By Rosalie Tirella
… my trusty Husky-mix Jett – an old man struggling: his cheapo Dollar Store plastic bag had torn open and all his cans of food had spilled onto the hot sidewalk.
There he was slowly placing the cans back into his ripped-open bag, as if maybe he could make it all work if the cans were some how wrapped in the plastic. This ripped open my heart. It was so steamy out, the guy so poor, so stoic about his situation – not getting all flustered, just trying to put his cans back into the bag and hoping for the best …
… I tooted my horn! I picked up my Shaw’s tote bag from the passenger side of my jalopy and waved it at him! A pretty tote, actually – colorful with big blue berries and oranges printed on it. He stopped struggling and looked up … I just kept waving it at him. Of course this all had to happen in the middle of Woo inner-city traffic, but I think the other drivers knew what I wanted to do and they waited behind my car without getting impatient and getting on their horns in that lovely Worcester way …
The old man, skinny enough, wearing a striped tee-shirt that little boys wear, walked into the middle of the street and reached into my car and took my shopping tote. He said, “Thank you,” quielty, politely … elegantly. And looking at me with his sad eyes, he smiled the smallest smile. He had been pleasantly surprised, but in his own quiet way. I smiled at him and drove off.
Then I had this epiphany: Society has it backwards. It’s not about acquiring stuff! It’s about giving it all away! This is what brings happiness!
My little gift meant a lot to him! The tote had only cost me $1 … but at that moment, it had meant so much more: one person REALLY seeing another person… I felt GREAT! I told myself: This is how Jesus must have felt EVERY SECOND of his life!
Then I wished this wish: That I could do this for my entire life – travel the streets of Worcester with my trusty dog Jett and maybe a wolf-shepherd mix – a big white one. But I wouldn’t drive a car – I would ride a horse – a beautiful little appaloosa horse … almost
a pony, a scrubby, scrappy little appaloosa horse! And with my trusty dogs running along side me on my tough little pony (it’s a dream, so my dogs can run as fast as my pony) we would ride thorugh the streets of Worcester giving it all away: tote bags, doggie water bowls, bottles of water, sandwiches - anything a poor person might need to get through a city moment.
The pony and the dogs and the gallopping would be the best of nature and helping the people I care most about would be the best of Worcester … I would be free … like they must have felt in the Old West, in the 1850s, when danger was at bay for an hour or two and you could just ride your pony on and on and on with nothing but sky and grass for miles, a dream to wrap your thoughts in … but I would be galloping on Woo cement and meeting everybody …
Years ago, when I was little girl growing up in Green Island, my family lived near the railroad tracks. One afternoon I looked out our third floor flat kitchen window and saw a litte white pony galloping down Lafayette Street!
It was a miracle! I had been praying to Jesus for a pony! I had lots of horse books from the Worcester Public Library. I had taught myself to draw horses. I tried to buy the little plastic horses and ponies you found Woolworth’s and the five and tens.
I shouted to my mother: A pony! A pony! I want it! Let’s capture her!
My mother looked out the window and saw what I saw – the pony galloping down Lafayette Street - but she was unimpressed, closed the curtain on my dream. She said: Ponies were expensive. Where would we keep it? It most likely belonged to someone!
“A pony!” I squealed, oblivious to her reality check. A BEAUTIFUL PONY!!!!
But we let the little pony run away out of our lives. Most likely it had been with a travelling circus that was going town to town by the rails. Maybe it had jumped off the train car to escape the pent in feeling of a box car and the nightly shows, with maybe whips and harnesses and people who pull at your head and make your legs hurt from all the work … It had been dreaming its own pony dreams! … and there it was, my pony dream, real, running free right in front of me, Rosalie Tirella! The little girl on Lafayette Street, with the lovely mother and evil eyed father, the g irl who would lose herself in books and school and pony dreams, a little girls who tried to forget her cramped urban world and who prayed for a pony every night. To this little Jesus statue which I still have!!!!
A little girl who loved all animals, but especially dogs and horses …
My mom was a single working mom raising her family on minum wage from the dry cleaners down the street. We couldn’t afford a car! How could we swing a pony? But the pony, round and adorable, had seemed at home in my neighborhood, like it belonged in Green Island …
That is how my appaloosa feels in my pony dream of today!