..play with them.. synchronize with them and move with them. I'm still doing my best to beat them to the stop sign. I just plain flat out love the game!
This evening Lucky and I played for a long, lovely hour. We had some very nice firsts too. Lucky did his first @ Liberty Sideways, all along the front of the barn! And our Traveling Circles are improving too. We did it twice, the first time better than the second. But I think that was location. The first time was in the play ground area between the arena and round corral where there was more room and some nice little hills. Lucky loved that. But he loves the grass more...sigh.
I've been trying to learn how to use the grass as an incentive for him, letting him stop to munch between tasks and then using the excitement of moving on to the next even greener and more lush grass area to play yet another game in between. We're in that in between place, where it works sometimes and sometimes he wins the game by putting his head down to munch before we get to our goal. Learning how to time things so that he thinks he's part of the process is not easy. And as we go further into it, it gets more complicated too.
It's my job to keep being provocative, interesting...to prevent our time together from becoming the Seven Deadly Chores . I'm enjoying the puzzle that I need to solve, learning how to use my hands lightly, how to release as soon as he tries. But sometimes it does get frustrating when he decides to test me to see if I'm paying attention. Figuring out how NOT to be the 'Minister of No' and how to be the 'Ambassador of Yes' is the trick, at least for right now. The timing has to be just right and the excitement has to be just enough to keep him interested and not so much that I blow him up.
What to do...what to do. At least I'm not ruining anymore beautiful handmade dresses when I play with the boys anymore! I'll sleep on it tonight and, maybe, I'll wake up in the morning with some new ideas to use.
I can't wait to see where the game is going to take us!
I am, as always, yours...Nancy, still the only girl in the yard, running to keep up and smiling even when 'he' wins!