Love and Chocolate
Romance and hope chests
It’s hard for me to not see my horses every day. Between my job and going into the office again post pandemic, and the multiple physical therapy appointments every week, right now it is not unusual for me to only see my horses on the weekend. But being at a distance doesn’t mean I love them any less.
When I am with them, I have limited mobility to handle my horses. I just spend time sharing their energy, absorbing the calm, and generally cuddling them. If you don’t think horses can be cuddly, you need to meet my boy Thymen (aka “Ty”). He’d happily curl up with you and sit on your lap if he could. He’s the most loving horse I’ve ever known. Not that Trudy isn’t loving, she’s just a mare with limits to how much fuss she’ll tolerate, especially if other horses are around. But when no one is looking and it’s just the two of us, we share plenty of affection. Horses, like people, are specific individuals.
I’m grateful knowing they are getting top notch care from my trainer and her team when I’m not around. I don’t have to worry if they’re getting what they need. I just miss them. I really miss them. And sometimes I worry they will forget who I am. But then when I turn up to the barn and hear Trudy nicker at me or feel Ty lean in for a hug, I know that everything is fine. It’s just hard when you can’t be together as much as you want to be.
When I was growing up, my Navy dad was gone for long stretches of time. Either deployed and out to sea, or later developing a huge global computer system for the Navy that kept him far away from home. His regular absences put a strain on my parent’s marriage from time to time, especially my mom who had to care for four kids and take care of everything on her own. But through it all, there was no doubt my parents loved each other.
After my mother passed away, my father asked my sister and I go through her “hope chest”. For younger folk, a hope chest was a common thing that women of an earlier generation all seemed to have. It was essentially a big trunk, made of cedar to keep out moths. It was traditionally something that unmarried women were given to keep items they would take with them when they married. In my parent’s home, it was always at the foot of my parent’s bed. My mother kept some blankets and linens in her chest but also baby items and other things of sentimental value to her.
As we were going through the chest, we found a stack of letters. Letters written by my father to my mother while he was deployed and away from home when they were engaged and into the early years of their marriage. She had kept them all these years. We did open a few to read but didn’t read them all as they seemed so personal, so private, like stepping into my parent’s most emotionally intimate moments. After my father passed, my sister gave them to me with an idea that someday I might write about them.
I’m working my way up to that. They still feel so private to me that I haven’t yet been able to open them. They are precious. Even the paper they were written on feels so thin and fragile, as if they might crumble were I to unfold them to read. One thing that was clear from those letters was how much my father absolutely adored my mother. I shouldn’t have been surprised, though I was, at how romantic he could be.
In February we celebrate Valentine’s Day with hearts and flowers and chocolate. But real love isn’t like that. Real love is often a silent connection, an understanding. I’ve been thinking about my siblings and extended family and friends I don’t get to see very often. Distance is not always geography. Sometimes life’s stresses and circumstances can keep us apart. For some relationships a little distance can be a blessing. You can love someone and not enjoy living with them after all. But just knowing we love each other can be comforting enough.
Life may not always work out as we wish and we may be apart, but real love doesn’t diminish with distance. I don’t have a cedar chest like my mother did, but all that is precious is stored in my mind and heart and knowing I am loved brings me all the hope I need.
Not that I’d turn down a little chocolate, mind you.
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