Children sometimes have a hard time thinking of their moms as having a life other than the one they have had since the beginning of the child’s life. The only see their mom as being the mom they have always known – whatever that may be. I can remember a time in my life when it occurred to me that my mom had this whole other life before I was born. She grew up on a farm. She had a horse. She drove a tractor. Other than the garden she had with corn literally growing as high as an elephant’s eye, there was little of my life with her that resembled her childhood.
This realization came one day as we were visiting with friends who lived on a compound some way out in the country from our house in the town of Arusha, Tanzania. These friends invited us to ride their horses with them, and we children, being obnoxious teens, sarcastically invited our mother to ride with us. I couldn’t imagine my “old” mother ever having been on a horse, and knew for certain she wouldn’t ride now. On the contrary, my mom said very matter of fact-ly, “Of course I can ride! I used to have my own horse.” Then she confidently swung herself up into the saddle and started galloping off around the side of a building. As she rounded the corner, it looked as if she were ever so slowly listing to the left, and down the side of the horse, saddle and all. We immediately became alarmed and took off running after her. We found her standing next to the horse waving her arms in the air at a nun who had come running from her home nearby to check on this woman who was sliding off a horse. “Are you alright?!” yelled the nun, “Can you do this?” At this point the nun demonstrated by waving her own arms above her head. I am not sure what that was supposed to prove, but whatever it was, it was proved. It appears that whoever had put the saddle on the horse had not secured it, and the quick veer around the building sent it sliding toward the ground. Mom insisted she was fine, but might be a little sore the next day. I imagine she was a little hurt in the pride as well. Because, you see, I have my own, “I had a life before you” story that ended much the same way, only worse.
When my children got old enough, we signed them up for various sports and dance classes. I can remember clearly one day being out in the yard with my younger boys kicking the soccer ball around with them. I am sure they thought I was nothing but an old mom who had never had a life besides the one I was living with them right then. The truth is that when I was in high school I had played on an inter-mural soccer team, and I fancied myself to be pretty darn good. At least that is how I remembered it. I am sure I was remembering those days of younger year when I went to give the soccer ball an expert kick, only to find that I had managed to kick both legs out from under me to land squarely on my back staring up at the sun. I remember Strokeman (Mr. Athletic Personified) coming over to look down at me and saying, “Be careful there, you might hurt yourself.” He was laughing inside, but I wasn’t. I had hurt myself, and I was done.
I DID have a life before kids, I DID! Well, it’s over now, and all that is left are these moments to remember.