Shadows were lengthening as the sun began to dip in the winter sky. The visit back home was nearly over, too quickly, after so much time away. Tomorrow I’d be on a plane winging across the continent to where I’ve made my own nest, and who knew how long it’d be till the next time I saw Mom.
I turned a page in an album and a soft-cheeked little girl in a red velvet dress with a white collar and short-cropped, dirty blonde waves peered contentedly at me from astride an amply dappled, shiny gray rocking horse.
“Silver!” I cried, excited as a three-year-old. In an instant I’m warmer than chamomile in a cozy-covered teapot.
“You used to rock on that rocking horse for hours,” Mom said.
(“Hi Ho Silver! Away! Giddy up giddy up giddy up up up! Giddy up giddy up giddy up up up!” I’d sing in time to the William Tell Overture, rocking till I lapsed into meditative contentment, rocking to the squeak-squeak of the springs.)
Over the left shoulder of my childhood self in the picture I gazed at the jalousie windows from which the sunny family room that led out to the patio and backyard derived the name my parents had given it: the jalousie room.
It’s tender, achy, magic, seeing that old photo again.
What evoked the barrage of emotion? The memory of that room? It was the lively center of the first house I lived in.
Knowing that my father, long since deceased, took that picture, proudly, of his only daughter and youngest child?
The photo itself? Developed from real film into a 2 x 3 print with a white border people carefully touched using only their fingertips when it was pulled from a wallet and handed to an acquaintance, as no doubt my father had done with this photo before it had been retired to a page in an album. Something you could touch, not just an image on a screen.
Or was it simply the memory of the cherished rocking horse?
“What became of Silver, Mom?”
My vague recollection is of the metal springs rusting after being left outside on the patio. But I wanted to hear her tell me something different.
“That was so long ago, how can I possibly remember,” Mom sighed. She added, after the faintest pause, “Maybe after you outgrew it, we gave it to another family who had a child.”
Before I turned the page in the album, I looked again at the rocking horse. I was sure it’d had a less kind fate. But maybe I remembered wrong about it being left out in the rain. Maybe another child after me had rocked for hours at a time on it, singing Giddy up giddy up giddy up up up! in time to the William Tell Overture.
At least, I like to think.