By lex, on Mon – May 2, 2005
We had another opportunity to excel on Sunday. The Kat had a show down in Bonita. As it turns out, a horse show is very like a military operation: It involves many arduous days of careful planning, assiduous preparation and cross-functional coordination. And then, as D-Day dawns on a world all a-tiptoe with trembling anticipation, you are thrust into a whirlwind involving perhaps 8 to 10 minutes of high drama and of kinetic excitement surrounded by many long and dreary hours of sitting around, writing with your toe in the dust (there’s a very great deal of dust, at a horse show), waiting for something to happen.
0600 – day starts with the alarm clock going off. At 0600 on a Sunday morning – The heathen bastards. The Hobbit contributes a cheerful, “Mrmph!” and rolls over, falling quickly back to sleep. Events occurring before 0800 on a weekend are my exclusive province, my domain – no one even attempts to challenge me for the rights.
I lurch spring out of bed with my usual vigor and stumble down the stairs, all thoughts focused on the most important thing in my life: Coffee, at his particular point. The rest of the world may very well rot, for all I care, until the first cup of joe goes gurgling down my throat. The Kat lies sleeping on the couch – the upstairs rooms were “too hot” to contain her feverish anticipation, while her own room was too noisy, what with Norwegian mice spinning on their treadwheel. I take a certain grim satisfaction in that latter truth.
0615 – I wake the Kat. Her eyes were momentarily confused, unfocused, until I whispered the magic words: “Show day.” And with that, her angelic morning face suddenly became infused with intensity and drive. A terrible beauty was born. We move quickly around the house, finalizing the last night’s preparations. She puts on unmatched socks and when I quizzically raise an eyebrow, says in reply only “Good luck.”
She’s not yet 11, you know.
0630 – We’re out of the house, driving unpredictably in order to throw off pursuit. Actually, I’d left my to-go mug in the other car, and the unpredictability of my driving is more due to the scalding coffee now gracing my lap, in consequence of the many speed bumps in our “child friendly” neighborhood.
I do not scream. Don’t.
My story. My very own.
0640 – Bagels.
0645 – At the barn. We are the first. This brings me no particular satisfaction.
0705 – The first tousle-headed riding instructor arrives, a college student. Then the next. There is a good deal of standing around and moping. No visible progress is apparent to the casual observer. Your martial scribe experiences a queasy, if familiar, feeling of déjà vu.
0710 – I leave for the in port cabin, somewhat uneasy in mind.
0830 – Having swept up the Hobbit, we have arrived in Bonita exactly on time! but find no trace of our daughter, or any of her crewe. We start to wonder if we’re at the right arena. Competition classes are in session, including several that sound to us as though the Kat ought to be participating in them. The cost of this whole affair, never far from the forefront of my consciousness, thrusts itself right forward again.
0905 – I will not fume.
0910 – The entourage arrives, with exactly as much noblesse oblige fanfare as the main act taking the stage at a rock concert. No one seems to be in anything of a hurry. No one quite seems to know what to do. Competition continues in the background. Gaily colored ribbons are passed out. To other people’s children.
My advice goes unsolicited.
0920 – I am not fuming. I am not.
0945 – The Kat is up on a pony known everywhere but at this event as “Ladue.” For reasons that continue to evade me, no horse may be called by its commonly accepted name at a horse show. Instead, there is some one or another paean to pretension such as “Afternoon Excitement,” which sounds rather too adult for this age group, but never mind.
1015 – The Kat is on her first class, a “flat class” (no jumping – your humble scribe likes flat classes – it is only a very rare occurrence when anyone’s daughter is thrown through the insubstantial air into the unyielding earth in a flat class) and she garners a respectable Third Place ribbon.
This is a four hundred dollar ribbon, if no others end up joining it.
1022 – The class is over.
1022 – 1400 – Nothing happens.
Oh, I read a bit of the book I’ve brought with me. And got many a strange glance from the assorted parents. I mean, the cover is from a medieval painting, and the subject is the Black Death. It’s not like it’s p0rno I’ve brought with me. But you’d have thought…
Other kids rode other classes, awards were announced, your humble scribe sat there entirely mystified, not entirely sure when something might happen again that concerned him or any of his. In the interim, we are asked to provide a blank check to the show sponsors.
An actual blank check – like those metaphors of credulity you hear about. We airily tossed our superior heads and scoffed protestations that of course we wouldn’t provide a blank check. Who did she think we were? Mere rubes?
These protestations were met with a silent, withering scorn.
But did we back down?
Yes. Yes, we did.
But! We fretted over it for the rest of the day.
Oh. And we ate some, too. Everyone brings food to these things, and so of course everyone eats. More than maybe they should. There’s a hummus and pita chip combo over on the corner of one tailgate that I’m having a hard time resisting, or at least, I would have had a hard time resisting, were it not for the lady who clearly didn’t need any more to eat blocking me out. The fact that I probably fit the same description is one I do not care to explore further.
I’d have made way for her. That’s all I’m saying.
1415 – We ride again, finally. It’s not entirely clear to me how this moment is any different than the several thousand which precede it, but suddenly we are back in the ring again, jumping. And doing quite credibly, actually. Then, moments later, another ride – same course, opposite direction. Finally another ride, this one “under saddle.”
Which means that it’s not the Kat who’s being judged, but rather her mount. Our hopes are not uplifted – the Kat still has to ride school horses, and there are actual rich people here, folks who blanch not at dropping upwards of $20k on a weekend ride for their ten year old.
We don’t float in that particular tub.
1500 – the last awards are given. Kat has won a First Place (and there was much rejoicing!) two seconds and another third. A good day, all things considered. Later, she’s awarded a ribbon as “Reserve Champion,” which we gather to mean second place overall. She’s very happy. Very happy indeed.
And suddenly? Some switch is thrown and a long day becomes a good day, in the vault of family memories. We’re very happy too, so we are.
Later at home, I give the Kat another hug and tell her how proud I am of her one more time. And then I lean down and whisper into her ear: “Remember this. Remember how it felt.”
I hope she does.