“Are we going to see the wild horses?” my not-yet-college-bound, have-to-be-dragged-everywhere, youngest asked. “You promised.”
We were on a college visit trip with her older brother. 5 colleges in 5 days.
The drive to see these mythical creatures on an exotic island was about an hour out of the way and I was exhausted from tours about professors/safety/dorms and hotel rooms with weird smells/bad breakfasts/non-working hot tubs.
But my memory of the picture on the cover of the book, Misty of Chincoteague, a beautiful wild horse and her foal, drew me in and convinced me to keep said promise.
As we pulled in to the park and made our way to the restrooms before embarking on our glorious, out-of-the-way adventure, signs warned not to feed the horses as they may bite and to ensure our safety by staying 40-feet away. This was exciting! Bladders empty, we were ready! We couldn’t wait to see these wild creatures, prancing in the sand dunes and uttering high-pitched neighs.
What happened next was stranger than strange.
We rounded the corner and there was a horse, in the middle of the parking lot. Not prancing. Not neighing. Standing. Still. So still, we thought it might be a taxidermist’s latest “stuffing” project.
We got out. Walked around it. It did NOT move. Just stood there. We did see it take a breath, so we surmised it was alive and didn’t belong at the local Cabela’s. We had so hoped to happen upon a wild, prancing, neighing horse, enjoying the sands of Virginia beaches and its ability to roam FREE. But what we found was more like a TAMED mule ready to plow the fields under the guise of some master who needed to get things done. As we ventured on the park pathways, we saw a few more horse-mules milling around, and I can assure you that we were not scared, or excited, not even one little bit. We got back in our cars and my mom thoughts took off into those mom places only they can go. Are these horses like my kids? Longing for adventure, FREEDOM, and curiosity to discover, hope and dream?
But standing around, TAMED, bored and controlled because of how me, as a mom, and society, as a whole, has directed them? Don’t bite. Stand still. Be quiet. Don’t stand up for yourself (your true self). Fit in. Do what everyone else is doing. Stay in the box. Control yourself at all costs. Never color outside of the lines. College visits. What everyone else did. What we were supposed to do. Over the next days, I kept coming back and back to my thoughts about these horse-mules and my kids. I did not want them to be mules. I wanted them to be horses. WILD ONES. Not TAMED into submission to some arbitrary set of rules that who knows who made up. I wanted them to be FREE. To discover, hope and dream. I talked and talked and talked to them about it. And then talked some more. Guess what happened? My college-bound son said, “NOPE.” He decided to take a gap year. He enjoyed his senior year without the pressure of choosing. He never went to any of those 5 we had visited on that trip. He discovered a school that made his heart happy. FREEDOM. My baby watched him intently. She spent an extra year with him, becoming the best of friends. When it was her turn, she chose an out-of-the-box school and got her Bachelor’s degree in two years. Two long, hard years. She moved to California at 19 to pursue her dreams, graduation behind her. She wants to win an Emmy. FREEDOM. Guess what else happened? I began to wonder the same thing about me. Do I have the FREEDOM to discover, hope and dream? As a middle-aged, regular, mom who has always played by the rules? Who didn’t bite, stood still and was quiet? The answer: YES. YES I DO. I might stand up for myself. What if I forge my own way? Maybe I will even draw my own lines to color inside. We’ll see how it all plays out. It’s going to be good. FREEDOM.