Today is my last day in this little mountain town; because of it, a sentimental overlay is raining down upon me. I can feel it in the drops of water that have been falling from the slate gray clouds overhead. The mountaintops are reaching towards them, receptive to another dusting of snow. I received a reply to my desire to find a child who would delight in my Breyer horse collection. It was from a Non Profit called the Horse Boy Foundation. The Horse Boy foundation is a foundation dedicated to using horses to assist autistic children and people on the autism spectrum with their unique challenges. One of the people that runs the foundation asked me if I’d be willing to donate my extensive collection to the foundation itself so that the children who come to the center can play with them and use them to learn arithmetic. She told me that if a child develops a special attachment with one of the model horses, she will let them have the horse permanently. Having grown up with ‘sensory integration disorder’, I am more than aware of the healing aspect of horses. And so I felt instantly that this ‘home’ was right for my model horses.
As you know, in order to pack something in bubble wrap and ship something off, one has to first interact with the objects they intend to send. I had forgotten about that part. And I completely underestimated how difficult that process would be. I unpacked the boxes that had been closed since I was 19 years old. It is unbelievable how an item from the past can bring the past to life in half a second. And when the item from the past, is an item you were attached to, it revives the past with so much vigor that the present moment begins to spin. I picked them out of the boxes one by one. I was flooded with the feeling aspect of memories associated with each and every one of them. I recalled the names I had given them and the circumstances that had brought each one to me. Horses were the reason that I survived my childhood. Horses were my place to belong. When I couldn’t be outside riding them, I would imagine that I was one of them. I used to run around on four legs every day. I’d set up elaborate jump courses for myself out of chairs and sticks and boxes. And because the only friend I had in childhood only saw me once or twice a year, I personified my model horses. I became intimately involved with their personalities and their unique abilities and likes and dislikes. I used them to cope. Attachment objects are difficult to part with for anyone. But when someone uses an attachment object to cope with abuse, parting with that object that helped you survive is a whole other ball game. On an emotional level, it’s a kin to the scene in the movie Castaway where Tom Hanks loses Wilson (the volley ball).
I was allowing the storm of emotions to pass through my being like waves. They were not strong enough to physically knock me over, that is until I saw peanuts. Peanuts was my favorite model horse. Even though I treasured all of my model horses, Peanuts was the one that captured my heart. I got him when I was 8 years old as an offered reward for having stopped my habit of sucking my thumb. I chose him because he looked exactly like the horse that I had been taking riding lessons on every week. I named him after the horse as well. Peanuts the model, like peanuts the horse, was a beautiful bay color with black legs and an abnormally long back. He had a relaxed demeanor about him. He looked gentle. And now, nearly 21 years after I got him, the paint is scuffed in the areas that I used to hold him. When I unpacked peanuts, I was floored with an undeniable sense of grief. It was as if that model horse held the entire story of my childhood from start to finish. It was as if the entire tragedy that occurred could be symbolized by that most precious of childhood toys. Peanuts was the horse I was riding when I was overtly cornered face to face by my childhood abuser for the first time (who as a vet, was attending to the other horses at the time). That model horse represents the heartache of that ‘point of no return’ of my childhood, as well as the innocence of not knowing it back then. I decided to allow the grief instead of leave the room. I sat in the closet, holding the model horse against me and cried. I felt like I was crying for a child of mine that had died. That kind of grief does not have a bottom. It feels endless in its depth and reach. I cried for what could have been, but wasn’t. I cried for the way that my life had gone. I tried to explain to my son why I was crying. I don’t know if he understood. One day I know he will. I thought about keeping Peanuts somewhere, as a solo token of the past. But that made me feel like Gollum from Lord of the Rings. I thought of him being loved again by another little girl or boy and as if he was alive, I imagined that to him, that would feel like being set free. So I set him in his bubble wrap in the box with all the other model horses and continued packing the rest of them until three jumbo-sized boxes were full of the entire collection. I took the packages to the mailbox and watched them get taken into the back of the office and out of sight. Never in my life could I have imagined that I would end up parting with those horses. I have been illogically hauling them from apartment to apartment for 10 years, insistent that they stay near.
After the boxes were sent away, I closed my eyes and I imagined bringing those boxes of horses to the safe space in my mind where I keep all the children that are me that I have rescued out of memories over the years. I imagined opening up the boxes and watching them run over with delight to pick through for their favorite ones. I imagined the children lining them up on the shelving in the room like I used to do and playing with them one by one. I gave peanuts to the six year old me. The silent one, whose world was shattered. Looking back on life, I see that six was the age my childhood ended and some corrupted version of adulthood began. The desolation in her eyes say it is so. I handed her peanuts the model horse. I told her that he was my favorite and that she could have him if she liked. She took him softly, as if he was made of glass and she climbed into her little nest of a bed with him and fell asleep clutching him against her, just like I used to do.
Tomorrow I leave Utah. It is ironic that the day I released my grasp on the objects I was the most attached to as a child, is the day before I leave the state where I spent my childhood as well. I have no written guarantee that where I am headed will be better than where I am or where I have been. But in a world on no guarantees, where risk is part of fully living, I am going to see where my inner voice and urgings lead me. I have discovered something by really living. I have discovered that I am not my life. I am the way my life unfolds. I am the way the flowers bloom and wither. I am the way the seasons come and go. And I am the way that the spring always finds a way to turn even the coldest, grayest winter into fields of green and clouds of white.