Conditions Have to Be Just Right

It looked like a Miss America breakfast only it was 5am and I was picking up Holly for the horse show and she was late again. Her Father was tall and dignified. Her Mother was beautiful and gracious and trying to be tactful about her daughter’s lack of manners. Every sister was very beautiful too and had on a robe and every hair in place and was in the kitchen offering juice or a breakfast morsel to fill the time. I was merely the groom and had agreed to be the ride as it was on my way to the barn. We needed to be there loading horses by now and the plan was that she should have been ready to run from the house and throw her gear into the truck, leap into the passenger side without my having to stop the tires from rolling. This would have avoided any meeting of her family and I and any guilt of waking her family at dawn. Under any other circumstances, I would have left her, as I would now be in as much trouble as her for arriving at the barn late just by association but, they needed her to ride the ponies and there was no other candidate. Some of the young children could handle the ponies within the confines and safety of the home barn, but at the show when the ponies left home and got a little bolder and the stress sapped away the arm strength of young kids, Holly rose to the occasion. She actually didn’t practice much that I saw, but to see her sitting with one leg perched half way across a pony neck, smoking a cigarette, waiting at the in gate surrounded by small children, shouting to one of us to tell her what the course was, you knew the ponies had no chance to act up. Since I needed the money made by grooming and it would earn the next ride to the show for my horse, I was doomed to just wait at the bottom of these exquisite stairs with these well mannered people who refused to shout up at their wayward daughter to get going.

Holly finally appeared, dragging one riding boot, shirt tail hanging out, throwing a bridle at me that she hadn’t had time to put together and which I only hoped we had all the pieces for and saying that we had to leave through the garage to grab her riding helmet. Her Father made some noise about how the garage was crowded with the cars in it, but I knew it would be cleaner than my apartment and larger and I tried to bolt for it before he volunteered to get the whole family of beautiful people to dress and move vehicles for us. I tried to politely drag her out to the garage without making her mad, get us to at least start for the barn, while trying to think of a way to frame my apology to make sure the barn owners understood that it wasn’t my fault that we were late without actually blaming Holly. Too much animosity in the air and Holly might bolt for parts unknown and leave us with ponies and no rider. My 6 ft frame could not be folded up under any circumstances as a substitute.

With all the parts in tow, we started for the barn, and I marveled at what I just witnessed. Holly had become a part of barn life through a program at a Center for Mental Health Home that dealt with many different children in need of help. It had a residential home for permanent placement, a temporary home for children that needed help till they could find adoptive homes, or daycare to relieve parents with autistic children during the day. I helped with giving riding lessons to children that earned passes for good behavior or children coaxed to ride instead of checking out of life. Holly came while a resident young girl because she kept running away from home. She stuck with us through returns home or to the center. She was a good looking girl who claimed to be ugly and plain and ordinary and destroyed herself because of it. She had blond hair and blue eyes and great figure and 90% of the girls on the planet would have given their kidney to look like her. On top of that, whatever she tried to do, she was good at without much effort and people were attracted to her easily. I was about 4 years older, but had had a much more difficult life in a poor home and had a very hard time being sympathetic to her. I thought her act of complaining about her looks to be a search for compliments.

That was before the early morning Miss America visit. That was when I realized how someone even as good looking as Holly could end up feeling ordinary and plain. Perspective can be like fog, you only see it when conditions are just right. All that beauty and niceness must have felt oppressive to her. Unfortunately, when she reached 17, even with help, she ran away to the west coast and I heard she got into trouble out there.

I left my troubled family at an early age and fell deeply in to the world of horses. The appeal of being around horses is that they are so accepting, and I and let them heal me through their kindness and maybe they did finally help her. Meeting her helped me to learn empathy for those that appear extra gifted or blessed who are difficult to deal with and I would think back to Holly and remember that things aren’t always perfect as they seem.

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