I remember the excitement. The thrill of seeing my name in print.
And the gut-wrenching embarrassment associated with it afterward.
“Pony Girl! She’s the one who runs like a pony!” kids would whisper behind their hands. Some proclaimed it down the hall at full bellow, making me duck my head to hide burning cheeks.
In Kindergarten and First Grade, I wanted nothing more than to own a horse. I wanted to ride, uninhibited, wherever and whenever I could. I longed for an opportunity to partner with something bigger than myself and yet a part of me. Silvery dots upon black leather saddles called my name. I dreamed and hoped and saved pennies.
In all fairness, during my elementary days, I had a strange gait. The half-skip. I couldn’t make my legs go into a full-skipping motion, so I would “canter” whenever someone else skipped. Certainly, I could perform “flying lead changes,” but even when I finally mastered skipping, “cantering” seemed far superior.
I cantered across the open range on my imaginary unicorn during recess, living out every young girl’s fantasy. The practical part of me made certain I saddled and unsaddled my unicorn before riding. My best friends and I enjoyed describing our mounts and mapping out our kingdoms.
By Second Grade, Princess, my favorite imaginary unicorn, ran away. I moved on. Rode real ponies. Understood more about horses and psychology and growing up.
Memories are long. I lived in the same school district my whole life. It’s a small town. If you sneeze in the morning, by afternoon, people ask about your cold.
(I didn’t like it.)
Therefore, when I graduated from High School, I didn’t expect the Pony Girl legacy to survive, ready to kick me in the gut. However, My senior class voted me “Most Likely to create a Utopia where Horses and Humans are equals.”
I remember lifting the paper to cover my brimming eyes, but I’m not sure if I completely stemmed the waterworks until I got home.
When you’re a teenager, it’s embarrassing to be remembered for something you enjoyed as a child. I hid in my room, hoping for a major scandal to break among the popular kids so I didn’t have to bear the brunt of a cruel joke.
Head down, hands in my pockets, scuffing my feet, I remember walking into school the next day.
Nobody pointed and laughed.
Nobody painted a pony on my locker.
Nobody poked me and asked, “Hey, aren’t you that Pony Girl? You know, the one who runs like a horse?”
I remember turning in a circle, confused, watching those around me. My greatest embarrassment, the thing I tried most to forget, lay sprawled in black and white in the middle of each High School Newspaper, Graduation Edition.
I finally asked someone about it. A girl I hadn’t spoken to much, but someone who worked on the newspaper.
“Please,” I asked covertly. “What did you guys mean when you published that I’d create a Utopia where Horses and Humans are Equals? Were people making fun of me? Who made it up? Did I make someone mad, and they’re using the paper as revenge?”
Her lifted eyebrows and mouth in a perfect ‘o’ said everything.
“Isn’t that what you want to do someday?” she asked with evident confusion.
“You’re going to do it,” she said, a smile on her face. “I don’t know that the guy voted most likely to become president will ever get there, but you’re going to own a barn someday. Everyone knows it.”
Everyone except me. My cheeks flamed again, now for a different reason. Understanding. Acknowledgement.
“Thanks,” I remember telling her.
Twelve years later, with the help of my wonderful husband, we accomplished the goal my Senior High School Class predicted for me. By this year, year thirteen after High School, I’ve managed to improve the barn and make it nearly perfect–to my specifications. We have well-fed and happy horses.
I know how to skip, but sometimes I “canter” across the indoor arena.
Because I can. Because I’m Queen of my own happy Utopia, where Horses and Humans ARE Equal.