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Shared passions bring extra joy even to already-close relationships

There is nothing as special as sharing the love of something with one of your children. My daughter Shannon and I are both madly in love with Chincoteague ponies, so last week when she called to say Prince had died I sucked in my breath and fought back tears.

"He's only 9 years old! What happened?" I gasped. How could one of the most viral stallions on the Chincoteague refuge be dead? I wondered, picturing the flamboyant palomino pinto with a thick neck and delicate Arab head. Then I heard a laugh on the line.

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"Prince the singer, Mom. Not Prince the stallion."

I let out a big whoosh of air, releasing a sad flood of emotions. While I am sad that such an amazing musician lost his life at too young an age, I was not personally invested in him as I am with the ponies I spend so many hours researching to write about in my books. Tornado's Prince of Tides — nicknamed Prince — is an island favorite. The relief I felt can't even be described.

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That same shared love brought me giant smiles this week when my granddaughters were riding Sea Feather, the now-21-year-old gelding that my daughter brought home from Chincoteague Island as a tiny colt in 1995. Something as simple as the photos that my daughter posted online of 6-year-old Lexi and 4-year-old Norah riding our beautiful boy made me hum with happiness the rest of the day.

While we are all different in life and we don't expect our children to be just like us, it is always wonderful when we find that we have a shared interest. We discovered another shared interest last summer when my grandson fell in love with kayaking, something my husband and I enjoy. While at Chincoteague Island in July he used my kayak to go out with my husband Dan in the Chincoteague Bay. I was out of commission awaiting back surgery, so I sat on the enclosed porch of the house we'd rented on the water and watched them paddle away that first day. I remember feeling so proud.

They meandered along the shoreline for quite some while, working their way toward Tom's Cove Campground. Then I saw them paddling out to the middle of the bay. My heart slid upward and into my throat with worry as speedboats zipped by and the kayaks lifted on the swells and then dropped low again. But Dan and Matthew in their kayaks seemed to stick together like glue.

I got out my binoculars and watched them as they worked their way across the bay all the way on the other side, where they stopped and — bobbing on the water — gazed up at the lighthouse there. I got out my phone and sent a text to Shannon. "Your son and my husband have paddled all the way across the bay to the lighthouse. I am watching them through my binoculars."

After I sent the text I watched them paddle back, alternating between reading my book and peering across again to see how much progress they'd made. I was surprised I hadn't heard from Shannon, but I'd forgotten how spotty the cellphone service is on Chincoteague Island.

Dan and Matthew were almost home when I noticed dark clouds building a thick wall in the sky behind them. A thunderstorm was coming, but they were close enough to watch without binoculars, so I didn't worry. They came ashore about 10 minutes before the first fat drops of rain splashed down. We sat together on the porch and they told me about their travels.

"We saw fish swimming past us," Matthew said. "There were a lot of boats out there, but it was pretty easy paddling."

As Matthew spoke, Shannon burst into the house, hollering, "Where's my son?!" Her voice was bordering on panic.

"He's right here," Dan said.

"But you just texted me …"

At about the same time, Shannon and I both realized my text must have been delayed by the spotty cell service. As the storm brewed overhead she had read the words, "Your son and my husband have paddled all the way across the bay to the lighthouse." She thought her 10-year-old was caught up in a storm on the bay.

Matthew laughed. "Poppy tied our kayaks together," he said. That's when I realized why they had appeared to stick together like glue. Sometimes my husband has smart ideas.

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That love of kayaking has stuck with Matthew. We've take him out on the lake at Codorus Park State Campground near Hanover, Pennsylvania, with us since then, fostering a passion. He loves kayaking so much that he asked for a kayak for his 11th birthday, and that is what he got.

So, on Saturday, he was out on Lake Codorus trying out the new kayak. I have never seen Poppy Dan so proud, and Matthew had a wonderful time paddling through a flock of Canada geese and watching boats glide by as he rowed along the shoreline.

We are heading down to Chincoteague for a weekend in the end of May and again in July, and I look forward to making the journey across the bay with Dan and Matthew this time. Kayaks can work their way in all the little gullets and get even closer to the herds that graze along the southern points. I am hoping to get close enough for good photos of the new foals just coming along. Ten have been born so far, and I look for another 50 or so to come before July.

Having a daughter who loves ponies, two granddaughters who love "their pony" Sea Feather, and a grandson who likes to kayak with Poppy and Grammy sure makes life fun. It seems we can love the things we love even more when our loved ones share our passions.

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story inaccurately described the pony named Prince.

Lois Szymanski is a Carroll County resident and can be reached at loisszymanski@hotmail.com.

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