I was a spoiled doctor's daughter raised in an upscale community. I grew up, married and had kids. Expecting the same mainstream life as an adult which I had grown accustomed to in my youth was just a given on my list of lengthy expectations. But I gave that up seven years ago at 46 when my husband left and I moved with my son Dennis, and my daughter Charlie, to a little horse farm out in the country.
Kids change everything.
I don't even like horses. A kick to my chin at age 6 made by a nasty pony saved my dad thousands on riding lessons and a barn lease.
My parents owned nice cars. The only trucks driven in my neighborhood belonged to the landscapers.
While pregnant, I envisioned ballet and basketballs. Instead, regular trips to the nearest horse barn and Auto Zone made it clear that my kids had talents and interests that were moving me off my grid.
At 14, Charlie got a horse.
At 17, Dennis got a truck.
At 46, I got a divorce.
Kids change everything.
The three of us moved to a small, nondescript farm in the country in a nearby town because I knew this would be far more healing for them than any therapist. Me? I still had my BMW.
Charlie cared for her horse. Dennis ran the machinery which included the purchase of a tractor, a small backhoe and a riding mower. I marveled at their skills and knowledge. They were guiding me to a powerful, new life. Wasn't I supposed to be the one doing this for them?
I remarried a kindred spirit who owned an Infiniti and shopped at Joseph A. Banks. My kids said I was looking for strength in numbers. Lee adapted well. But I did start to notice that keeping up with the Joneses took on new meaning. No one gives a crap out here about owning the ultimate driving machine unless it can uproot a tree stump.
And then it happened. I joined a new kind of country club. You could drive by our house and see the Infiniti parked next to the 1973, M35A2, 6x6 Army truck Dennis purchased two years after we moved. If you have to ask why he bought it, you clearly would be denied a membership.
This mass of metal and camouflage became a temple of worship for our male neighbors and the propane guy. The arsenal of collective horse power on my property meant we no longer had to keep up with the Joneses. WE. WERE. THE. JONESES.
And then it happened again. My kids grew up and off the farm -- not entirely, but enough so that I no longer had help. At 50, I became the help.
When Charlie went off to college and sold her horse, I began running a small boarding operation to create a little income. I bought a Carhartt jacket. I get it dirty. They know me by name down at Piedmont Feed. We talk about horse fly control and rain rot.
I sold my beloved import and got a 1999 Dodge Ram 1500 with 35" wheels and a three-foot lift that Dennis and a friend found for me on Craigslist because we're into ridiculously over-sized vehicles and watching it drive me provides endless entertainment. I need a roofing ladder to climb into it. I will have to pawn my engagement ring when it needs new tires. Men at gas stations ask me out.
Kids change everything.
Dennis taught me how to drive the tractor to mow back the pesky golden rod that thrives in the pasture. I have been known to accidentally go backwards, when moving towards the fence should be my goal.
I can maneuver our riding mower with my left hand while holding a plastic cup of chardonnay with my right. I know the importance of fuel stabilizer. I've even mastered the leaf blower and mixing two-stroke gas although I don't know what two-stroke gas is.
There are scratches all over the front bumper of the Dodge from where I used it as a battering ram to push round bales of hay out to the run in shed. I stopped doing that when I got a lecture from my kids who both have eyes on that truck once I need a hip replacement.
Thanks to Charlie, I know a colicky horse as opposed to one quietly lounging in the sun. I hold a hoof when an abscess needs draining and no longer gag at the putrid smell. When a horse gets loose and heads down the driveway, I know to grab a can of feed and shake it. But I still won't ride one because they are big on girth and small on grey matter.
I learned how to drive the Army truck last week when a freak ice storm hit the area and Dennis asked me to move it away from a leaning pine tree. He talked me through it over the phone. When I fired up the old M35A2 and backed it out, I chortled anxiously like Aunt Bee in the episode where she learned to fly a plane. Dennis laughed out loud at the sound. I tried to take a selfie inside the truck for posterity. It only took me four times capturing the torn canvas on the ceiling before realizing I had to turn my phone camera around.
No doubt my parents are in heaven laughing at the sight of me mucking through mounds of horse dung on a rainy day and accidentally denting the metal support pole in the barn with the tractor. But surely they must be deeply satisfied that I haven't killed myself yet by tipping over the riding mower.
My ex-husband's departure may have changed my world, but my kids helped me find my country.
They've changed everything.