Telling a story is like creating a tapestry. We weave words, thoughts, ideas, and memories together in what may at first appear to be like the messy combination of warp and woof threads when you look at the backside of the tapestry. But when the work is done and you turn it over, the picture is complete, and hopefully the end product is something pleasing and memorable.
A little girl with
a long brown ponytail, a sprinkling of freckles on her nose, and brown eyes
that take in everything around her approaches the ticket-taker at the
Amusement Park. She wriggles with excitement as she presents her ticket. Then
she, along with a rush of other little boys and girls, races for the Carousel
platform, eyes searching the available horses to find just the right one.
The gentle little
brown pony? The proud white mare? The prancing gray filly? Or maybe the fierce,
spirited black horse with head thrown back and nostrils flared? The urgency to
make a quick decision before all the choices are gone fills her heart with a
frantic grip as she nervously scans the corral full of horses, mounted in rows
on the round wooden floor.
Her eyes flicker
back to the brown pony and the decision is made. While she loves the adventure
of riding the horses, there is a little fear involved, and the pony looks kind
and harmless. She grips the saddle horn and puts a small sandaled foot in the
left stirrup, then heaves herself onto the saddle. She sighs, now that the
decision is made and she is safely astride the pony of her choice.
She quickly scans
the crowd circling the Carousel, searching for the familiar faces of her
parents. A flicker of panic grips her heart when she doesn’t see them amidst
all the strange faces watching expectantly. Clutching tightly to the reins, she
swivels her whole body in a desperate effort to search the crowd to locate her mama and daddy.
At that moment,
the horse lurches and the loud organ music blares. She turns back to the front
of the horse, one hand gripping the reins and the other grabbing for the saddle
horn. Her heart is thudding loudly as the horse begins rhythmically rising and
falling to the beat of the snappy music. There is yet some anxiety as she tries
to grasp the idea that she might be alone on the Carousel ride, left to her own
devices. The anxiety dances with the thrill of the ride and the sensation of
racing through the wind astride this magnificent animal.
As the Carousel
sweeps through the crowd of onlookers, she suddenly spots her mother and
father, their eyes trained on her as she gallops past. A mixture of relief and
happiness rushes through her and she removes her hand from its tight grip on
the saddle horn and waves at them frantically. They respond with eager waves
and smiles of encouragement.
As the brown pony
gallops around yet another circle on the wooden platform, she eases back in the
saddle and enjoys the ride. She now knows exactly where her parents are
standing: just to the right of the Carousel entrance where another line of
youngsters is already forming. She watches the progression of the horses and
knows as she swings back by the gate that her parents will still be there . . .
watching, cheering. Each time the Carousel comes full circle, she gets ready to
wave at them again, basking in the attention and love she sees on their faces. A
feeling of security and peace falls over her as she rises and falls to the
rhythm of her pony. There is a happy exhilaration in being here today, spending
this time with those who love her . . . just getting to be a kid.
In later years,
she would come to Amusement Parks and Fairs with her peers when no adults were there
to observe. At first, she always gravitated to the Carousel ride, the one they always
called the merry-go-round. But her
friends said it was too tame, a baby ride. The one time she did ride by herself
felt flat and empty: there were no loved ones to wave at, no one to cheer her
progress and smile with encouragement. That day, she learned the truth about the
Carousel: she realized that the thrill throughout all those years was not the
excitement of the ride. Her experience was joyful because she shared it with
those she loved. It was an important life lesson.
Joyce with Max, Judy, Nicole at the Greenport carousel
On one of my trips
to visit my daughter and son-in-law on Long Island, we drove out to the far
eastern tip of the North Fork to Greenport. In Mitchell Park, facing the
Peconic Bay with a distant view of Shelter Island, sits a Carousel ride. The Antique
Carousel is the focal point of the park. Built by the Herschell-Spillman
Company in 1920 and donated to the village by the Northrop-Grumman Corporation
in 1995, this working antique carousel is one of only a handful of carousels
that still features a brass ring dispenser.
I have been to this Carousel more than once. On one particular trip,
with my Aunt Joyce, we rode the horses on a sunny spring day. It was a delight
to ride with this lively 70-ish lady, both of us enjoying the thrill of the
ride. And yes, we had loved ones waving at us, cheering us on. This time, it
was my daughter who waved at us as we galloped past. Joyce and I, along with
her friend Jackie, later went together to the Kemah Boardwalk near Seabrook,
Texas and posed in front of their Carousel ride.
Joyce and Judy at Kemah
My friend Hiram carves authentic replicas of Carousel horses from a
time long past. He researches and carefully crafts his life-sized equines and
has brought joy and delight to those who have seen them.
Hiram's carousel carving won a blue ribbon at the State Fair of Texas
A sense of beauty and nostalgia lives in our memories of those old
Carousel rides and their majestic animals. But I think for me, it isn’t just
about the horses, about their beautiful carved detail. The music was fun, but
that too is not very important. The memory for me is tied up in a single
Without the encouragement of our loved ones, where would we be? We
might accomplish great things, but why would it matter if we did it alone?
Every significant moment in my life has been tied to memories of those who love
me. Whether they cheered me on as I rode the Carousel, or played in the high
school band, or won an award, the significance of the moment was linked to having a network
My parents were always faithful cheerleaders for my sister and me. I
had teachers who believed in me and offered their encouragement. Friends
throughout the years have been my staunch supporters, and numerous extended
family members have continuously cheered me on as well—not because I was
developing a cure for cancer or any vast accomplishment, but because they
thought I was a person of significance and wanted me to know they supported me.
My children are some of my biggest encouragers today.
Who are the people who enthusiastically wave at you as you gallop past
on your Carousel? And can you be the person circling the Carousel platform who
waves without abandon when your loved ones ride by? These are memory-making
moments, maybe even life-changing ones; don’t let them get away.