“Telling America’s stories my way from the highway.”

Friday, February 28, 2014

It’s a privilege to introduce you all to Joyce, known as “Nana” to Jon, all his friends, family, and now to me as well.

My very first introduction to her was pre-coffee on our first morning here in Egg Harbor Township, and she greeted me in her kitchen with her beaming smile, a big strong hug, and a twinkle in her eye. I immediately loved her.

I spent the next two days in her kitchen baking, cooking, and going through photo albums chalked full of images of children, grandchildren, prize horses, pet dogs and cats, trips abroad, fishing excursions, and old friends. Each individual had a specific story, significant importance, a special place in the history of generations in her mind and heart, forever cherished and frozen in time.

Horses are in her blood. She’s had them all her life and has a giant cabinet full of ribbons and trophies won over the years (I couldn’t count them all). Every evening I’ve been here, I see a Granny Smith apple, perfectly sliced in half on the counter. Every morning the apple is gone, with another half reappearing by mid-day. Morning and evening snacks for “Muffin” her prize Pony and Belgian horse mix.

At dusk on our last day, she asked if I’d like to join her in driving over to feed Muffin. Without any hesitation, I grabbed an extra sweater, boots, coat, and hat and met her at the door. Driving up to her nearby friends’ home where she is boarding the pony, I asked how long she’s had Muffin: “Oh I don’t know; 7-8-9 years…” she said as the truck came to a stop in front of a barn.

We get out and go in. Towards the back of the building we see her stall, Nana’s pace quickens into a joyful step. Hands in pocket, bright green apple appears, the pony’s velvety nose pokes out from the darkness and bobbs her head up and down crunching the snack as if approving the offering.

Joyce sets to task quickly, grabbing a cup of honey oats, a square of sweet smelling hay, cleaning out the stall, and filling the buckets with fresh water. While working she says this is the first time in her life she hasn’t had horses on her own property; the new home she recently purchased is a lovely place but the ground is too moist for horses. She hopes this upcoming summers landscape project will change this.

Joyce admits she misses her horses but adds that doesn’t matter because “it’s not about what you don’t have, it’s about what you’ve got.”

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