I must say a word in defense of the wrongly cursed and much maligned experience of leaving a beloved house after many decades. People too often forget the joys brought in the middle of conquering chaos; namely, finding long-forgotten documents, letters, pictures, memorabilia which help one relive, vividly and colorfully, some of the happiest moments of one’s own past.
Yesterday, Maria, the excellent cleaning woman who helped me prepare my house for its new owners, found a real gem, of all things, in the pantry closet: my brand-new, black velvet Olympian riding hat, still in its cardboard box.
And I did remember:
Thirty-one years ago, I was taking jumping lessons from Betty White, on her horse farm just across County Road 39 in Southampton. It was my way of making the nonski weekends on the East End bearable.
My then-husband hated the big city, where he was brought up, as much as I disliked winter months in our excessively, bucolically quiet times in this village before the big season. And so, I took jumping lessons.
“I wish you’d come see me,” I begged John. “My horse is huge. It’s so big that I have to get on a tractor to swing into the saddle. Come see.”
“I will, I will,” he promised, but days grew into weeks.
On one sunny day, Betty asked me to trade with a little 6-year-old girl joining our class. “Her pony is a little frisky,” Betty said. “And Pression is such a calm gem.”
How could I refuse? I got on that pony, and it was like a big dog. That pony was the size of those famous Shetland pygmies, hardly deserving to be part of the horse family. I remembered having sat on son Richard’s rocking horse, and it had been taller than the little girl’s pony. My feet were dragging on the ground.
And who came ambling along? “Big horse!” John called out to me. “Very big horse!”
I nearly fell off the pony from laughing, begged Betty to show him my gentle, calm Pression.
But throughout the lesson and on the way home, John never stopped saying it, with his understanding nod: “Big horse! Very big horse!”
One fine body…