To: “My Boys”
Hey boys! I got to come see the three of you ride at High Hopes last Thursday on a whim. I showed up halfway through the lesson to find two of you in the outdoor ring. I knew J. was inside waiting for his ride. Grinning like a fool, I found a seat on a picnic table, slinging my bag onto the ground. I was in no way dressed like I usually am for High Hopes – PF Flyers instead of Ariat boots, skinny jeans instead of the holey jeans that I generally wear. Hair down instead of in a ponytail, a nice necklace instead of the rubber Haiti and Livestrong bracelets.
You two, E. & JT, didn’t recognize me. I was a little sad, but then did the math and realized I’d been gone for over a year. But it was so great to sit and watch the two of you.
E. instead of Latino, you’re riding a mare I don’t know; she’s a pretty thing, and you seem to like her a lot. I’m glad. You’ve always known the importance of you and your horse being a strong team. One day you asked me, “Latino, me and you make a good team huh?” I had to grin at that and assure you that we were one of the best out there. While I was watching you, I was super proud. You’ve gotten so good. There were a few times I wanted to hollar, “hey! You know the deal, silly! Shoulders back and heels down!” Most times when I said that, you’d do it and give me a look that said I was crazy. By the end of our first semester together, I’d open my mouth and you’d do it automatically. You’d roll your eyes and sigh a little, but the look on your face said you were about to bust out laughing. I was wicked proud, E. Keep it up.
JT – gosh. You’ve gotten so big. You’re not the little boy I left last spring! You’ve grown up so much, I barely recognized you. My thought process was, “What?? No way!” when I saw you on Geri. You adore that mare, and you ride like a little cowboy. It always made me laugh. The first time you got on, you said, “Giddyup!!” and I couldn’t help but grin to beat the band. You were always so excited to be in the saddle, and it’s clear that hasn’t changed. You’ve gotten so much more confident, and I’m so proud of that. I remember the first couple weeks, you’d barely whisper to me, asking what to do and if you were doing it right. Seeing you the other day, wow. You know exactly what you are doing up there! The guy walking beside you probably thought I nodded at him, but it was for you. I’m proud, kiddo.
J. you’re the one I know best. I know you remember me, despite every time I appear you ask, “what’s your name??” Every time I answer you the same: “You know my name!” You conjure it up quick, and it makes me laugh. It was good to see you and your mom and chat a while. You told me all about your birthday parties – all four of em! – and that you’re now riding Half Pint instead of Parker. I think that’s good. You liked Parker, but I think you’ll like Half Pint a lot better. He’s steadier.
I was wrangled into helping out in the barn, which was my pleasure, of course, but every once in a while I’d peek out the barn and into the ring to see how you were doing. You looked good up there on Half Pint, and I was impressed at how you’ve honed your skills some more. Though I’ll admit it, I miss talking to you while we were working together, even if I did have a heckuva time trying to convince you to keep your focus. It was good seeing you again, J. :)
Being back, boys, made me realize a couple things more clearly than I ever had before. The biggest thing was that you don’t really feel life until you’ve given yourself away to it. Being there for you boys helped me a lot more than I think it helped you. I got the best end of the deal, I get to experience all your joy as well as my own, and it makes life that much more vibrant. It’s like seeing a photograph in black and white, then seeing it in full HD color. Thanks for showing me that, boys!
And no matter what, you’ll always be “my boys.”