“Jayne, your arms will never be empty!” laughed my best friend Jewel as she watched Craig, one of my four preschoolers, tug at my pant leg. He was crying from a slight booboo that needed a quick kiss. I had just put Baby Paul in his highchair while Janette and David fought over the chair closest to Paul.
“It’s David’s turn, Janette,” I refereed, patting them both on the head and loving every minute of my chaos.
Jewel lied to me. That was twenty years ago and I now find my arms achingly empty when I sit down to read to myself in the evening. My four “children” all still love my husband and me but they don’t need us, and I’m told that’s a good thing. Their “wings work” as Steve Harvey likes to say. It’s the job of every parent to raise a successful, independent adult, the experts say, and I nod weakly in pretend agreement. This job of parenting has a horrendous layoff rate and no one likes layoffs.
Thankfully I have my weekends to look forward to, when my arms are full again. Full of horses, when I head out to spend Saturday mornings at the ranch where I volunteer. I have never felt lonely when I’m with horses. What’s more, they listen attentively as I pour my heart out to them, arm draped around their necks, without judging, eye rolling or arguing. One horse in particular loves when I give him a good strong hug. He drops his head right into my arms like there's no place he'd rather be and the feeling is mutual.
So on Thanksgiving Day when my children leave their homes to return to my home and my arms are temporarily full as I get to hug on them for a day or two, I will say a prayer of Thanks for the horses who are always there for me.