Entry #15: There's always a pony somewhere.


I heard my mother crying when I walked past her door this morning. The sound kinda scared me because my mom only cries in sappy movies. She doesn't get depressed and she's not the kind of person who feels sorry for herself. So when I heard her crying I thought "Something really bad must have happened" and I knocked on her door. She told me to come in. She was sitting at her desk, which is beside the window. Right outside is a bird feeder which she never forgets to fill with seed. It was empty. There was even a bird sitting on the branch opposite the feeder peering it with a pathetic expression on its face. Even in California winter is winter. We're not talking ice incrusted trees and rock hard frozen ground, but a well stocked bird feeder in always appreciated. Except ours wasn't and my mom was at her desk crying.

I asked her what was wrong and she said that she missed my dad. That was a real shocker!

My mom and dad got divorced when I was five. She never talked about him and when he left he was pretty much never around any more. I think he had moved to some island in the South Pacific or something. Topango or Bora Bora or Tahiti. I loved to look at our world atlas and imagine my dad exploring the tropical jungles of these places with the cool names. For the first few years he'd send me and my brother birthday cards and Christmas presents, but then that stopped and we haven't heard from him in a really long time.

My mom never once in all those years said that she missed him. Not when he first left or any time. I never got much about why they broke up but I always imagined it was just one of those things that had to do with my dad wanting to go out and see the world while my mom was more into reading about exotic places than actually doing the hiking and getting dirty and dealing with mosquitoes stuff. She never bad mouthed him or anything after he left, she just never talked about him. Also, she's done an amazing job keeping things together. Such a good job that it's always been hard for me to imagine where my dad would fit in if he ever did show up again. I mean, she's got a really good job as the director of a school for learning disabled kids. And like I've said before, she's a great cook. Takes us on family vacations. She laughs a lot, dates occasionally, has lots of friends. I always thought her life wasn't missing anything. But there she was crying and saying that she missed my dad.

I thought about a story that my mom used to tell me whenever I felt bummed out. In fact, I think the first time she told it to me was the morning I woke up and my dad wasn't there any more. The story goes like this:

Two brothers named Grins and Grumbles go to visit their Grandpa on his farm. As soon as they get there, Grumbles starts complaining that there's nothing to do. So Grandpa tells the boys that if they clean out the horse stable, they'll get to ride the pony. That's sounded great! So Grins and Grumbles dash off to the stable where they find an enormous pile of horse crap and two shovels. The two boys pick up the shovels and start in on the pile. After about 15 seconds, Grumbles starts moaning about how smelly it is in there and how hot and how hard the work is. Grins isn't paying any attention to him. Instead he keeps shoveling away and all the while he's doing a little dance and singing to himself. Grumbles can't believe that even someone as dorky as his brother could think shoveling crap was fun so he says, "What are you so happy about? With this much crap, we'll be here all day!" And Grins smiles and him and says, "With this much crap, there's got to be a pony in here somewhere!"

I figured part of the reason she was feeling so discouraged was that she had forgotten the story, (no one in the family had told it in a really long time). So I hugged her and whispered, "Mom, there's got to be a pony in here somewhere."

She laughed out loud and hugged me back. Then I helped her fill up the bird feeder.




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