Do you remember when grownups would ask you, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
That puts a lot of pressure on some children, those serious little souls who contemplate adult matters at a very young age. Some children look back blankly because hey!, what are you talking about? They’re just trying to figure out if they are allowed to put that boogie under the arm of the couch since they aren’t allowed to eat it….after all, they are kids and being a grownup, much less working, is so far from their thoughts that they can’t even comprehend the language being used.
But there is another group…the dreamers…who have a long list of what-they-want-to-be-when-they-grow-up” and there is a numbered rank for the list. I was one of those kids. At the very most bottom of my list was a wife and mother. At the tippy-top, was jockey! I watched the TV series “My Friend Flicka” every week; and the movie version starring Roddy McDowell as often as I could. I also watched “Fury” every week and the movie “National Velvet”. Another favorite, though frequently read because it wasn’t out as a series until I was nearly grown was “Black Beauty” which became a TV series for two years during my late teens. Of course, “My Friend Flicka” was also a book long before it was made into a movie or TV series, and I read that book until the pages were worn and tattered. I’m sure there were plenty of others…any book, movie or TV series about a horse or horses was prime fodder for which I would sit for endless hours and indulge in all things horse. I watched every horse race I could sneak in; my grandmother was afraid watching horse races would lead me to a life-long addiction to gambling so I wasn’t allowed to watch them. However, they were on during the same time usually as grandma was in the kitchen cooking so as long as I sat close to the TV with the volume turned way down, she often wouldn’t know I was watching.
At any rate…when I was asked “What do you want to be when you grow up?” the resounding answer was…. ”A Jockey!!!” Second was a horse trainer, rancher, cowboy, or ranch-hand. I knew I wanted to ‘breathe horse’ and nothing else would suffice.
A tragedy struck…
It was the summer following 5th grade.
As if it weren’t traumatic enough that I would be going to school in town at the big middle school with a lot of kids I’d never seen before come fall…
I grew! I grew too tall! In the matter of a few months, I went from being the perfect height for a jockey to being too tall!!! I spent the entire end of the school year and spring in grief. Life wasn’t worth living any longer. Being a horse trainer, or rancher, or cowboy/girl, or ranch-hand were only viable options to someone who knew they were going to be a jockey. For a girl too tall to be a jockey…those other options quickly lost their attractiveness. I was truly devastated. My life seemed like it was over. I moped so much that my grandparents bought me a horse of my own. Life had renewed purpose!
Joe, my mostly quarter horse, will be another story for another time…
But, what I want you, dear reader, to take from this is that children are very able to be passionate about something they want to do in their adulthood. Please, never underestimate the power of dreams. I think we may all fail to remember clearly how it was to be a child. We grow up and there are so many responsibilities that come with the task of being an adult, I think we forget (or shove into some mental filing cabinet where they are easy to forget about) what it was like to be a child, full of hopes and dreams and passion. Please don’t discount what a child says or feels or desires. They may lack the vocabulary to make the importance of it known, but they certainly don’t lack for passion, even when understanding is at best, minimal, the feelings and desires are still there.
I am 60 now…I’ve had a great life with pets, kids, grandchildren, the love of a couple of good men, a wonderful family and the best friends and mentors a person could ever wish for…but still…sometimes, I still dream that I am a jockey. I am small and appear very frail so my strength always surprises the male jockeys I’m riding against. The horses I race are never my own, I am simply their jockey, but when we are introduced, I look deeply into their eyes, breathe into their nostrils and we speak a language that is just ours. The horses all take care of me on the race track and they run their hearts out for me. In nearly every race, my cap will get knocked off and my long hair escapes it’s ties and flows behind me and as we cross the finish line, far ahead of the field, I always throw my head back and raise my arms above my head and let out a whoop of pure joy and excitement at having won another race. My mount is just as triumphant and whinnies in pride, accomplishment and pure joy.
It’s still my dream…even all these years later…if only I hadn’t grown so tall….