Written by Nandita Batheja
The horses on the carousel were as white and grey as the gravel-stained snow around them. Many months had passed since the long, summer days where they would dance into the night. Barely anyone even remembered the way the carousel glowed amongst autumn’s fire-yellow leaves.
As winter approached, fewer and fewer people came to the carousel. Without the loving hands of the children who’d play with them, without their laughter and their colorful songs, the horses began to slow down. One day, nobody came to the carousel at all. This made the horses feel especially sad. They slowed even more. To the lone passerby on a winter walk, it would have looked like the horses were gloomily dragging their feet around and around to an almost imperceptible, low hum.
After the first snowfall, they stopped moving all together.
Days went by and most people forgot about the carousel. Parents put on thick coats and dressed their children in even thicker ones. Big marshmallow puffs; humans in the wintertime.
One crisp day in February, a young girl named Amelia pleaded with her mother to go to the park. “The sun is out. It’s spring!” she exclaimed.
“Dear, it’s still the middle of winter. It’s cold outside. The park will be empty. What do you want to go for?”
Amelia caught her mother’s hand and dragged her towards the door. “For the swings! And the carousel! They aren’t like you. They don’t pay attention to calendars.”
Amelia’s mother finally gave in, but only after Amelia promised to wear her winter coat. She loved wearing it, anyway. It was full of sherbet pinks and oranges, sea blues and greens. Amelia called it her floral reef.
When they got to the park, Amelia ran straight for the carousel, her mother trailing closely behind her. Then they both stopped suddenly.
“Oh! My . . .” her mother whispered in surprise. The horses stood still, unmoving and pale.
With a sigh she said, “Well, looks like even the horses can’t ignore winter. They’ve lost all their color. And they are clearly not in the mood to ride around. Let’s go home, Amelia. We’ll try again in a few months. Hopefully they’ll be better by then.”
Amelia didn’t move. Her forehead was scrunched and she was squinting at the horses. She slowly approached the carousel, stepping over mounds of hardened snow. She climbed onto the platform and walked to her favorite horse. She brushed the frost from his nose and eyes. Then she rubbed her hands along his side to warm him up. He felt frozen, like slick ice. When he didn’t seem to be getting any warmer, she took a step back and tilted her head.
“Amelia, what are you doing?” her mother called out.
She had one last idea. She looked down at her coat and found her favorite yellow flower. She peeled off the flower from her own coat and carefully placed it on the horse’s side.
Slowly, he began to fill with brightly colored polka dots. Soon he had spots of color all over him, and he began to sing.
Amelia squealed with delight. She ran over to the next horse and peeled another flower off her coat, this time placing it on the horse’s mane. Amelia watched with wonder as the same thing happened.
She went from horse to horse, peeling petals off her coat and sharing them. Soon enough, all the horses on the carousel were full of color. They awoke with such joy and excitement that they also joined each other in song.
Amelia began to dance around the carousel, and the horses started to follow. They shook the rest of the snow off as they danced once again—around, around, around, laughing and playing like did so long ago.
Amelia’s mother watched in disbelief. She looked up at the mischievous sun and the new sprouting grass around her. Perhaps Amelia was right. Perhaps spring had arrived after all.