There’s a woman who moved into my building in late October and just lately she’s been showing up in the lobby and other public places on campus. She’s always dressed immaculately, usually in a white starched shirt with a black sweater over top, the shirt collar perfectly framing her face and head of short red hair. She wears beige riding pants and tall, black boots and does so with the grace and confidence of someone who doesn’t have an ounce of fat on her body. She’s eighty-six. I don’t know how she gets her shirts to look as stiff as cardboard and as white as newly fallen snow but I intend to find out. Who says old people can’t have goals. It takes something I don't have to have a signature look but I want to be that person with a style sense so uniquely me that it makes others smile. Instead my style is uniquely fashioned by whatever I can find that fits and isn’t stained at any given moment in time. (The yummy soups they serve here are killing my wardrobe.)
She and I happened to both be at the cafe` counter at the same time waiting for them to open and we struck up a conversation that carried us all the way into the dining area and was extended by email once we finished our long lunch. And get this, she was dressed like an equestrian because that’s what she used to do before moving here from Tennessee. She had a horse she had to give up---the hardest part about the move---but her veterinary adopted him and sends her photographs and updates her on how he’s doing which helps, knowing her horse has a good home.
The Red Rider for lack of a better name moved here with her husband to be close to their son but two weeks after the move her husband had a stroke, lingered in the hospital awhile then spent several weeks in the Hospice building here on campus before passing away which explains why she hasn’t been around this part of the campus much. Between unpacking and being with her husband during the days, then packing his stuff back up again after the funeral she’s far behind the rest of us in the socializing and settling in department.
We bonded over talking about the 'Heartland' series on Netflix. We are both binge-watching it. I’m on season nine of thirteen and she’s not far behind. For those who don’t know the show it’s filmed in Canada and centers around a horse ranch and a teenaged girl who is known as the Miracle Girl, a sort of Horse Whisperer. Each hour-long episode is about a horse with a problem that she helps its owner (her client) work out. Red Rider tells me the bond between horses and humans and the training sessions portrayed in the series are absolutely authentic and I shared with her the fact that when I was a teen I had a crush on a boy whose dad had horses for rent but my romance was a non-starter because every time we’d go on a trail ride the insides of my legs and thighs would break out in hives.
I told her that we have riding stables around here but she said at her age it was time to give up riding anyway but she’s like to find a volunteer situation that involves working with horses. Before moving I happened to have lived near a place that specializes in therapy equestrian riding. A big place that helps nearly 200 people a week from 2 to 100 ride for therapy. My niece on my husband’s side goes there and we’d seen her ride. She’s completely wheelchair bound with MS and she positively glows when they put her on a horse. It’s exactly the kind of place Red Rider was looking for and she has experience volunteering at a similar place back in Tennessee.
If I was ten I would have gone home after lunch, flew through the back door, letting it slam shut which annoyed my mom like no other thing my ten year old self could do and I would have excitedly told her about the new friend I just made. I would have told her how we made easy conversation and have plans to meet for dinner on Saturday where I’ll show her the ropes of how to get seated at the table for singles eating alone. But the grown up me hopes she’ll stays my friend after she meets all the other ladies around here who are far more in her class of classy people. Have I mentioned that I’m the forth fattest person on campus? Okay, okay I know I should tell myself that being over weigh doesn’t cancel out being classy---exhibit A, look at Oprah---but January (when I started writing this) is when all fatty-two-by-fours beat themselves up. Fortunately January will be over by the time this post goes live and I will have moved on to obsessing about my dry skin. I'm as predictable has as the sun rising in the east and setting in the west. ©