I met my first soulmate when I was four.
The preceding 18 months had taken a toll on my family. My dad had been diagnosed with kidney failure, and in a matter of days my mom had packed up our life and moved us to Iowa. It was a chaotic time, a time of uncertainty and fear and disbelief. It's hard to self-actualize and find your inner peace when everything that matters is at stake. Suffice it to say, we didn't.
And so, after Dad's health stabilized thanks to the wonders of modern medicine, my parents decided it was time our life got stabilized too. When we lived in New Mexico, my dad had two horses and this has evoked a passion in him he didn't previously know existed. With their dreams of more horses in tow, they searched for some land in the country and decided on a 20 acre lot just outside of Lowden, Iowa. (For those of you who don't know, Lowden is a thriving metropolis of about 700 people, with zero stoplights and a cop that is shared with the next town over. Kid you not.)
Shortly after we moved, my parents realized that young Jenny was going to need a playmate or she may well drive them nuts. I am told - and I can hardly believe this to be true - that I was quite a talker in my early days. My dad always told the story that one day, out of sheer exhaustion from the sound of my voice, he suggested I go outside and talk to the bush in the front yard. I did.
So one day, my mom woke me up and told me that this day was going to be a very special day. I couldn't imagine what was in store, but in no time we headed up the road a ways to the home of our neighbor Annabelle. Something was a little off about Annabelle. She was dirty and disheveled and had really bad teeth. Rumor had it when her son came to visit, he had to sleep in the bathtub. So I can assure you, this day that we went to visit Annabelle would be our first and last visit to her home.
Rumors aside, what happened that day at Annabelle's rickety old house changed my life. Annabelle was a talker (well, so I was I - but talking to a bush had more appeal than talking to Annabelle) and so it took seemingly forever to realize why we were there. We eventually went out back to the barn, and situated there was a momma dog and 6 furry little puppies - German Shepherd/Collie mixes. My mom told me I could pick which ever one I wanted. I looked at her in disblief, then surveyed the landscape. They were all cute in their own way, but there was one who was so fat and roly-poly she could hardly stand up. She was a fluffy fluffball of pure fluffy goodness. I picked her, or maybe she picked me, and in no time I had selected her name: Peanuts.
Peanuts was my first soulmate. On that farm, she was my best friend and my most reliable source of companionship and entertainment. She was an "outside" dog, because that's what people on farms have. So every morning in the summer, as soon as I would get up I would bound outside, screen door slamming behind me, to find my pal who was always patiently awaiting my arrival. We would roam the acreage and get into all kinds of mischief together. In the fall, when I had to return to school, Peanuts would come running to the end of the lane to greet me when she heard the school bus pull up to drop me off at the end of the day. In the winter, I hated her "outside" status and would go make beds of hay and blankets to keep her warm. And in the spring, the best season of all on that farm, Peanuts and I would make the rounds together to check on all the new baby animals that had arrived on the scene.
I say that Peanuts was my first soulmate because she was all the things you would want from one. She was loyal beyond belief and fiercely protective. (For some reasons she really hated one of our neighbors and would snarl and growl at him and only him. I still wonder what she saw in that man that I never did.) She loved me in a way that I had never been loved: unconditionally. Ever present, she was there when I needed her most, relishing the good times and comforting me during the bad. She was sweet and gentle and affectionate, but not overbearingly so. But most of all, she shared my joy. There was literally no one else on the face of the earth that she would rather see than me. You could see it in her innocent brown eyes, and her tail, and I swear to you she could smile. She was the best.
Here is what I know for sure: soulmates are far and few between, but they come in a lot of forms. You never know when one will just pop up in your life. And rest assured, you don't need to be on the lookout for a soulmate, you just need to be ready for them when they arrive.