My parents had a pony named Abraham before I was born. The pony originally belonged to one of my father’s students, who could no longer afford to stable him in the city. So my father paid $50, and brought the pony out to Long Island in the back of a van. The name Abraham was supposed to signify that he was the first animal in the family, or at least, the first male animal, which, to my father, meant the same thing.
My parents seemed to believe that a pony would fit right into the suburbs. This was forty years ago, when Long Island was still developing, and looked sort of like the country, if you squinted. They kept rabbits and ducks in the backyard, along with the pony and a dog. They received a lot of complaints from the neighbors, especially about the smell. But my father would just ride around in the horse cart that Abraham pulled down the street, and ignore what anyone else had to say.
The house had actually been built on a former horse farm, but by the time my parents arrived, the streets had been paved and the area had been developed into rows of suburban homes, with fenced in yards. Abraham’s stall was in the back of our garage, but he had free run of the backyard while my parents were at work during the day.
All of Abraham is a story to me, because he was sent away before I was born.
The neighbors were finally able to change the local ordinance to make keeping a pony in your backyard illegal.
My mother met the veterinarian who agreed to take Abraham to live at his farm. She saw him loaded into a trailer with her own eyes. And she assures me that he was taken to an actual farm, though it sounds like one of those stories parents tell their kids when the dog dies. Abraham isn’t really dead, he’s gone off to live happily ever after in a place where he can really stretch his legs.
There was a horse farm next door to our synagogue when I was a kid, and every once in a while one of the horses would be outside, and I’d reach through the fence to pet his nose, and I’d ask him if he knew Abraham.
Maybe the Abraham stories explain why I dream of having a farm of my own, despite having no recognizable farming skills. Or maybe it comes from reading Charlotte’s Web so many times. I thought I was just like Wilbur, the little pig, when I was growing up. I was chubby and white and naïve and I could have used Charlotte’s help quite a bit. And maybe I thought that having a pony, and some ducks and rabbits and a few extra dogs in my backyard would have made me feel spectacular, just like Wilbur.