Sunday, July 18, 2010
I Want a Pony
An article in this morning's paper (yes, that would be newsPAPER) about the ponies of Chincoteague reminded me of a doomed day-trip I took with my mother, younger sister and a cantankerous aunt (who, unfortunately, was at the wheel) when I was fourteen. We were staying the week with this Aunt C. who lived just outside of D.C. Somehow my mother talked her into a drive to Chincoteague, in Virginia, to experience the annual pony swim, where the wild equine inhabitants of Assateague Island swim from there to Chincoteague Island, and the 60 to 80 foals born that year are auctioned off so that the remaining herd can maintain ecological sustainability.
I had, in the years prior, read and reread all the Marguerite Henry books about adopting a wild Chincoteague pony -- Misty of Chincoteague was a Newbery Award winner -- and entertained my own ten-year-old fantasies of doing the same. (I was amazed that my mother didn't share this same fantasy. Never mind that we lived a continent away from the Virginia seaside, and my mother, as a new widow with seven children, had other things on her mind.)
The drive from Betheseda to the coast was tense and grim. I don't think my aunt liked children -- she certainly didn't like us -- and my mother and her oldest sister had never enjoyed a particularly affable relationship. When we finally pulled into the tiny seaside town of Chincoteague, we stopped and asked someone where the ponies were, and were directed to the carnival grounds. My aunt snorted, announced that she didn't associate with the degenerate lowlifes that frequented carnivals, turned the car around and hightailed it out of there. My fourteen-year-old heart missed a beat, and another. My mother turned to me in the backseat, rolled her eyes, and remained silent. WHAT???? We'd endured an entire day held captive in the car of irritable Aunt C., and now, within blocks of possibly succeeding in talking my mother into letting me adopt my very own feral pony (I'd told no one of my plan, but maintained high hopes that the Powers-That-Be would rule in my favor) we were DRIVING AWAY??? I was crushed beyond comprehension, beyond language, beyond tears. I slumped down in my seat, in utter despair. Apparently my aunt held sway over the aforementioned powers.
I recall a stop at a French restaurant after that, for which we were required to change from our beach clothes into something more appropriate. It was a somber dinner, with my sourpuss aunt snipping at us for not praising her choice of dining establishment.
On the long drive back, Aunt C. handed the map to my mom (bad decision!) and instructed her to provide navigation. If my aunt had ever taken the time to actually get to know her little sister, she'd know that her map-reading skills and sense of direction were, well, lacking. So -- a question would come up about which way to turn, and my mother, agreeing that it was the correct way, each time answered "right!" My aunt's response to this was to turn right, when, indeed, she should've been turning left. After hours of this -- I think we were by this time
close to South Carolina -- Aunt C. figured out that something was askew. She lit into my mother, my mother shrugged, and my sister and I cowered in the back seat. I don't know what time it was when we finally arrived back at the house, but I can tell you that my mother, my sister and I laughed and laughed about it for years. Although my mother never admitted it, I like to think that, as a sly, passive-aggressive response to her sister's cruel decision to bar us from seeing the ponies, she intentionally led her sister astray. Go Mom!