I've always been amazed at how life works out sometimes, just a random brushing of one life against another, and how it sometimes yields the most heartfelt results.
One of the best things I've ever done for anyone was the time of the rocking horse.
I was 17, it was my senior year in high school, and I worked part time at a nursing home. That's where I met Marcy. She was a single mother of two, raising two boys and a husband.
A few days after Thanksgiving, she told me that she'd looked everywhere for a rocking horse for her son, but hadn't been able to find one. That was the one present he wanted, he talked about it daily, that Santa would bring him a rocking horse. Because, dig it, he had been a good boy.
She was stressing about it, freaking out, and she'd looked everywhere for this particular present. She even went as far as to go to a man who did woodwork, but he wanted $400 to custom make the horse. When she got to that part of the story, she trailed off, shrugged, and I could see tears in her eyes. Four hundred dollars made that horse damn near impossible.
But I knew she would have that horse. Because it just so happened that I was taking woodshop in school.
When I told her I could make that rocking horse for her, I can't describe to you how beautiful she looked. That one statement wiped the defeat from her eyes, and with hope shining from them, she became a completely different woman.
November ended, and December rolled around, and I started to think about the rocking horse, to plan out what day I would start my project. I had about two weeks until Christmas vacation. Plenty of time, I thought. I'll start it tomorrow.
The next day a couple of the boys talked me into drinking a beer with them (in the girls bathroom), so that day was a wash. The day after that, I learned how to weld.
The next week I got distracted by something, and the next time I looked at the calendar, it was the day before Christmas vacation. The fucking day before.
It was also the day I felt my first panic attack. How had it gotten so late so fast? How had I just fucked the days away playing grabass and drinking illicit beer in the bathroom?
That day, I skipped every class I had and stayed in the woodshop. I cut pieces of wood, and in my panic, the first rocking horse I made looked shit-terrible. There were nails poking out, and when one of the boys in my woodshop class came over and sat on it, the fucking thing fell apart.
I yelled at him.
Then, I sat there and cried. It was about lunch time, I was starving, so I headed over to the cafeteria (sniffling) in time to see my best friend. I ate lunch with her, telling her about my inability to get the horse made, so she then decided to skip the rest of the day with me, and help me make this rocking horse.
Immediately I felt better. When we walked back into the woodshop building, I saw Ricky (the boy I yelled at) standing in the office. He was grinning at me, and when I told him I was sorry for yelling, he just grinned at me and shrugged.
I took a deep breath, started cutting pieces out again, and by the time I had everything cut out, ready to nail this bitch together, Ricky tapped me on the shoulder. Again, that irritation flared up, and I was ready to take out some of my frustration on him. Until I saw what he had carried over.
It was a rocking horse.
"You just need to paint it," he said, looking down at the floor, "and look," he grinned, sitting on it. "It's tough."
After it was painted, and packed up in my mom's truck, I thought of all the possible ways I could tell Marcy she could come pick it up. I thought of the dramatic, me pretending to be modest, but secretly eating up the attention, I thought of dropping it off at her house, but in the end I called her and told her it would be on the front porch, and that I had somewhere to be.
When she drove up with her husband, I remember peeking through the blinds, wanting to see her unbiased reaction to the gift that Ricky and I had created. When they drove up, she and her husband were standing on my porch, studying the rocking horse, and I thought they were disappointed. Part of me sighed deeply, feeling disappointed, until I saw her hug her husband.
She was crying. Her husband smiled, and said the words that I can still remember. "It's fucking great, isn't it?" She wasn't able to answer, but she nodded her head.
I had to agree with them, wiping my own tears away, it was fucking great.