A good many of you have been with me for the long haul. You know that I lost my mom to breast cancer in 2003 when I was just 22 years old (she was only 46). And as you might imagine, the years following that loss have molded and sculpted the person, the wife, the friend, the mother that I am today. All those little pieces of memories, what ifs, happy times, crappy times, things I’d do over, things I want to make last and things I hope I never forget creep into my life in some of the strangest ways.
I’m not a crier. Never have been. It’s not that I think crying is for wusses or anything like that. It’s just not the way that I usually display my emotions. (Remember the line in that Barenaked Ladies song “I’m the kind of guy who laughs at a funeral” from back in the day? That always resonated well with me.) A good cry every now and then, yes, been there. But crying over everything and anything? Not so much.
Even if you haven’t been with me for the long haul, this blog and all that it implies most likely gives you the impression that we’re horse people. By that I mean: I rode horses my entire childhood, did the horse shows, etc. It was a huge part of my life – one that I have so many happy memories of – and one part of me that was mine to share with my mom.
She came to most of my lessons and shows over the years. We made annual family trips to the Devon Horse Show to watch the amazing riders and poke fun at the mega-rich spectators in their boxes enjoying their wine and cheese. When it was time for my first horse show, I was 7 years old. My mom took me to the local saddlery to outfit me with my very own riding duds.
Here I am circa 1989, a couple years into my showing “career:”
My mom was the best horse show mom.
She made sure that everything was ready to go the night before. Clothes were cleaned and ready. Two blue (for luck!) hair ribbons to tie in my braids were laid out on my dresser. Car was gassed up and ready, coffee pot was set for her crack-of-dawn mug of jet fuel, my only job was to literally show up.
The biggest, most important job of a horse show mom: packing the horse show bag.
The horse show bag! This magnificent bag holds everything that one might need on show day. Snacks, wipes, Tylenol, shirt collar, riding gloves, money, entry forms, suntan lotion, bug spray, spare clothes, towel for wiping horse slobber, towel for shining boots, brush… oh yes, and unfortunately our horse show bag always contained… a barf bag. My nerves pretty much always got the best of me and I was known to throw up before just about every single show.
So let’s fast forward a couple decades. This past fall at the ripe old age of 3, Lily Bean took her very first riding lesson as we signed her up for Pony Club at a local farm. It was an instant connection for her – she loved it, she was hooked.
I should also mention that Bob and I spent that first (okay, and several subsequent) lesson weeping with pride from the other side of the fence.
Then one night in early December we got the word that there was a horse show coming up at a neighboring farm and there would be a walking leadline class that Lily could enter.
Several trips to several tack shops that week and we had the outfit and required showing accessories. We were set! Lily was excited, we were excited, grandparents were excited, aunties were excited – you get the picture. The memory of my mom was so ever-present that week. It has been 8 years since she died and the week leading up to Lily’s horse show brought back a flood of memories full of her – more than I experienced when Lily was born or at my own wedding. It was bittersweet and though I missed her more than words can express, I couldn’t help but think about how pleased she would be that I had a little equestrian on my hands.
The night before the show, Lily went to bed and as I hung her outfit up in the dining room, I realized I had one more thing to do before we were ready for the morning.
It was time to pack my first horse show bag, as a mom.
I packed and packed and added things until I was sure I had everything we could possibly need.
And then, for the first time in a long time, I cried.
And as for that horse show, you can just add it to the list of times when I stood in awe and felt so over-the-top proud of my daughter. I never knew that a little person could change my life in such a rewarding and fulfilling way. Love is not a strong enough word.