Memory starts with loss.
Mine starts at a two-story home at the very, very end of Wilson Creek Road. I remember Lee press-on nails, and Kool-Aid, and the plywood playhouse my dad built us with a real screen door — how it smelled like something new. I remember the above-ground pool, my inflatable alligator, my goggles, my water wings, and I remember earwigs in my plastic teacups, and bee stings and Baking Soda, and the deck being built, and bare feet, and so many slivers, and Cricket, and Fashion Star Fillies.
Until winter came, and what happened started happening.
Hell, who knows, Tyrah has said to me, maybe our dad is just feeding us a line when he says, “It’s bizarre” about the ponies disappearing. Maybe he got up in the middle of the night, opened the gate to the corral, slapped those fat, happy ponies on their asses, and sent them galloping — through the orchard, passed the rock outcropping where rattlesnakes lay to thaw in the spring, and then up the hill, passed the place where cougars and bears lived, passed the flat, and out of Wilson Canyon toward “the Naneum,” which I know now translates to “The Way Out.”
I can remember Hotshot’s headstrong gallop if I try hard enough, the scent of his sweat, the way I clenched his belly as he moved around the corral, as he moved through sagebrush. I take his and Ziggy’s existence, and their disappearance, in turn, for granted.
I don’t lament my loss of them.
It’s often with something akin to delight, in fact, that I imagine with what abandon those fat-happy ponies might have stampeded under the stars one night, their hooves a blur of motion as they loped across the margin of memory.
When it comes to my pet deer Nuisance the story is different. Were it not for VHS home movie footage and photos of her, I’d be liable to wonder whether she wasn’t a parable my parents made up in order to illustrate a truth too difficult to speak of any other way. A pet deer that births a fawn and vanishes is a beautiful metaphor for the conflicts of domesticity I know my parents endured: the challenges of marriage and childrearing.
There wasn’t a fence on that property she couldn’t jump over, my mom once said about Nuisance’s disappearance.
But she might as well have been talking about the trajectory of our family, the point at which nostalgia began to define me, proof, if you will, that what I lost can never be retrieved: the ability to lean my back against a deer and feel her heart beating as surely as my own.