Liz, mother to Ella and a yet-to-be-introduced new one, due in April, emailed me a video this week. I love it, and so I’m sharing it with you.
When I was a child we mostly shopped at Hagen’s Market. There was nothing “super” about it, but it was real. The butcher, Mr. Dodd, stood all day on sawdust covered planks and dispensed individual cuts of meat. The “fishbowl” up front was loaded with penny candy, held by the owners, Mr. and Mrs. Hagen, and into which a small girl could put her hand to find the Tootsie Rolls. It cost my weekly allowance, and it was a ritual as set as the rising of the moon.
But it didn’t have a horse out front. For that we had to go to Bayless. And at some point I was old enough to sit on that horse. It cost a nickel to ride, and my mom never had a spare. At least not to waste on a horse ride that was over in a minute! But Momo, who saw the shining longing in a skinny pre-schooler’s eyes, thought it was worth it. And occasionally she sprung. As the horse galloped, I repeated all I knew of “And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street”, my favorite poem. Ecstasy.
It was fun, although not quite as much, to sit on the horse and pretend to ride. Like countless youngsters before me, I would pat the horse on its neck, urging it to a gallop, promising a treat at the barn.
When our kids were growing up in Denver, King Soopers decided to do a good deed, and retrofitted all the 25¢ coin-operated horses in front of their stores to accept a penny. One cent. And so many children had many rides into the sunset, chases with outlaws, or canters in the field. Ours were no exception.
I didn’t know it, but Liz has been looking for one of the “old” horses for a long time. These days children can jiggle in fancy fire engines, even trains. But the horses are the best. Liz found one this week at a drugstore near where they live in Palo Alto, and Ella was in awe. She held the reins like a pro, and if she’d had a Dale Evans hat on you’d swear she was born to it.
When the trotting stopped, she looked confused. She’s twenty months old, and every day is a new day full of things to see and learn. You can see it on her face – she stops when the horse stops, then looks at Liz who is holding the camera.
“More!” Ella says, and points to the coin slot.
Liz and I totally understand.