the carousel was empty.
the smallest child and i climb up to a horse carved 99 years ago. children under six need an adult to stand beside them. i place my hand on the hind quarters and real horse hair makes the tail.
she is beaming.
three women are manning the operations. one rings the bell when it is safe to get down. one lets you through the gate after saying you may not ride side-saddle. and one…well one just walks around. she wears a badge and she makes sure no one gets hurt. she’s in her sixties and she is volunteering on a rainy, october morning.
when my girl is settled in, waiting for the reel of music to rewind and play twice through again, the volunteer tells her that the frog is open if she’d rather ride that. she says no. she wants this horse.
the woman smiles and then, quick as you please, she winks.
she turns around and i can’t see anything except the wink. the marvel of the lines of her face coming together to spell out one word – love. my daughter is talking, but mother love from a stranger is all i can hear. the ride starts and we spin and i stand with my hand on a horse’s ass and in a rush, i think of my grandmother who died 27 years ago this october.
what is the strength of a woman? this soft face, the soft heart that winks reassurance is the most powerful thing i’ve seen all day. the steel of the mother love built down the years holds up this life of mine. and i stand beside my girl. she rides this ride. i stand beside.
the strength that comes from weakness. the life given when one lays down life. woman, mother, sister, wife, child, friend. i imagine myself walking up to the volunteer in her vest and i imagine i stand too close. she sees me and she knows and she puts her arms around me and holds me.
this love is always the same. mother love; out in the yard hanging up clothes on the line or buried six feet under ground.
the ride is over and the volunteer opens the iron gate for us. she tells us to enjoy ourselves. my daughter informs me where we’ll go next and i follow her. i reach out and i hold her and she twists away, ready for the next thing.