A Collection of Writings by
WHY? WHY NOW? WHY ONLINE? Through the years of my life, beginning in high school, I have written bits & pieces as things come to mind. Finally, I decided to put them all together in one growing volume. Here, you will find childhood recollections, dreams, short stories, the beginnings of a novella (maybe I’ll finish it now?), some poetry, comments on the world situation, letters to editors and random thoughts. There are even a couple of “comments” about some of the men from my past (nothing very ‘racy’)! Publishing this collection on-line will allow me to add to it as my mind thinks of more stuff about which to write! Many thanks to www.issuu.com for providing the online space for such things! suzanne pomeranz jerusalem, israel june 2008
Published by Suzanne Pomeranz dba wonderworks ©1964-2008
T Th hee R Ro oo om m iin n M Myy D Drreea am m I have a vision somewhere in my memory of a place I used to sleep, a balcony or sunroom perhaps, a place of soft, fresh colors, of lace and tiny flowers, of summer night breezes and gentle rest. It’s a lovely little room of three walls all covered in small windows, each with its own tiny screen behind it to keep out the no-see-ums. And in front, long filmy curtains of a soft white, almost irridescent fabric swing from once-gleaming brass rods. It’s mid-Summer and though it’s humid outside, all the little windows are open to let in the soft night breeze. The curtains dance out from the windows and then are sucked back in again in a kind of night-time ritual. I lie on soft banquettes next to the long wall of windows and peer out at the night sky, through the foggy moonlit view at the tall, majestic trees sweeping across the vast lawn of the house.
banquettes are covered in a soft cotton fabric filled with tiny flowers, faded now with age and overuse, but still beautiful to me as I remember all the nights over the years sleeping there. The round wooden table in the corner is covered with a slightly torn and stained but still elegant heavy lace cloth. On it is a small ceramic lamp in a floral pattern with a familiar milkglass shade and small books of poetry, waiting to be discovered and enjoyed. In the corner of the room, the old armless rocker with the cane seat creaks as the slight breeze pushes it to and fro. The smooth hardwood floor is covered with an antique hooked rug, its once vibrant colors now faded into pastel pinks and blues. I reach up and switch off the lamp, settling back onto my bed ready for a peaceful, restful sleep, but as I gaze past the curtains and through the windows, past the rustling leaves and up towards the stars, the vision becomes a cloud drifting through the sky of my mind and then disappears with the blast of the sun through the window and the squawk of the clock-radio on my nightstand as the news comes on to wake me. Perhaps it was just a dream after all, this heaven of a room in which to rest and leave the world behind. I do hope I can visit there again soon.
The soup looked inviting with the bright orange carrots meandering around the creamy broth. I had glanced at it when I rushed in late, hungry and slightly cold from the journey on the bus. I could hear the bubbling of the broth as it simmered on the hot plate nearby. The teacher continued her lecture, but I found that concentration would not come. Someone moved to the table and lifted the lid of the pot. Now, I could smell the wonderful and inviting aroma beckoning me. And then, she gave us the longed for hafsekah, and I rushed to the pot, grabbed a bowl, and reached for the ladle.
already warm to the hand, which made the thought of the hot soup even more enticing.
My stomach rumbled as I carefully
ladled the tempting broth into the bowl, moved away from the table, lifted the steaming spoonful to my lips, and ahhhh ssa attiissffa accttiio on n!! ÂŠSuzanne Pomeranz dba wonderworks
In the midst of Spring Trickling down on my head Cooling rain, yet soft.
What Color Tonight
The lady with the hair, we called her. No one actually knew her name. But there she was again, in the restaurant and later at the concert, dressed as always "to the nines," those stilleto heels making click click sounds as she crossed the concrete floor of the coliseum. I could see her hair from a great distance - it was pure white tonight - so I strained to see her more fully. Ah there she was all decked out in gray wool with a beautiful soft red scarf about her long thin neck. Old? Who could tell? No one had ever gotten close enough to see her clearly. No, this time as always, I would have to be content with a fleeting though satisfying glance. When Mom & Dad had invited me to join them for their usual cafeteria dinner and concert, I couldn't resist asking, "Will she be there, do you think, the lady with the hair?" I thought all day about her - what color tonight? Red? Pink? Golden? It all depended on her outfit - her hair, as well as her shoes, gloves, hose, scarf and all, was always color coordinated to match her outfit! Later, I would see other friends who also frequented this concert series. We would commiserate on the music, of course, but also on whether or not each had actually seen the lady with the hair! Even at home, between concerts, in another town, those who had also attended would talk about her, would wonder aloud at her origin, her life, her character, and especially, what color her hair would be on the next outing! A month, two would pass, and it was time for another concert and cafeteria dinner with family and friends - and the question on our lips as we exited the car at the restaurant was, as usual, "I wonder what color her hair will be tonight?" It's been about two years now since I saw her. I heard that she didn't attend those concerts anymore. Maybe she is ill, maybe she died. I don't know; no one seems to know anything about her, not her name, not even where she lived. But forever in my mind I can see her - floating passed, dressed in some beautiful, yet understated outfit, prancing on stilleto heels and rising above the crowd, floating as if not actually walking. And always, above all the heads, there goes her hair, piled up in the most sophisticated arrangement, striking, beautiful, perfectly kept. And the color? Whatever best matches her outfit, as usual - pink, red, golden or pure white. The lady, for she was a lady, with the hair, we called her. And I shall never forget her.
The assignment was to put myself in someone else's "skin", perhaps a relative or a very good friend and use a real situation to describe from that person's point of view and with that person's "voice." The last suggestion was "maybe it could be someone who, at the time of the situation or incident, was exactly the age you are now." The date of the class was 10 October 1994 (the day my twin sisters were born), and here is what I wrote:
They say that just before you die, your whole life passes before your eyes. I didn't think I was actually going to die, as I had been through this four times before. But this time, I knew, something was different. What's so funny is that even with all the activity rushing around me, I can still think so clearly. In fact, I must be in a different dimension - they all look so harried and busy while everything in me seems to be going in slow motion. Why there's Mary Snow over there, smiling at me, pacing a bit and wringing her hands like something's wrong. "Hey Mary Snow, how are ya? And Bud? And Georgia? Is she doing well with her flute playing? That's nice. . . . Well, Rufus, isn't it nice of you to drop by. No, I'm just fine. . .ah, what was that? No, nothing, just a little twinge of something. Did you see Bob? I'm sure he's around here somewhere." Hum, I wonder what time it's getting to be. . . looks like it's pretty dark outside but it sure is bright in here. Never did like stainless steel for counters and cabinets. Have to speak to Bob about that later. Let's see . . . oh, another one. . . "what's that you say, Rufus, push? Okay, but I don't see why when all I want to do is dream." Where was I. . . oh yeah, life. . . umm, well, I guess mine's been pretty good - there was that time we all stayed out at the farm when Grandma was sick. And then those years. . . "yes, Rufus, I'll push again if you insist. . . oh, that hurt a bit." What was that I was. . . oh, my years at college. Huh, I bet Prof. what's-his-name was shocked when I asked him to pass me in Counterpoint so I could graduate. One day, if I ever get out of here, I'll have to tell Suzanne about that. Um, that was uncomfortable. Those lights seem to be getting brighter. Wonder if Rufus is finished and I could just take a nap. . . "yes, Rufus, one more push. . . oh, wow, what was that - goodness, there she is and so small and red and gorgeous. Whew, now that that's over, maybe I can. . . "what's that you say, Rufus, push again? Good grief, well, okay if you are sure." Doctors, think they know everything. I knew this would be different. By age 44, I had seen a lot but never did I think. . . "another push, another girl? Oh my, well, Suzanne will be happy - even-ing the score and all." Well, maybe I can rest now or maybe. . . "Rufus, is that it? No more? Thanks. Can I sleep now?" Just when I thought my life was all set - a great husband, three boys and a girl, along comes a surprise - twin girls. Funny, Bob kept saying I was as big as a house and it must be twins, but Rufus wasn't sure. Fooled him, I guess. . . I guess. . . wonder what the date is. . . oh, there's a calendar on the wall: October 10, 1962, umm. . .think I'll sleep now, before the fun really begins!
One Sunday in June 1959 The trip took about six hours by car, but I didn’t care. We had left my three brothers behind with Grandma and Grandpa, and I had Mom & Dad all to myself. Through beautiful green countryside, past rivers and forests, through the big city of Charlotte, and into the mountains of North Carolina we drove. It was all exciting and a bit breathtaking. I was only nine, and this was the longest I could remember being in the car with my parents and without my brothers! Up, up into the mountains we went. Wow, it was wonderful out there. The beautiful Lake Lure floated past, and then we were almost to Hendersonville. A stop at that children’s clothing outlet and a new dress were in order, though I didn’t know why. Another hour in the car and we pulled up to a very interesting place...Camp Gay Valley, the sign said. “Um, I wonder what this is,” I thought but kept quiet. We stopped in front of an old wooden cabin, and piled out of the car to stretch and look around. An older woman greeted us. “Suzanne, come here and meet my old friend, Mary Gwynn,” called Mom. I had wandered off a bit following the children who were running by but hurried back to Mom’s side and shook the lady’s large but friendly hands. “It’s good to meet ya,” said the lady with a smile, “I’m sure you’ll get along just fine here.” “Thank you,” I said, not knowing what she meant. The three of them, Mom, Dad, and that nice lady, went inside then and left me to play by myself. I walked around looking at the place, still wondering what it all meant and starting to feel a bit hungry. Then, they came out and another, younger lady was with them. Dad got the big black trunk out of the back of the car. The younger lady picked it up by the handle with one hand and took my hand in her free one. “Hi, Suzanne, I’m Mary. We’re going to get to know each other and become good friends, aren’t we?” “Sure,” I said, still not understanding.
Mom and Dad hugged and kissed me and then got into the car. I stood, dumbstruck with a questioning look on my face. “Bye,” called Mom out the window, “We’ll see you in one month.” “What?” I called out. “What do you mean, one month? Where am I? Why are you leaving me here?” “Oh, it’s camp,” called Mom. “I went here and loved it. I know you will, too. Have fun!” They drove away. I stood quietly watching them go, waving my little hand, with my mouth open in amazement. Why were they leaving me when we had just arrived. And what was camp anyway? I was sick for the next three days! A month passed, all too quickly. Another Sunday rolled around, and, much to my surprise, there were Mom & Dad, pulling up in that same old station wagon. “Here we are,” said Mom, “ready to take you home.” “But, Mom,” I cried, “I like it here now; I don’t want to go home.”
ALIK Those eyes, that smile. . . when he asked if he could sit across from me at the dinner table, what could I say? "Yes, please, of course, sit." There I was, fumbling again. I knew this was a mistake. An important dinner with literature scholars from all across the United States and Russia. What was I, a secretary from a small North Carolina town, doing in such a setting? I had traveled and loved to read books about adventures in far-away lands, but still I was intimidated by them, by their well-read minds, their air of seeming selfimportance. And anyway, what would I say to him or to them; why had I volunteered to host one of the women in my home? It's one thing to have a few visitors over for dinner or conversation, but this was different - a Russian visitor in my small apartment for three days and nights! "Okay, I admonished myself, it's done now, so calm down. Just smile and answer his, her, their questions with simple direct answers, and in three days, it will all be over." I relaxed a bit.
The local center for scholarly research was hosting this prestigious group for the purpose of comparing and contrasting American and Russian literature, out of which they would produce a book of their research and discussions. They had already met in Moscow and now the final meeting was here in the heart of North Carolina. It was an opportunity to become exposed to a Russian woman and learn more first hand about that puzzling yet romantic culture. Puzzling? Yes. There's only so much one can learn and imagine from the television news, National Geographic articles, and rumors. Sooner or later, a visit would be in order. For now, the closest I could get was a Russian citizen in my home. So, I cleaned my apartment, arranged the small guest quarters to be as comfortable as possible, gathered some special gift items to be a welcoming present, took a deep breath, and here I was at the opening dinner - to collect my guest and meet other conference participants, Russians and Americans.
My parents and friends who think it is their responsibility to help me meet men are always telling me to try to put myself "in the right place at the right time." Frankly, I am not sure how one actually does that with any consistency. But as he sat down across from me that night and those eyes smiled at me, I thought, "is this the right time and the right place?"
We talked. . . about everything under the sun . . . books, politics, freedom and responsibility, favorite travels. Yes, there were others at the table - the translator on my left, my Russian guest on my right, another host couple filling out the table. But we talked only to each other, hardly letting our eyes wander or our conversation be interrupted. Russian born, he had immigrated to the United States some years ago and was now a professor of Russian literature in California. He filled my head with stories of his days back in Moscow, his university days, his portrayal of Professor Higgins in Shaw's Pygmalion when only a freshman, his friends and the intense discussions about their desire for true freedom of thought, his almost endless supply of girlfriends, his early marriage at age 21 and subsequent divorce, and escapades with friends into the countryside to sail and hike and enjoy life without the stricture of the city with its many security problems. We agreed on the importance of the university as "the marketplace of ideas" with the freedom to pursue one's own thoughts and dreams without the government or university procedures interfering. He drew out my most intense dreams and desires into the conversation. And he didn't put them down as impossible or childish - rather, he encouraged, agreed, challenged.
Who is this man, I thought? Why am I the recipient of his charm, his thoughts, his dreams? And always, there was that smile and those eyes seeking my innermost thoughts and drawing me into his warmth.
He laughed - "I must tell you my Jesse Helms story - but not here, not now." We both laughed as if we now shared a very private secret. More conversation, this time about a possible return to Moscow to attend a conference and visit friends and family, about the abortion controversy, about the paper he was writing from the past year's research, and then, again, ". . .all my wives and girlfriends. . ." "And just how many of each have you had?" I challenged. "Ah, that's a story for later," he countered, sharing the real promise now of a future meeting.
"I met someone from Russia the last time I was in Israel," I shared. "His name was, oh, Sergei, I remember, but I can't tell you his last name. I know he works for that famous think tank out in California." "Oh, that's my friend," and he called his name, "I'll give him your greetings, if you like." I handed him my name tag to keep with him as a reminder for when he next talked with Sergei. He played with it the rest of the evening.
And we continued . . . as if no one else was around. Dinner was finished, the program began, the directors introduced the conference schedule, and the nice young man who had been seated at my left moved to the other side of the room to translate everything from English to Russian and Russian to English. But we were oblivious to it all. And always, in the back of my mind, that nagging question persisted . . . "who is this man, this charming, warm, intelligent man who is so interested in me and in what I have to say?"
"Yes," he broke into my thoughts, "I'm three-quarters Jewish and only onequarter Russian, but I never really knew what being Jewish was all about when growing up in Moscow. Strange thing, though, as it happened, all my friends were Jewish. And in the end, being Jewish was how I was able to leave Russia and come to the United States. I still don't think of myself as being Jewish, but I suppose deep down I am and one day will learn more about it." "Like Armand 3
Hammer," I offered, "who celebrated his Bar Mitzvah just before he died." "Maybe, but that's pretty drastic for someone like me who likes living his very Russian ways in the freedom of the California lifestyle!"
The group began to break up. "Oh, no," I thought, "now what to do. . . will I see him again?" He stood, "now, we'll find some privacy, and I'll tell you my Jesse Helms story." "Just sit here, next to me," I suggested. He sat, leaned over, and told me his story - of registering to vote in North Carolina because his Chapel Hill landlord began to pressure him into it so he could vote for Harvey Gantt, and how when he finally got into the polling booth, that old and deeply ingrained desire for freedom of thought took over, and he decided that, now he was in America and a citizen at that, no one would ever tell him again how to think or vote or do anything, so he pulled the Republican lever - for spite maybe - but with complete freedom to do so. As he finished the telling, that warm and inviting chuckle erupted from his cozy face.
And then he leaned over, ever so close to my face, and with that smile, those eyes he asked very slowly, very deliberately, "May . . . I . . . call . . . you. . .?"
Ur sul a
She was known as the adventurous one. Mary, the elder sister, still ran the old family farm, milking the cows, driving the tractor and such. Young Rose, frail and of slight build, looked after the household, did the shopping, cleaning and cooking. But Ursula, she looked after the horses. Word was she had trained for the Irish Equestrian Team. That was years ago. Now? Ursula insisted she was retired and had been since that tragic summer of 1968. I tried to find some news clippings about her, anything to prepare for our time together. But, as I walked down the long dirt drive to Ballyslatteen, I had only the scattered remembrances of a few village folk and the promise of some exciting stories of her life amongst the horses and horse people of Ireland. I had stopped in at the Creamery for a few minutes on the way; it looked the same as I remembered. Now, a few steps up the road, I turned in through the old stone gate just off the small lane. The sweet smell of freshly mown hay assailed my senses as I walked down that long winding dirt road. "Mary must have been busy this morning," I said to the birds winging by as a long-ago evening of mowing and bailing flashed into my mind. She must have seen me coming, for I barely had time to enjoy the bright patch of flowers growing just outside the stone cottage. The door flew open and there she was with that same infectious smile I remembered, inviting me inside. I wondered if she would remember me, as I greeted her and stepped through the door, but she gave no indication that she did. The living room was surprisingly cool for such a sunny day, even though the warming sunlight poured in through the large front window. As my eyes adjusted to the dark room and we settled into big comfy, albeit very worn, chairs, I began to take in the charming surroundings. My eyes were drawn to the photographs hanging crookedly on the white stone walls. One especially caught my attention, but I quickly looked away. There were blue ribbons (well, they probably were blue at one time) and trophies on the old carved wooden mantel above the small but functional fireplace. I was seated on one side of that fireplace and strained a bit to see the titles of the books in the shelves against the wall. Not all were horse training manuals, which really didnâ€™t surprise me. Ursula stoked the now dying but welcome embers and suddenly turned to me. "Would you like some tea?" she asked brightly.
We had settled into a question and answer session for awhile, but now Ursula was rambling a bit, so I sat back to listen and absorb. “It had started out to be such a wonderful summer; let’s see, 1968 as I remember. The group of girls from the States was very talented, and we all enjoyed having them here. There was one, I can’t remember her name, who was the only girl who succeeded in taming that thoroughbred mare. . .ah, The Rocks, that was her name. Oh, I mean the horse’s name, not the girl’s!” She laughed heartily as she remembered, “Yes, it was a good summer. . .” She dropped her head slightly. I could barely hear her, “but then we went to Dublin for the annual show. . .” She paused and her eyes, twinkling with that old Ursula charm just moments ago, gazed longingly out the window. “Ah, well,” she turned back to me, “I guess I’m still working at putting the tragedy of that summer behind me, as we all are.” S he paused again. I waited expectantly. She sighed, “I guess I should tell you. . .It was the Aga Khan Cup. The Irish team and the American team were tied to the last round.” She paused again, and I noticed a small tear forming at the corner of her eye. “Maybe one day I can talk freely about it, but not now.” She stood and walked over to straighten a photograph on the wall, the one I had noticed earlier. She gazed at it for a moment without moving or speaking. Suddenly, she turned, and through a big smile said, “So, shall we go out and meet my horses?” “Your horses? I thought you had retired?” “Well,” she replied, “I have, officially, but once a horsewoman, always one, I guess. I just can’t live without a few of them around me.” She started for the door. “Oh, Ursula, I’d love to meet your horses, but how about tomorrow. I’ve already been here all afternoon, and it’s almost dark now.” “Right,” she responded, “how about 2:00 tomorrow afternoon, then?” “That would be great,” I said as I fished my appointment book from my satchel. “What all you got in there?” Ursula was always the curious sort. “Well, my notebook and some pens. . . and, well, a few newspaper clippings from long ago, some notes and such. . .oh, yes, and my toothbrush!” “Ah, what newspaper clippings? About me?” She edged closer to the satchel, looking down as if she could see through the leather. “How about if I show you those tomorrow, after I meet your horses?” I closed the satchel and snapped the lock. I wanted to get more from her before she realized who I really was. 2
“Okay, 2:00 tomorrow, it is, then. Bring those, uh, clippings, and a good appetite and plan to join us for dinner tomorrow evening. Say, are you walking? I didn’t see a car drive up earlier.” “I left it near the Creamery,” I replied. “I wanted to walk up the long drive off the lane. It’s so peaceful and quiet out here; I just thought the sound of a car’s engine would sort of spoil the atmosphere.” “So, you better get going; the Creamery closes right as the sun slips behind those trees over there.” We had walked out the door, and she pointed way out over the field of green which seemed to stretch toward forever. I thanked her, then, for the lovely afternoon and set out back down the long drive toward the gate and the lane. At the Creamery, my rental car had attracted a crowd; and now many wanted to chat, ask where I came from and what I was doing in their area, out there in the midst of County Tipperary, part way between Cashel and Cahir, near the little village of Golden. It took another half hour or so to free myself and get on the road back to the little hotel in Cashel. I spent the evening dining alone in the quaint dining room at the Cashel Hotel. The fare was typical of southern Ireland: roast chicken along with boiled potatoes and crisp green vegetable salad. Oh yes, and plenty of Harp Lager to wash it down! My thoughts drifted back to another year and another time of drinking Harp, there in County Tipperary with friends. But, memories would have to wait; I slipped up to my room to sort my notes and see just what enticing tale I could weave from Ursula’s ramblings. The peaceful afternoon, the good food, and the lager all mingled with the collage of notes in front of me until I couldn’t keep my eyes open another second. Sleep came quickly and with it dreams of those days, back in 1968, when I went from North Carolina to Ireland to ride horses with a wonderful woman named Ursula!
Chapter Two “Come on, quick, get in the truck, all of you. Sue, you get up here in front with me, and bring that camera you can’t seem to live without! Hurry now; we’re going and that’s it.” “But, Ursula, where are we going?” “That’s the surprise,” Ursula smiled as she climbed up into the front of the big truck that was usually reserved for transporting the horses. This bright and sunny day it would carry 24 tired but excited teenage girls and one lonely boy. Usually, on a day like this, we would all be headed, after breakfast, down to the barn to saddle up and get going on the duties of the day - exercising the horses, mucking stalls, cleaning tack, racking the stable yard - but today, Ursula had appeared at the breakfast table all smiles and declared a day off! Where we were headed, no one knew. But with Ursula driving, we knew it would be exciting and memorable. . . “Um. . .bright and sunny day, it was a bright and . . .” The sunlight streamed through my hotel window as I sat bolt upright. “Oh, it must have been a dream, but it was so real. I was right there. . . again!” I fell out of bed to get ready for the day. “That day trip, where was it we went and what did we do?” I implored the reflection in the bathroom mirror but received no reply. I’d have to think about it again throughout the day and, maybe, ask Ursula when I saw her that afternoon. Yipes, it was already 8:00am, and I had a long and very intense day ahead. The mind is a very funny thing. One minute we remember everything, and the next nothing. I had no trouble finding my way as I sped along the narrow lanes of County Tipperary but just couldn’t remember the important details of the summer of 1968. Dad was adamant about my not making this trip. “It will only hurt you in the end,” he had told me. “Why don’t you just remember the good times and forget the rest.” I couldn’t do it. What was it that had happened at the Dublin horse show that year that had so traumatized all of us in the group from America riding that summer at Ballyslatteen? I just needed to know. And visiting with Ursula, talking with her to write her story, gave me the pretext for finding out for myself. It was a legitimate assignment. My editor at Southern Country magazine wanted a follow-up to a previous photo-essay about the horse farms of Ireland that I had captioned for a fellow journalist. Since I seemed to know my way around the Irish countryside, the editor wanted to know why, and I had filled him in on my summer of riding classes and touring. “So you’re a real southern horsewomen?” He was curious; I didn’t give off even a whiff of saddle soap or Neetsfoot Oil. 4
“Yes, I grew up in the saddle,” I had sighed, not fully understanding his keen interest. “I still love horses, but I put the actual riding behind me after the trip to Ireland in 1968.” “So, you were there in ‘68? Um. . .did you ever hear of a horse trainer named Ursula Ryan?” Now my interest was peaked. “Of course. She was the trainer I worked with that summer.” “Now we’re getting somewhere. Suzy, I’ve got a plum assignment for you. An all expense paid trip to County Tipperary, and all you have to do is get an interview with and write a story about Ursula Ryan, why she retired after that summer and what she’s really doing now. I hear she’s a strange bird and hard to meet, but if you were there and know her, maybe. . .” His voice faded from my hearing as I remembered, or tried to. Should I do it? Should I go back. . . back to the fun, the excitement, the questions that still remained? I took the assignment, not for the story as much as for my own sanity. And Mom & Dad were both worried. . . about that sanity. Dad had been there, briefly, that summer. In fact, as I pulled up to another stone gate down another lonely little lane, I recalled that he had actually been at the horse show with me. I jotted that down in my notebook, to try later to recall the details. The sign was still there. “O’Connor” it read, though it now hung by only one nail and was very worn. I stepped out of my car and look around. It was hard to tell if anyone was home; there were no cars in the overgrown drive near the big old stone house, though I did hear a few cows mooing and some chickens clucking nearby. I drove in, and then I saw her. My heart stopped. She was the spittin’ image of him, right down to the dark curly hair. As I stopped near her in the drive, I could see her clear deep blue eyes which were his exactly. She looked at me pensively but didn’t speak. “Is your mother or father at home,” I asked. She still didn’t speak but simply pointed toward the barn, in front of which, now I could see, was a Range Rover and an old worn tractor. “Thank you, and I hope to see you again soon,” I said as cheerily as possible, still with my heart in my throat. I pulled up between the Range Rover and the tractor. Over the big, obviously new, steel door was a brightly painted sign: “Patrick O’Connor, Vet. . . at your service” So, he had done it. He had come back to Tipperary, to the old family farm and hung out his shingle. And, he must have gotten married, as I had suspected; the little girl near the gate was proof of that. I got out and inspected the tractor. It was the same one. 5
“But Bridgitt, I can’t go with you now, the car will be here for us, and I don’t want to miss my plane.” “Oh, darlin’, you can come for a moment with me; I’m just going into the village to get some more Harp for everyone. Come on, now, no more fussin’; just get in the car.” I reluctantly though happily got in the car. A few more minutes with Bridgitt sounded fine to me. She and I had become really good friends over the summer, and I knew that I would miss her almost as much as I would miss him. But wait, we weren’t headed for the little shop where we usually bought the lager; no, this was some back road, unfamiliar to me. “Bridgitt, where are we going? Are you lost?” “Just be patient, my friend, you’ll see in a. . .ah, there he is, up ahead. Out with you now and make it snappy. You don’t want to miss that plane, remember.” My eyes scanned the road in front of me, but all I saw was a tractor coming towards us. I got out of the car as Bridgitt had instructed and shaded my eyes from the sun. And then, I saw him driving the tractor toward us. Patrick! My heart raced. One more good-bye after all, and Bridgitt had arranged it. I turned back to the car to smile a quick thank you to Bridgitt and hurried up the lane to meet him. . . “So, you lookin’ for someone in particular, ma’am?” The very familiar voice startled me back to reality. I turned to him and smiled, wanting desperately to look 18 again and wondering if he would recognize me. He didn’t seem to know me, though I thought I did detect a glimmer of something in his eyes. Those beautiful clear blue eyes, once sparkling and full of mischief, now seemed sad and forlorn. Maybe it was the years of being the only vet in the area, with so many farms; that was it, he was just tired from overwork. But it must be something else; Patrick loved his work more than anything; at least that’s what he had written in all those letters. My mind raced. I had seen the girl; the animals were all around; Patrick was in his shop working. The house. That was it. It was dark and boarded up. Where was his wife, his family? Where did they live if not in the family home? “Patrick,” I just said his name and couldn’t say anymore. He stared at me as it dawned on him who I was. “Suzanne? My Suzanne? Is it you?” He shook his head and stepped around from the other side of the tractor, took me firmly by the shoulders with those big strong hands and just looked at me. . . looked at me hard, like he wanted to kiss me and throw me away all at the same time. “You never answered my Christmas card letter. Why?” There it was. Years between us, and he had brought it all home to me in one brief question. “I. . . I was in college. I was young, foolish, and I didn’t think a long distance romance could work for me, for us. Can you understand? Anyway, I saw the little girl by the gate; she looks just like you; where’s the rest of your family, your wife and other 6
children? Surely, by now you have a family. . . and this veterinary practice. . .” I was shaking slightly but couldn’t stop talking. I wanted to leave, put it all behind me again, not think about it. Dad was right. This, all of it, was going to hurt. He let go of my shoulders and turned back toward the barn. “This is my shop; would you like a little tour?” “Why, yes, thank you.” It was over. The tension was gone. We had confronted each other, and that was that. Or was it? Why had he avoided my questions about his family, his vet practice? I decided not to press him. He had converted the barn into an examining room for large animals, a small office, laboratory and operating theater. He began to tell me about the practice. It was after that summer that he had decided to specialize on large animals, specifically horses. He was working on new ways to heal broken legs and other serious ailments. The rooms were empty now, but out back, in the spacious paddock were two horses, owned by a couple of friends nearby. They were ready to return to their own barns, he explained as we walked back inside to his small but well-appointed office. We sat in soft leather wing chairs drinking big cups of steaming tea. “Denny will be by in the morning to get his mare, and Colin will come for his gelding the day after. You remember Denny, don’t you?” Denny was Bridgitt’s husband, and I did remember, especially the gift of an electric razor the four of us girls had given him as a thank-you present for letting us stay in their house all summer. We laughed together recalling the look on Denny’s face as he tried out the new razor. “How are Bridgitt and Denny?” “Oh, they’re fine, the children are grown up. That little girl, you remember how she used to drink the lager right along with us? She’s something, that one is, pretty as a picture now. She got married not long ago, seems real happy, too.” He looked away from me and seemed to be afar off, in another time. I didn’t want to press, but I had to know. “Patrick, you were there, too, weren’t you. . . at the Dublin horse show in 1968?” “Uh. . . yes. . . why are you asking?” “I just can’t for the life of me remember what it was about that summer that has everyone so down in the mouth. I was there, too, but I can’t seem to get the picture focused in my mind. Just what happened that I can’t remember?” “Maybe you better talk to Ursula about that. It’s not for me to say. Have you seen her; have you been to Ballyslatteen yet?” He brightened now but obviously didn’t want to talk anymore about the summer of 1968, horses, or, especially, not himself. 7
“Yes, I saw her yesterday.” I glanced at my watch. “Oh, no, it’s almost a quarter to two, and I promised Ursula I would be there at 2:00 sharp.” The time had flown by since my drive from Cashel out past Golden to the O’Connor farm. I made apologies and suggested that we meet again tomorrow, but Patrick was a bit apprehensive. “Well, if not here, how about in town,” I proposed. “Okay then. Um. . . I have to go in after Denny comes for his brood mare, so. . . how about lunch at the Rock Cafe, say about 11:30? Do you know where it is. . . near the hotel, across the street and up a small lane. Ask at the desk; they’ll direct you.” “Great!” I was out the door and headed for my car; I didn’t want to give him a chance to change his mind. “I’ll see you then,” I called as I backed out slowly from between the Rover and the tractor, looking for the little girl with the deep blue eyes. She was nowhere to be seen. Down the short drive to the gate, and I was out in the lane on my way back to Ballyslatteen for another afternoon with Ursula. This time, though, I expected to see Mary and Rose, too and, hopefully, get some answers to my ever-growing list of questions.
Chapter Three Ursula met me at the crook in the drive, just before the slight right turn to the cottage. “You’re late, and I’ve got to get some work done. Drive on down to the barn,” she called before striding across the grass away from the house. I stopped the car and jumped out. “Wait, I want to walk to the barn with you. Can I just leave the car here?” She nodded and waved her hand as if to signal me to hurry and catch up. We entered the small yard between the two stone barns. Actually, they were just two single lines of stalls connected at the ends by stone fences and gates. We paused at each stall while Ursula greeted the horse behind each door and introduced them, in turn, to me. She spoke to them as if each was an individual, with a distinct personality and a special story to tell. I stopped at one stall wtih a horse that seemed strangely familiar and, at Ursula’s urging, went in to pat the horse and visit awhile as she went to do a bit of work in the tack room. “That’s it, then, Suzanne? Are you sure you want to go home? You’ve only been here for ten days. Why don’t you think about it a little longer. Just take a walk down to the barn; I’ve got to do some things here, and we’ll talk later, just before supper.” I knew that Mr. Mockler was a very nice man and had only the good of the girls at heart. He stayed for the first ten days every summer just in case anyone was so homesick she couldn’t stay and would then accompany her on the plane back to New York and see her safely on the connecting flight home. I was miserable, or so I thought, and missed my family and friends. What was I doing here, I thought, on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean when everyone I knew was getting ready for college or on trips with their families to the beach? Through the drizzle and haze of the late afternoon, I made my way across the grass yard and down to the barn. I spoke to each horse, one by one, until I stopped in front of one particular stall. I had ridden Jester that morning, and we had gotten along fine. Now, I slipped into his stall just to talk. “Jester, I really do love riding and it is nice here. But I miss everyone. What should I do. ” I kept talking and cried a little thinking about my family and friends and what I was missing. Suddenly, Jester whinnied and shook his head as if to say, “But look what you have here. You have me and all these new horse friends and human friends. Stay and you’ll have a memorable summer; I’ll make sure of that.” “Okay, Jester, I get it; I’ll stay, but only ‘cause you think I should.” I made my way back up the slight hill toward the house. I must have been there longer than I thought, for it was pitch dark now, and I had only the warm glow of the lights from the house to guide me across the yard. . .
“Hey missy, you still in there with old Jester? I thought you wanted to talk with me, not with my horses, though if anyone could tell you a thing or two, it would be Jester. He’s been around a long, long time and has surely seen it all!” It had happened again. Something keeps setting off those dreams and daydreams in my mind. . . about another time in this same place and with these same people. I remembered a lot of that summer. It was the hard stuff, the hurtful moments I had blocked out. Now, as I patted Jester one more time and left the stall, I decided to finally confront Ursula and ask for the truth. We walked together back toward the house. “Ursula, tell me again about that thoroughbred mare, the one you called The Rocks. You said there was only one girl who actually rode her?” “Yes, that was a strange friendship, that horse and that girl. Let’s see. . .um. . . everyone else had tried to ride her, but they all got bucked off. The the one from . . . I don’t know, some small southern town in the United States. . . she asked me could she try. I didn’t think she could handle such a spirited horse. She had told me that she grew up around a barn and had been riding since she was seven, but still, she wasn’t in any pony clubs or anything and just didn’t give off the air that those other California and New Jersey girls did. You know what I mean? They all came here with fancy boots and fancy saddles and such, but this one. . . I just don’t recall her name now. . . you know we get a lot of girls through here in the summers, or we did, before. . . anyway, this one came with blue jeans and stable boots and that was about it. She begged me until I finally said okay. Then you know what she up and did? She wouldn’t get on the horse!” We had stopped near the cottage and sat down on large rocks to enjoy the afternoon sun before going inside. I didn’t speak hoping she would just carry on with the story. “Said she wanted to feed her and groom her and clean her stall. . . just look after her for three days with no one else helping. Then she’d ride her. And that’s exactly what she did. I’d be on my way back up to the house for lunch and there they’d be, out in the pasture, The Rocks happy as a lark grazing on the end of a long line with that little girl sitting nearby in the grass. They was a pair, those two. Anyway, after three days, she got on the horse and had no trouble at all! We were all surprised, but I could understand it. That girl had the right idea. . . get to know the horse and get the horse to know you, become friends once and you stay friends. Say, you really seemed to take to old Jester, you ever been on a horse?” Should I tell her now or see if just my comments about my background would trigger the memories? “As a matter of fact, I grew up riding, started when I was about seven and continued on until I was 18 or so. Why do you ask?” 10
“Well, you just seem to enjoy the air around here and all, I mean you seemed to be at home down at the barn, and the questions you asked yesterday, they got me to thinking back and all, anyway, I just wanted to ask.” “Ursula, is The Rocks still around? Do you still have her or is she in another barn somewhere? I’d really be interested in seeing her up close.” Ursula gazed off into the distance again and didn’t speak for what seemed like many minutes. She turned back to me and a sadness covered her face. “No, she’s not here anymore; oh, I mean she’s still alive, but someone else is looking after her now. You know, I’m retired. But, I can show you her old stall. We don’t keep a horse there now, and it’s right off the kitchen, so we’ll go on down there and then stop in to see if Rose is ready for us. It’s about dinnertime anyway.” She started off and I followed, around by the corner of the stone cottage, down the little hill and then onto a brick yard between the cottage and another, smaller building. I could see the kitchen through the open door on my right, but the door to my left, into the other building, was closed up tight. Ursula stepped into the kitchen for a moment and returned with a large skeleton key. She turned the big key in the lock and flung the door open wide, inviting me inside. It was musty and dark but clean as a whistle with no straw or feed or sign that a horse had been there for some time. But I knew the place, this was The Rocks’ home, and I knew it well. “Come on Rocksy, just lift your head a little and let me slip this halter on. You’ll be glad once we get out in the pasture together. It’s warmer out there than in here anyway. Come on, now, don’t be so ornery. We’re gonna be good friends, you and me.” I had begged Ursula to let me take care of her, and she finally said yes. Now, as the big thoroughbred mare threw her head around and pranced about the big stall, I wasn’t sure I had done the right thing. All the horses I had ridden back home were just plain old horses, not thoroughbreds and certainly not this spirited! “I said it’s time for dinner. Are you coming or do you want to stay in here. What’s happening to you anyway? I almost had to shout in your ear to get you out of old Jester’s stall and now this. You got something you want to tell me, Miss. . . uh, what did you say your name was, Suzy something? Suzy. . .um. . . Sue. . . The Rocks. . . summer. . . 1968. . . hey, wait a minute. Turn around here in the light so’s I can see you better.” She had finally figured it out, so I walked out of the stall and just looked at her, trying to smile, but only tears would come. “Ursula, Ursula, it’s me, Sue. I was the girl that rode The Rocks that summer. Yes, it’s me.” 11
“Well, so it is, then. You’d better come over here and sit down and tell me what this is all about.” “What about dinner; didn’t you say it was ready?” “Dinner can wait a few more minutes. I need to know what you are doing here and what this magazine article stuff is all about.”