Jessie Veeder, Published September 08 2012
Coming Home: Listening to inner child in nieces’ voices
An invasion of pink, glitter, ruffles, ponytails, princess paraphernalia and all the things little girls are made of, smuggled inside the purses and bags of our three young nieces.
The girls came to help celebrate their uncle’s birthday and to play in the mud, pick wildflowers, yell at the dogs, swat at bugs, ride horses and work on becoming true cowgirls.
In preparation for this adventure, they also packed their cowgirl boots.
Pink ones, you know, because a girl’s got to look the part.
We were thrilled to have them over to help us break in the place. Though we’re not parents ourselves, my husband and I put a great deal of consideration into how the location of this house might look from a child’s perspective. We wanted to make sure there were enough trails to follow, enough rocks to be kings and queens of, a creek nearby for catching slimy things and plenty of reasons for them to stay outside for hours.
Looking back on it now, I can’t help but think my inner child was the driving force behind our decision to move back to the family ranch in the first place. When I thought of my life here, I thought of a girl in an old T-shirt and worn out jeans wielding a stick and marching up the coulee to build a tree fort or catch a frog.
I wanted to build a house in these trees. I wanted to become that girl again.
And I wanted my children to breathe in the same sense of wonderment and adventure. I wanted them to slide down the hills on cardboard boxes, catch fireflies in mason jars and watch the sun rise and set around them.
I wanted them to know the coyotes’ howl by heart.
And we want the same for our three little nieces in pink and purple who came to the ranch only to drop all things that sparkle at the door and head for the hills to find a feather for their hair, a tree to climb and someone to take them for a horseback ride.
As I helped hoist the giggling little girls on the back of the gentle beasts, I smiled as they worked to convince me to go faster, up more hills, through the trees, to let go of the reigns so that they could ride off into the sunset as full-blown, capable, real cowgirls.
And suddenly, I was reminded what it was really like to be young and carefree.
It was about growing up…every second.
Because in all of the play that was squeezed in between riding the horses, picking flowers and running around outside, every conversation and imagined scenario was centered on pretending they were older and the world around them was filled with things they were allowed to do, control, excel in and experience. They were teenagers on a camping trip in the wilderness, they we were famous explorers on a hunt for dinosaur bones, they were airplane pilots, gardeners, cooks and rodeo queens.
They were carpenters building a house out here out of sticks and rocks and low hanging tree branches.
And suddenly I found myself wanting to shout “slow down little ones!” Slow down and breathe in the air around you and try hard to remember what the sky, the flowers, the bugs and the trees look like from down there.
Because as the big girl they are impatiently waiting to be, there are things I wanted to tell them that I understood could not be said and would not be understood – things they’ll have to learn the hard way just like every woman.
So instead I told them to go climb that tree, dig in the dirt and mess up their clothes. I told them to be wild.
And then I said a quiet word of thanks to the hills that surround this home for giving those girls a place to leave their Barbies so that they might climb to their peaks and imagine they can be anything – and for reminding me every day to do the same thing.
Jessie Veeder is a 28-year-old musician and writer. She lives near Watford City, N.D., with her husband, on the ranch where she grew up.