I can’t think of any I rode as a child, don’t have a mental picture of me on a horse, Dad with his pock-scarred young face standing beside me. Although as soon as I wrote that, I pictured him there, cut his image out of an old photo of him and me that I have in my mind, placed us on an old carousel instead of in front of Grandma and Grandpa’s old ranch house. Dad and me, my eyes smiling into slits the way they do in all the old photos. Dad, who I thought was so handsome with his perfect lips and dark eyes, if only his face hadn’t scarred. I remember he got it scraped back when “scraping” was the surgical method in vogue for problem skin such as his.
Merry-go-rounds, and I think of how much they seem to represent the ups and downs of life. Circular life, going round and round. Coming and going. Dad is 84, or is it 83?, I always forget. His back is so bad he can hardly walk, and right before my eyes he has become an old, old man. Up and down, several years of oscillating between old age and very old age, and now he’d require one of those benches on the carousel, the ones as a kid I always wondered why they bothered having.
And today is Dee’s birthday, she told me last night, “I don’t want to be 12.” “Twelve is fun,” I told her, and then when I held her in the dark she whispered, “I don’t want to change.” She’s never wanted to grow older, this daughter of mine, always somehow knew that growing older is a process, of life’s ups and downs, coming and going. She gets older, so do the rest of us, Dad moves on, makes way, she becomes a teenager, or on the cusp, everything changes, nothing stands still. She still sleeps with her stuffed horse, Mary Christmas, a horse that can stand up, like on a carousel, and I do remember me as a new mother standing beside Dee as she kicked her chubby legs, kicked them to signal Let’s go! Let’s go!, waiting for the man to finish taking people’s tickets and checking the kids’ straps before he went over to the controls and made the horses move.
Merry-go-rounds. One of the slower, more pleasant rides on the midway. Just like life, I tell you, they seem so mild they’re almost boring. While you’re on them you see almost everyone out on the hot pavement watching you. You see them smiling, mouth open, waving as you come around. Or stuck in thought, staring at the Ferris Wheel or nothing in particular. And before you know it, your turn is coming to an end, slowing down so much that you can feel what a dizzying experience it’s been after all.
–from suggested Writing Practice in Nightshot – Carousel