Oom pah, pah … oom pah pah …
The sound of the calliope is a siren’s call to the little girl. There, in the middle of the big park, the magic ponies go up and down. Up, down, around and then around again.
“Can I ride Mommy? Please?”
Mommy nods yes. There’s no harm in a carousel. It’s just wooden horses, traveling in a circle, going nowhere, eternally and forever around the calliope as it pumps out the same songs. A good place to be on a bright summer day, a happy place to bring a five-year-old girl who loves horses. She can dream of real horses while the park spins past, green and sunny.
Years fly. The girl has grown into a young lady. Sixteen, if you please. “I’m not a child!” she cries to the world, but especially to her parents. “I will do as I please.”
What she pleases is to have a boy friend. To be in love, to make love. She has no future plans, not yet. Just the fresh bloom of love which must be eternal. Because in books, love is always eternal, always fresh and smelling of roses.
Today she is meeting her boy friend. They will be meeting by the carousel in the park. She loves the carousel, has loved it since childhood. It’s a magic place for her, a places that holds only happy memories. The calliope is playing the same songs it played when she was so little. So long ago, or so it seems. When she rode the big wooden horse, pretending she was riding a gallant steed, galloping off to protect the world.
Life goes on. The next time she is able to visit the ponies, she is holding her little boy by the hand. “I rode those ponies when I was your age. Listen, the music is still playing. Just like it did when I was your age.”
“Can I ride Mommy?”
“Of course. That’s why I brought you here. To ride.”
And the painted horses go round and round while the park spins through another summertime. This is our forever summer, she thinks, as she watches her little boy riding the merry-go-round.
The next time she comes, she is holding her granddaughter’s hand. They watch the horses. Her little granddaughter is a tiny thing, with a passion for horses. A dreamer. She rides and rides and finally, it’s time to go. Long shadows lie across the sidewalks and the carousel is about to close for the day. As they take their leave, she wonders if she will ever be here again to hear the calliope play?
The next time she comes to the carousel, her son is with her. Middle-aged now and the tiny granddaughter is a sullen sixteen. Three generations by the carousel and remarkably, the calliope still plays.
This special carousel is still alive, magic intact. It’s good to be alive this summer day in Central Park. The music wakes the teenager into the girl she was. There’s something so … eternal … about the dancing ponies.
Grandma remembers the first time. All those times, even when she came alone because it was just a quick subway ride. One token. To see the boy friend. Whatever became of him?
She would never miss a chance to ride, though it’s not as easy getting up into the seat as it used to be.
No more real horses in her life, but today — briefly — she is young. She feels as if she is looking at herself through a fun house mirror. Are these the same wooden horses she rode as a girl?
It was always summertime in the park. I think it still is.