A Continuous Thread of Revelation
Things come suitable to their time.
Did you ever see the film National Velvet? Based on the heartwarming book written by Enid Bangoid, the film starred a teenage Elizabeth Taylor in her first leading role as Velvet Brown, a young English girl determined to transform an ordinary horse she'd won in a raffle into a racehorse. Every time she rides him, she sees herself trotting triumphantly into the winner's circle of the world's greatest steeplechase, the Grand National. Velvet believes that she and "The Pie" share a special destiny - that underneath his plain horsehide exterior beats the heart of a champion. But Velvet has a few obstacles in her path: she's fourteen, her parents think her dream is nonsense, and The Pie is actually unruly and untrained. Even if there were a trainer in the small English country village where she lives, there's no money for one, or for the race entrance fee or to hire a jockey, since girls are not permit to rides, in England's most illustrious horse race. However, as all dreamers know, these are but minor hurdles when a determined young lady is taking fate for a ride.
Remember Velvet Brown the next time you've got a few obstacles to overcome. If you do, you'll be delighted to discover, as I have, that there are few things in life more I satisfying than accomplishing whatever "they" tell you can't be done.
Since first grade I've held very firm convictions about money, fame, dreams and destiny. The origins of these opinions or how I formed them so early was always a mystery to me, especially since they bore no resemblance to the philosophical fare served up at home. I discovered one of the sources soon after I embarked on my own deeply personal excavation process, as I recalled cherished books from my childhood. Prominent among them was National Velvet. It had been given to me by my favorite aunt, who loved horses and wanted to share her enthusiasm with me. I'd finished the book practically in one sitting and declared, "If Velvet Brown can do it, so can I." It didn't matter that I hadn't a clue as to what my authentic it would be, but horseback riding seemed like a good place to start.
My parents couldn't afford horseback riding lessons and with four children in the family, wouldn't let Aunt Em "play favorites" and pay for them. Coincidentally, a local Girl Scout troop was sponsoring a contest for the most enterprising Brownie, and first prize was free horseback riding lessons. I spent most of that entire year earning extra merit badges. All my hard work was worth it the day Aunt Em took me shopping for my new riding gear, followed by a celebratory lunch. We were both so proud of me; it was one of the happiest days of my life,
Two weeks later, Aunt Em died suddenly of a brain aneurysm; she was only thirty-four. The morning of her funeral I was supposed to take my first riding lesson, I was crushed, heartbroken incredulous; it was like a Fall from Paradise. Now, suddenly, I knew at any moment life, happiness, security, safety, and most of all, love, could be snatched away without warning. I refused to go to her funeral; I insisted that she couldn't be dead, that some dreadful mistake had been made.
And the riding lesson? The prize? Finally I had to make my first conscious choice, an act of self-assertion grounded in my own sense of what was right. I took the lesson. I knew in my heart that Em would have approved, but secretly I wondered what kind of wicked girl would go horseback riding on such a sad occasion. With the earnestness that only the young can bring to any serious endeavor, I threw myself into my first lesson. But as soon as it was over and I walked away from the barn, the tears started and in some ways haven't stopped yet.
Later, when I was twelve and just learning to jump, I fell off my horse; I was shaken but not badly injured. I should have gotten back on the horse immediately, but I didn't. The next week's lesson came and went, but I became afraid and never rode again. I never talked about it, just shrugged it off as if I'd lost interest.
Excerpted from SOMETHING MORE, excerpted with permission of the publisher. Published by Warner Books.
Copyright (c) 1998 Sarah Ban Breathnach.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
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