We had a handsome little boy, who in November would be 7 years old. A beautiful surprise package arrived in September the same year. We named her Marcia…her 2nd name was Inez (a 3rd generation name in my family)…her other name was Joan (Juanita, her Chilean grandmother's name). She was “spirited” and as she grew, developed a strong sense of independence. My doctor classified her as being hyper-kinetic. By age 2, she had blonde loose wavy hair, luminous chocolate brown eyes and a personality that, combined with her prettiness, would melt anyone's heart.
Her play clothes were always “number shirts” and jeans or pants. Such was her obsession with number shirts, that she would often accompany me to the laundry room to remove the shirt being worn and remain bare-chested until it and her other various number shirts were removed from the dryer.
Frequently, we exchanged friendships with a Chilean family who had 2 daughters older than Marcia. By age three, she would dress herself, knowing what the expectations of her were, when expecting company or visiting friends. One memorable Sunday, we were invited to Aurea's home for the afternoon and for dinner. She went upstairs “to dress” for the occasion. She was not ready by the appointed time. I called her, requesting that she come downstairs in five minutes. This did not occur! Very firmly, I told her we'd get a “sitter” and leave without her...or to come immediately! In a moment, she descended the stairs, still clad in jeans and “number shirt”, carrying a small bag. “Where is your dress and shoes?”, I asked her. “In my bag, Mommy...I'll change when we get there.”
We greeted our friends, then gathered together in their spacious Living Room. Then came “the floor show”. Removing her shoes first, she proceeded to strip off her shirt and jeans, standing with only her panties on. Then, reaching into her bag, she retrieved a light pink dress which she donned. Sitting on the floor, she “socked” her feet in pink and white, then her shoes. Standing up, she placed the jeans, shirt and runners in the bag, bringing it to me. “See, Mommy, I told you I would change here.” Throughout the “show”, we adults watched with interest...the girls smiled...her older brother was totally mystified about his sister's innocent behaviour…her father was not amused!
Her favourite foods were chocolate chip cookies and ketchup. It was not unusual for me to find an Oreo cookie package with only the wafers inside...all icing totally removed. Breakfast was not on her menu for the day...unless French fries, pizza, eggs or toast...these were predestined to be smothered with ketchup!
Like any three year old, she had her temper tantrums, Often laying on the floor, banging her feet and flailing her arms. Frequently, I would leave the room. This angered her that I was not present for her display of displeasure...since her actions wouldn’t achieve the results she intended.
This little girl did not “sleep through the night” until she was four years old. When a baby, I was frequently with her during the night hours. At this age, I would now leave a small light on in her bedroom and place on her small table, a picture book, play dough, also crayons and paper. I encouraged her to play quietly when she wakened during the night. She'd still come to my bedroom, “Mommy, I'm awake.” Then I'd take her hand, leading her to her room to play for a little while. When she was sleepy, she’d climb back into bed to further her sleep.
It was the habit of my husband's when he returned from work each day, to lounge on the chesterfield with the daily newspaper. Solving the crossword puzzles was a daily ritual...occasionally becoming frustrated with his inability to complete them. Marcia heard his comments, asking, “What's your problem, Daddy?” “It's too difficult today”, he answered. Several days later, she met him at the door with a partial piece of that day's newspaper...”I brought you the crossword puzzle today.” Looking at it, he smiled and said, “But you didn't give me the whole puzzle.”... to which she replied, “Daddy, I cut it in half so it wouldn’t be so difficult.”
In the summer, we'd frequently go to the beach with sand pails and shovels, beach balls, a cooler with refreshing cold drinks, sandwiches and fruit. Marcia disliked suits with straps, so until she was a teen, I bought 2-piece bathing suits for her....with only the lower part being worn. This was her freedom! Once at Wasaga Beach, she was fascinated with the red ladybugs she discovered in the sand...loving them as they playfully crawled over her fingers and hands...amazing what amuses small children!
Another piece of drama occurred in Kindergarten. In May, an invitation came for Mothers to attend a special program to honour Mothers' Day. Usually, I was well dressed for any special occasion. However, on this morning , I had an early tennis match with the intention of returning home to change my clothes....but ran out of time. I considered my casual appearance to be acceptable...powder blue knit tennis dress with matching socks and white shoes. With a quick look in the car mirror, I repaired my make-up and with brush and comb, restyled my hair...then a dab of spray cologne.
I entered the Kindergarten classroom, greeted by a “Hostess Child” who gave me a hand-crafted crown (made by each child) and asked whether I had a Prince or Princess in the room. Miss Hostess went to Marcia, who with one look...totally ignored me! Finally, Colin, a neighbour with whom she played at home (and whose Mother, Heather was a friend) came to carry out “the ritual” as practised. He went to the refreshment table to bring me a “Pink Lady” and invited me to have “special sandwiches”, cookies and cake. Marcia's attitude surprised me! Heather explained that I was not dressed as my daughter expected and therefore pretended not to know me.
She was a challenging...but delightful child who needed activities to fill her time and capture her attention and interest! First, it was gymnastics at which she excelled. When the Gymnastics Club for Girls invited her to join their Club to practise for their teams, this was NOT for her! Then it was roller skating until her interest “ran its course”. Jazz and tap dance held her engaged for about one year. She took modelling classes both as a child and later in her teens (which developed poise and confidence when on stage or hostessing many business and cultural social events.)
The activity that for her had any longevity, was “riding”. With a friend her age, they spent two weeks at day camp at Bertin Stables in nearby Oakville...she was 8, almost 9 years old. The following year we bought a pony (unknown to her). Jim, the Stables owner selected this bay with black tail and mane for her, named Richmond Rose (in honour of Rose, a long-time Virginia friend of Jim and Sandra's.)
Jim Bertin brought “Richie” in a horse trailer to our street and home. I was waiting for Jean-Paul to arrive (supposedly) to drive him and her to the Stables. Marcia was SO EXCITED when Mr. Bertin opened the trailer leading Richie out wearing a new saddle and banner, reading “Happy Birthday, Marcia”. She was permitted to give the neighbour children rides on Her Pony up and down the street. The Burlington Post sent a journalist and photographer to cover this ‘community story.’ She loved Richmond Rose and was totally dedicated to his grooming and training. This was the beginning of her several years’ journey into the equestrian world! Within a year, she outgrew Richie...we sold him to another family. Buying a trained horse was not affordable; Jim would find suitable ones that would be an asset to the Stables as riding horses...always keeping in mind the needs of his better riders.
Sundash was a registered thoroughbred...nervous at the starting gates as a race horse, thus rejected. Jim spoke with me about her, believing this horse to be too feisty for Marcia. But for my daughter, this was “Love at First Sight”. Extremely spirited, Sundash had to be run on a long lead for 5 to 10 minutes before anyone could attempt to ride her. She was a chestnut with white blaze on her forehead and white stockings. With Jim's assistance, they trained her to jump...and Jump she did...like a Deer! Neal Bertin, Marcia's age was the only other student rider who could handle and control this horse...each had a “sixth sense” about the “partnership and communication relationship” between horse and rider!
The Bertins were constantly in contact with other Stables, both locally and in United States for reciprocal weekend meets for designated age categories of children and teens. When our riders travelled, they rode the other Stables' horses and were billeted in the homes of the riders of this host Stable. Ribbons and awards were presented together with an exchange of small flags. These taught the protocol as expected of all riders in this world of “equestrian events.” When other Stables returned here, we had the privilege of billeting their riders....who also had an opportunity prior to the Saturday and Sunday shows to “try out our horses” for an ability match. How exciting to perform in New York (outside Buffalo), in Virginia, Florida, Texas. Exchange meets were also arranged in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Colombia. At none of these, were parents allowed to go.
The highlight of her “riding career” was in Caracas, Venezuela...an age category of 14 years and under where 9 countries were competing. The Canadian Equestrian Federation had already assigned a rider to attend...but upon arrival there, it was discovered the rider was now 15 and therefore disqualified. Jim Bertin's friend from Puerto Rico telephoned him on a Sunday morning asking if he could send a couple riders. The competition would begin on Wednesday with the selection of horses for the riders; actual events began Thursday, ending on Sunday with a Grand Prix. Jim's wife, Sandra was taking Neal and requested Marcia to go...these two would be strong contenders. (I needed to obtain a Passport for her and permission from her father to leave the country). Sandra could get her on the plane when she and Neal were flying on Monday from Toronto, but not into Venezuela. I had to retrieve Marcia at the airport. Being early December, I stopped at Duncan & Wright Camera shop for Passport Photos that late evening; next day I applied for the Passport in Hamilton explaining the dire necessity of it; I booked her flight for Wednesday with “hopes”. At 4:30 Tuesday afternoon, amazingly, there was her Passport! At age 14, she flew on Wednesday to Miami and from there, connected a flight to Caracas to be met by Sandra.
On Wednesday, Neal selected a horse suitable for Marcia...actually they each would ride a horse of equal temperaments...and “spirited” of course. Together they achieved well, placing Second among the 9 countries. Sunday was Grand Prix Day! Marcia was shocked to view the course! She had never handled jumps of this size and dimension! The Puerto Rico coach was a calming influence, looking after these 2 Canadian riders. Communicating with her horse, patting his neck and his velvety nose, she said to him, “We can win this together, can’t we? You trust Me…and I’ll trust You!”
The first round for all riders, challenged them to complete a set of 14 or 15 various jumps within a given time limit. Those who have a “clean round” (no faults…i.e. with rails down or over the time or refusals by the horse to jump) would then participate in a “jump off” which is a shortened course of possibly 5 or 6 jumps. The Winner is the rider with the fewest “faults” and the fastest time!
With her fabulous horse, they won the Sunday event! She was emotionally overwrought with this challenging course, and with what she and her horse accomplished. They brought home a few engraved silver plates...of course the big 30 inch silver trophy was in Marcia's hands. News of their success was spread across several local newspapers with their story and pictures. It was a miracle that we were able to arrange a passport and travel within a couple days to Venezuela!
To be a “Jumper” demands “determination, spirit and guts” combined with riding skills and knowledge of the course (jumps in the order to be ridden). Foremost, is the “trust and communication” between the rider and the horse beneath the saddle.
To subsidize the cost of riding, she was teaching ”pony privates” to younger children and private lessons to teens and adults; often she accompanied them to local shows as their coach. A steady job it was even cleaning stables and tack. Occasionally, she assisted Mrs. Bertin in the Office.
Following High School, she attended College then worked for an investment firm as a financial planner.
Today, she is happily married, living in the rural area of West Lincoln. Their ranch home is nestled on 23 acres of gently rolling land with trees and Chippewa Creek at the rear of their property. They have a little boy who just completed Kindergarten. He loves Sports! Jacob has “athletic genes” from both parents. This summer he is playing soccer!
A few years ago, she asked if I could replace the buttons on her jacket.
“Marcia, you are very capable of doing this yourself. Why me?”
With a smile on her face, ”Because…You're the Mom!”
It was a great pleasure to assure myself, “I am her Mom...and She is my Daughter”
forever…through Life...and still often being “needed”.
“Mothers hold their daughters' hands for a little while
and then their hearts forever.”
Merle Baird-Kerr…originally written August 1, 2010
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