Whenever I visit my mother in Berlin, Maryland we enjoy a handful of traditions. We eat crab cakes before I unpack the car, have coffee in the morning on the back porch, and a fire in the fireplace each night. We sit on a bench at the boardwalk at Ocean City and roll our eyes at the tourists. We share a pizza at Lombardi’s in our regular booth. None of these traditions however are more important than our afternoon rides over to Assateague Island to see the wild ponies. At roughly an hour before dark, we’ll head out for the short drive. As we cross over Verrazano Bridge, the contest begins for who will spot them first. We scan the bright green marsh for the tell-tale patches of brown and white, with no guarantees of success. Regardless, it’s our favorite thing to do together.
Last May I returned home to help Mom as she was recovering from a hip replacement. It was a particularly difficult surgery and the weeks ahead would not be easy. Thanks to my sister Melissa, good progress had been made prior my arrival, but the question still loomed. Would Mom again be able to enjoy the things that we have enjoyed for so long? Were the priceless traditions now only memories? This was Mom’s second hip replacement and it was a lot to ask of her to endure another long and painful rehabilitation. But this was my mother, who had been the strength of our family in difficult times. The one that always recited the Edgar Guest Poem “(Someone Said) It Couldn’t Be Done” whenever her son was struggling to do something hard.
No sooner had I gotten in the door, there were crab cakes frying in the pan, coffee cups set up for the morning, and a fire crackling in the fireplace. After a belly-full and some good catch-up conversation, it was time for the question for which I already knew the answer. “You up for a ride over to Assateague?” Minutes later, we were on our way.
“Oh my”, I heard her say, barely over the peak of the bridge. Off to the left of the causeway road stood a big brown mare standing over her pinto-colored newborn laying down in the grass. Ignoring the No Parking Zone, I pulled over for a closer look, hoping to get some good pictures. It couldn’t have been long since the birth of the baby male foal (the term “colt” isn’t used until it nears one year of age) as Mama was licking him and prodding him to get up. We watched for several minutes as the newest member of the small island herd slowly wobbled to his feet. Mama watched as her baby boy gained confidence, did something hard, and began to take his place in the world. It’s hard to describe the beauty of the sight or the significance of the moment.
On our trips over since we have looked for the young Pinto, now named “Finn”, occasionally getting a glimpse of him traipsing in thickets of short-needle pine or feeding with the herd far out in the marsh. One afternoon last fall, we were rewarded with another priceless sight (see the video below).
Places like Assateague Island are special. Not only because of the beauty of nature but the opportunity to share it with those that you love. If you are ever near the Eastern Shore of Maryland, I highly recommend a visit and be sure to ride through the town of Berlin. And if the brick house on Williams Street has smoke coming from the chimney, give mom a quick honk.