Have you ever noticed how odd little objects transfer ownership along with real property? Many years ago, my parents bought a motel in Virginia, not far from their home in Tennessee. That motel, located on Highway 11-E outside of Bristol, VA, was accented by a beautiful kidney-shaped swimming pool. One of the odd little things that came along with this particular property was a small concrete donkey, situated near the fenced pool area. It was not new, nor was it exactly beautiful. Someone had painted it white, and the paint was chipping. Also, it had a broken ear that had been unskillfully patched. However, it was just the right size for my young daughter to sit on while pretending to have adventures, going places far beyond the swimming pool area. Time passed; I divorced and then married again. We moved far away to Florida, and had another child, a boy.
On my father’s last trip, before the Christmas holidays, to our home in Florida, his traveling companion for the long road trip was the little concrete donkey. To be quite honest, when he took it out of the car, I was touched by his thoughtfulness, but wasn’t exactly thrilled to have this somewhat unattractive object in my yard. However, it was important to my beloved father that his granddaughter and grandson have it.
Less than a year later, my father passed away. When we got back from the funeral in Tennessee, there sat the donkey, a reminder of my father, seeming to wait for our return. A few months afterwards, we bought another house, one in a little more upscale neighborhood. At first, I sort of hid the donkey in the back yard, but after some soul searching, I finally decided to repaint it and place it out front so we would be reminded of my wonderful father more often. I positioned it next to a brick planter, a place where it wouldn’t stick out like a sore thumb. So, it sat there on the lush carpet of green grass, watching the seasons come and go while waiting patiently for children to mount its concrete back for a ride to any place in their imagination.
As time does, days turned to months and months into a year. We went on vacation that next year, and when we returned home, we all felt there was something odd about the front lawn, but couldn’t put our finger on it at first. Then, it hit us; the donkey was gone. Our unattractive donkey was no more. All these years later, I can clearly recall the feeling in my stomach that day, the sick feeling that the little concrete creature had died. I amazed myself when I wept, cried at the loss of the unattractive donkey.
Evidently, some kids had stolen it as a prank. I couldn’t comprehend why, and to this very day don’t understand. That little donkey hurt no one, but some misguided youths apparently thought it was funny to steal it. What they didn’t know is that it was precious to our family, in spite of its appearance. Something doesn’t have to be beautiful on the outside to be loved, nor does it have to have monetary value. I admit I wasn’t all that attached at first, but appreciation for the little donkey grew over the years, and I think of it to this day. Sadly, my younger son never rode the donkey, as it was stolen before his birth. He never got to know his wonderful grandfather, nor did he know the unattractive donkey that took his sister and brother on fantastic journeys.
More than twenty-five years have passed, and I feel badly about how I felt originally, erroneously judging the donkey's importance soley on its appearance.
So, little donkey, wherever you wound up, I wish you could know that you are missed and remembered.