Bow Legs

“You would like me to do WHAT!” I asked, not sure I heard correctly.

“Stand up in your saddle,” she patiently repeated.

I heard this time and immediately felt cortisol coursing through my body.  Is this lady mad?!  I’ll fall off the horse!  Sure, I am wearing a helmet, but no, not doing this.

“Hold on to the horse’s mane, it will help you stabilize while you push down with your heels in the stirrups” she encouraged.

“The horses MANE!” I repeated, “wont that make him angry?” as I was thinking about someone grabbing onto MY hair holding on for dear life. No way!!

“He wont mind, just stand straight up and once you’ve tried I’ll have you do it while he is walking,” she added, cool as a cucumber.

I couldn’t think straight, my head was spinning and I was starting to regret all the gear and the big idea of wanting to learn how to ride a horse.  In the end, my desire not to be defeated won out and I tentatively grabbed a handful of Olaf’s mane and clumsily pushed myself upwards.  I was standing!  I couldn’t believe it!  Standing in the stirrups, just like that.  Wow I’m a pro, I thought to myself as I unceremoniously settled back into the saddle.

“Good job,” Laura encouraged, “Now ask Olaf to move forward by pushing your reins forward and moving your hips gently in the saddle.  Remember, ask, tell, demand.  You should be able to have him respond to the change in your breathing.”

With that, I relaxed in the saddle, gently pushed my hands forward, relieved the pressure on Olaf’s mouth, pushed my hips forward and quietly sighed.

He moved forward with ease and I immediately wanted to jump up and down and declare myself the winner, but I didn’t. Instead, I gave Olaf a congratulatory “Good boy!” as we moved down the track.

Not to be distracted by my subtle, yet effective ask to move forward, Laura reminded me of my next task, “Now that he is moving, stand straight up until you get to “L”.”

This lady is relentless!

I grabbed onto Olaf’s mane pushed my heels down and stood up straight.  I could not believe myself, we were doing it, we were riding around the track, Olaf and I.  Me standing up! 

“Ok, now I want you to squeeze while wrapping your calves around his belly. Zip up your abs. You will feel this in your ankles.” Laura explained.

And she was right. By the fourth try, my ankles were screaming at me “What are you doing to us?” and I wondered if at the end of the lesson when I was asked to dismount, if from my feet to my hips, would my legs be permanently contorted into the shape of two bows pointing away from each other?

The Farm

It has just been one of those weeks. 

I wish I could road trip to the farm.  Pull into the yard, announce my arrival by doing a big donut in front of the drive shed,  kicking up stones.

The big kitchen,  the one my uncle extended.   The large creaky oak table.  My grandfather sitting at one end, fiddling with a pearing knife and a tomato.  My grandmother sorting something at the other end.

When I’d walk in, they’d greet me.  I’d give them both a hug and I’d get a wet kiss on my cheek that I’d discreetly wipe away.  Yuck.  Who wants wet kisses on the cheek from their grandparents?   I wish I could get one  today.

My grandfather always had something of interest to show me.  He’d moved on from the electronic Brother typewriters with their built in memory  and he was on to “Computers”.  There was usually a new joke to show that someone had sent to him over the I-n-t-e-r-n-e-t.   Most of the time the jokes were funny but some of them I didn’t quite get and I wasn’t about to ask for an explanation.   That just wasn’t how it was.

You either knew the answer or you didn’t.  If you didn’t know, you watched, learned and never made the same mistake twice.

My grandfather was usually up for a debate, one I’ll never forget. It was a debate on world politics and I ran out of intelligent responses and absently retorted to him, “that’s funny”

“It’s not ‘funny’,” he reprimanded in the stern voice that scared me, “you find a better expression or don’t say anything at all.”

I’ve tried to follow his advice but I haven’t always been successful.   I sometimes catch myself saying “that’s funny” when I am at a loss for words and immediately am taken back to that musty farm house and sticky kitchen table and I feel lonely, for a time, for a place and for a family.

At the Coffee Shop: I am THAT creep!

Today island music is blaring from the medium sized speaker hanging in the corner of the coffee shop. It is making my heart-ache for the Bajan sun, beach and hospitality and a conversation with my grandfather.

I am not sure why Barbados reminds me of my grandfather. There is NOTHING tangible that tie these two entities together.

Not music, not beaches, not the sun – nothing. I remember once going to the beach with my grandfather, he wore beige swimming trunks and demonstrated his ability to float in Lake Huron – as a nine year-old it was spectacular!

My grandfather, in my mind, was really a hobby farmer. He made money off his crops and had a drive-shed full of countless combines, but he always struck me more of a collector of things than an actual farmer.

Today sitting drinking coffee and reading about US politics I spot an older gentleman sitting at one of the tables on a church pew.

He has a zillion pieces of paper sprawled out in front of him and he is madly scribbling away. Once he finishes scribbling on one sheet, he folds it neatly and moves on to the next.

I am sitting here trying to imagine what is on the pieces of paper and what is he scribbling about?

And maybe this is why I am missing my grandfather at this particular moment.

My older gentleman has his pants pulled up at the back so he almost has a weggie with the front of his pants neatly tucked under his round belly. Its not a floppy fold-over belly, just a taught round belly that if you poked it, your finger would bounce back instead of pushing deeper into squishy flesh.

He is wearing a yellow dress shirt with only the top button undone. It looks as though it’s been worn well and washed many times before. Perhaps his favourite shirt.

Who knows, but besides being 5 inches shorter than my grandfather, he reminds me of him and I desperately want to go and talk to him.

I am that creep in the corner watching him intently deciding whether or not to initiate a conversation. What would we talk about?

The fluctuating stock market? Speculation? Sustainability of green energy? Precious metal prices? His soya-bean crop (he probably doesn’t have one!)? His collection of stuff? Or maybe a project he’s been working on for the last decade but can’t seem to finish?

I am pretty confident that whatever the conversation, he’d find something to say to make me laugh and challenge his or my viewpoint on life.

Today I miss my grandfather, and his soya-beans, his fascination with the Model-T Ford, the cobwebs and flies collecting in the window sills on the second floor, the old white bedspread dotted with small-tight tufts of thread, the honey tins, the disintegrating books in the attic, the leather bound ledgers with debts and payments, the old red wagon, the mulberry bush beside the barn, seeing mice scatter when you open the old pig-pen door, the silver dollar bushes (are they bushes or plants!?!), tomato sandwich’s with cheese, boiling milk-weed and other miscellaneous plants to eat, shopping at the K and quizzing him on food prices, visiting auction barns together and conversation about life.

What do you miss about a close someone?