Tomorrow my youngest son goes off for three days on an overnight retreat with his school. He’s in grade seven and the school hosts the retreat to promote bonding and relationships amongst the class. Matthew is really excited and he’s looking forward to all of the activities; archery, horseback riding, hiking, swimming and just having fun. Matthew has never been on a horse and he was talking about riding a horse when all of a sudden he said “mom didn’t you tell me you use to ride horses?” “Yes I did, many moons ago.” “Didn’t you use to ride English style and you have the helmet?” My brain scrambled because I haven’t thought about that period in my life in so long. When I was a little girl, I loved horses and wanted to ride with all of my heart and soul. I’ve mentioned before that my parents divorced when I was eight and there weren’t any funds for activities, especially horseback riding. I don’t remember if I pestered my father or not but I remember visiting him on one of our Saturday visits and he said he had a surprise. We got in the car and we left Pierrefonds and drove into the country where the mystery tour ended in Hudson, Quebec. He had arranged horse back riding lessons for me and my stepsister. I was beyond excited, I was ecstatic. I was fully aware that he could not afford the lessons never mind the helmet, crop and boots. He had the whole outfit ready for me, all I had to do was pick the horse I wanted to ride. The instructor took me to the barn and she asked the stable crew to bring out a few horses that she felt were appropriate for me and told me to pick one. I didn’t realize how big horses were until I found myself looking up at the most beautiful creature I had ever seen. Once I picked my horse my instructor showed me how to saddle and reign the horse and then she told me to climb on and go. Once I was on the horse I felt like there was nothing I couldn’t do. I belonged on that horse and it really didn’t take me long to learn to ride. Every Saturday, first thing in the morning, I went riding and I can remember focusing on my breath as I posted to the rhythm of my horse’s trot. I thought of nothing else, school, home, parents fighting or kids being mean. It was just me and the horse riding in circles in the training field.
The memories came flooding back when Matthew said “can I take your riding helmet with me to the retreat.” “Gosh Matt, I don’t even know where I put that helmet, it’s been years.” We went up to my room and a search in my closet found the helmet. It’s really the only thing that I have left to remind me of my father. The helmet doesn’t fit my son and I was relieved, I don’t want him to lose the helmet as it really is my prized possession. He tried to force the helmet to fit because he thinks the helmet is really cool and wants to wear it so badly. I told him that my father sacrificed his time and money to make sure I was able to ride and this helmet is the only thing that I have left from my father’s loving and selfless gesture. I also told him that horseback riding was one of the few times I can remember my father and I united as one, away from all the hustle and bustle and problems of our lives. Matt looked at the helmet again and then gave it back to me. “It’s alright mom, I don’t think I want to wear it now, it should really stay safe in your closet.” Then he said something to me that created a stir from within that I haven’t felt in years, he said “mom, you should start riding again, I bet you were good at it.”