“It’s the good girls who keep the diaries; the bad girls never have the time.”
I was surprised when I opened the book, and a photograph drifted to the floor. Huh. The book, The Mane Event, was given to me around 1994 by my mother and had been sitting on a shelf ever since. Had I forgotten the photo was there all this time? Curious, I turned it over, and my heart twanged.
Mom loved horses. A stoic by nature, I believe she felt true loss when the time came that she could no longer comfortably ride. But it is said the heart wants what the heart wants, so Mom found other ways to be around horses. And that brings me back to the book…
The Mane Event follows a newlywed couple driving a team of six Belgian horses from Maine to California–a distance of over 3800 miles–while racking up about 10 miles a day. The slogan of the trip was, “Pulling for Seniors,” with the team stopping at nursing homes and centers all along the route. Stories throughout the pages describe the joyous reactions the elderly had of seeing the big draft horses.
Mom became obsessed with the journey, and with the horses. She knew their names and followed their progress. When she heard they would be making a stop in Yuma, where she wintered, she had to go. And that brings me back to the photograph…
Mom is reaching up to pet the big Belgian’s cheek. The look on her face is blissful, as though the feel of the horsehair on her fingertips is about 2,000 pounds of heaven. But for me, even more priceless is the Belgian’s seeming smile in response to her touch. Two spirits connecting on a sunny day, what could be more beautiful?
When I turned the photo over, I saw Mom’s handwriting, and that’s what made my heart thump. It read, “See, See, I did get to pet the big horsey. Wee! And he smiled.”
Although Mom and I had a complicated relationship, she knew how to make me laugh. Using words like ” big horsey” was sure to get me every time because it spoke to the childlike giddiness we shared around horses.
And that brought me back to yet another memory, or “momory.”
The last time I saw Mom alive we spoke about riding horses. My husband and I had planned a trip to Alaska, but with Mom fading from cancer, we were nervous about leaving for twelve days. I needed to know how she felt about us going.
Mom took a deep drag on her cigarette and told me she wanted us to go. She knew that I was going to go on a horseback ride while stopping at Denali National Park. “Go. Ride. And when you come back tell me all about it.” The look in her eyes said she was serious. Go. Ride.
The night before the ride my brother called to say Mom had died. “Finish your vacation,” he said. “We’ll handle the details.”
As the horse wound its way through the riverbeds and grasslands, I sat in the saddle and looked to the snow-capped mountains. I no longer could tell her about the ride, but I didn’t have to.
She was right there with me for one last ride.