July 16, 2010
Justin bounds out of the office with his awkward march, his steps slightly staggered, much like hiccups. His hand is firmly enveloped in the fierce grip of the camp director because there are horses in close proximity, and she wants him to be safe. I watch as he slows his pace to make a careful descent down the moderate incline of the barn’s ramp, and eventually comes to a complete stop in front of me and my mother. We are perched eagerly on our unforgiving bench, trying to maneuver cameras and video recorders into perfect position as we wait for the event to begin. I have a moment when anxiety, my ever-present companion, washes over me when he releases his teacher’s hand and grabs mine to lead him from this place, but I quickly evade his grasp, and he complies with the command of the director. I regard him as he ascends a far steeper slope that will gain him access to the mounting area, and breathe a sigh of relief as I realize he will not protest this decision, and will indeed wait patiently for his equine friend. Next to me, I feel my mother visibly relax as well.
Today is the culmination of a week’s worth of activities for my son, ranging from acquiring grooming techniques, to feeding the horses, to expanding on his repertoire of riding tricks. I am proud of him for participating in this event, but feel far more pride that he has once again acclimated to something new, something far removed from his usual lexicon of activities. In the weeks to come my son will be participating in two new camps, attending a brand new school, and of course begin the journey of forging new relationships with all the primary and ancillary employees associated with these new locales. Since Justin does form emotional bonds with those around him, I wonder if he will regret losing access to those he cared for, will find it arduous to begin again. I believe he will be excited by the new experiences, but perhaps will mourn the connections to staff, the emotional ties that were integral both to his progress, and his happiness. I accept that I can only guess at his feelings. I may never truly know.
But for this moment, as he swings his growing frame over the saddle and clutches the reins tightly, I vow not to think such thoughts, to sequester my trepidation at the impending changes, my sadness at the necessity of goodbyes. Instead, I watch my son flash his brilliant smile at his mother and grandmother as he performs, his vocal utterances in perfect rhythm with the stride of his animal. My mother places her hand on my arm, and squeezes it tightly. And for the next few minutes there is just this, the joy of accomplishment, and my inherent pride in my boy. For once, I permit myself peace.