Recently, I was describing to someone what I most want as a rebel, and I gave them an example from the days when I rode horseback. For me, it is that experience of sailing over a jump--or a fence--into freedom. When I was describing this to my daughter Elizabeth who used to ride with me, I told her that I had a similar feeling of freedom when I was 9. I had had serious surgery and was in the hospital for 3 and 1/2 weeks. My family lived in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, and St. Francis Hospital was in Tulsa, about 50 miles away. I think my mother stayed with me the first day when I was coming out of the anesthesia, but after that, she went home, and she would come to visit on Saturdays. After the first week, I think my parents must have felt sorry for me, because they paid for me to have a TV in my room, so I could watch Kennedy's inauguration. From then on, I watched the game shows in the morning but turned off the TV when the soap operas started in the afternoon. There was a bookmobile in the hospital, and I loved its arrival in my room when I could choose books and then read for hours in the afternoons. There were lots of nuns working in the hospital, and they were all kind and motherly, as were the nurses. Some thoughtful person had sent me a plant arrangement that came with three porcelain kittens. I played with those kittens every day; it was the kindest present anyone could have sent me.
A couple of the nuns from my school, including my fourth-grade teacher, visited me in the hospital, and when Sr. Collette told me that I didn't have to make up all the schoolwork I'd missed that was a true gift, because it meant that the rest of the time in the hospital I could read and watch TV and play with my kittens with no concern that I should be working on math or English instead. In addition, I had no chores, which was a lovely perk. I don't ever remember being lonely. I accepted the three shots I had every day with good grace, but I had breakfast, lunch, and dinner in bed, and the meals were almost always delicious. I had a sunny room and plenty of company in the nurses and staff people in the hospital. One of the nurses talked to me so much about her favorite book as a girl, Anne of Green Gables, that before I left the hospital she gave me my own copy. My overall recollection of that time was of untrammeled freedom; I could decide to do exactly what I wanted within the bounds of the hospital, and I'd never felt so lighthearted as I felt during that stay. It probably speaks volumes for how much dominance I experienced when I was at home, that in the hospital this little rebel stretched her wings and found it intoxicating.