Took the kids to a horse park. It’s my happy place of a horse park, and I didn’t know a horse park could be among my happy places. Having kids makes you have strange happy places. Former happy places become inaccessible, impossible to reach. They become sealed off tombs to be one day discovered by archaeologists, with photographs showing a young adult at a beach looking tanned, relaxed, smiling.
Now I’m dragging a wiry two-year-old in a pink Elsa shirt out of the pony arena because she was screaming WANT PONY. This doesn’t draw any stares because it’s almost adorable, as long as its promptly dealt with in a way that satisfies the mobs of judgement.
Outside there are miniature ponies she can pet and touch. She reverberates and whines for the pony dressed as a unicorn in the arena, currently being paraded around to a languid cover of Pure Imagination, by a woman in a pink bedazzled horse vest. It’s a freaky affair.
My happy place is that my son is happily watching the show with my wife, entertained enough to sit in this moment, though his body still hums and buzzes. He kicks his feet on the bleachers, and by the end of the show, he has to run the length of the bleacher a few times. The mobs of judgement let it be.
It’s over, and they pop out of the arena triumphantly. He has a squinting sunlight grin on his face. This is a good place, this horse park in Pennsylvania. Far Gettysburg is the actual name of the town they’re using on the credit card receipt. It’s equidistant to Orrtana, PA from here, but they don’t say Far Orrtana. That’s my happy place, where Far Orrtana and Far Gettyburg meet, at Land of Little Horses. LOLH for short. LOLH on the hip t-shirts for sale in the gift shop. Horse People Coolness has finally arrived.
There’s also a playground, gem mining, an alpaca, a barn cat, and two free roaming goats — one that’s friendly as a Golden Retriever, and another younger goat that’s more goaty in nature. He follows the friendly one around because he knows it gets him hooked up with handfuls of the horse feed, which is five bucks for a cup, and the children hand it out like manna.
I tell the kids over and over to put their hands out flat for the animals to eat from, else the horses are gonna take their hands off. But nobody chomps clean through the bone. Instead the animals politely gobble and beg, which the children believe to be love.
“He loves me,” says my son, putting his big arms around the friendly goat, embracing him in a bear hug. The Friendly One wags its tail and nuzzles closer for another handful of horse feed. My son side eyes the younger goaty one who had gently butted him in the stomach when he went in for the hug. He still feeds them equal amounts of horse feed. Children have a strong sense for fairness. The goaty one knows this.
My daughter is bored with the feeding. She does not want their love. She wants. Simply wants. And then she does not want. We are not sure what she wants or not wants. She points and jumps and gallops off, a toddler. Look, baby, a turkey!
If the Land of Little Horses is my happy place, the gift shop is my idea of heaven, full of horse oddities. I want them all. But since we have recently moved, my relationship to stuff is temporarily re-examined. Eventually I know I’ll settle back into dim-eyed gluttony, filling the corners of my house and my soul with horse tchotchkes from Far Orrtana and other such nonsense.
Do I really need this, I ask, with each item I handle. A copied and re-copied Xerox of a horse coloring book from the American Shetland Pony Club captures my heart. Your indie bandcamp and indie press and indie threads are cool and all, but have you considered the indie scene for coloring books?
I put it back. I will champion the indie coloring book scene another day, another gift shop. There’s a horse-shaped cookie cutter. The package reads, “bake the horse of your dreams.” The cookie cutter itself is plain, pedestrian. My eyes pour back over that glorious sentence, “bake the horse of your dreams.” If only I could somehow buy that sentence, buy that sentiment. Yes, I want to bake the horse of my dreams. So. So. Badly.
Should I splurge on the LOLH shirt? Could I finally be my true authentic self, out and proud wearing a shirt that says LOLH BITCHES across the chest? It doesn’t really say BITCHES, because the BITCHES is only implied whenever you’re compelled to wear a LOLH shirt in public. Took my kids to a horse park, bitches. Didn’t even embarrass ourselves at the pony show. Fed some goats. Pet some ponies. Bought the shirt.
But I don’t, because I’m not ready yet. I need to ruminate longer. Study more. I need to be ready, and whole, to fully Be The Person who wears a LOLH shirt.
I decide on coasters. Coasters are functional. They look great in my reading corner. It’s not “bake the horse of your dreams,” but “home is where the horse is” is another sentence I want to envelop and believe. And God I believe it. I do believe it.