Create a Lasting Memory: Take Your Mother to Belmont on Sunday, May 10th.
The reason why you should do this is simple: because I can’t take MY Mother.
Mommy’s deathiversary will be on June 7th, marking 20 years since we were able to bet the ponies together.
Her journey to Heaven’s racing oval took two earthly years–but even as she endured chemo, radiation, poking-and-prodding and myriad indignities and assaults to her self-esteem–the horses and horse racing kept her soul alive.
Her body tried to die several times during those two years of her battle against cancer, but her heart and mind fought Death because she HAD to see the next race on TV. She HAD to bet. She loved horse racing, and even though she knew that she’d finally meet Secretariat once she got on the other side–she longed for Just One More trip to Saratoga.
Mommy took me to the track–Saratoga–for the first time when I was four. That’s the year that I first rode a Quarter Horse at my cousin’s farm. I loved horsies. She loved horses, and me, and was eager to share her love of the sport with me, her only child.
So the races became Our Thing. Even as a teenager and into my 20s, I far-preferred the company of my wonderful Mommy to any friend, as a track companion. Most of my grrrlfriends were more interested in the jockeys, because they were cute. (The two exceptions being Marlaine Schweers, with whom I won my first Real Money on an exacta, and Barbara Potenza, who knew the sport, cold.)
But still, even as a snotty teenager and pompous 20-something–I cherished my time spent at the track with my Mother. I may not always have let on, that I cherished those times–but I’m sure she knew.
Our trips to the track were restricted to Saratoga and the now-dead Green Mountain, in Pownal, Vermont, because we wuz too po’ to travel to Suffolk Downs or Belmont, etc. (I did go to Suffolk Downs many times as a teen, when I visited friends in East Boston.) But Saratoga was our home track, and other than that–Mommy and I watched the races together, at home, on TV when they were on the news.
Last year, the Belmont Stakes took place on her deathiversary. I arrived early, as the sun was rising. I sat there in the cool morning, drinking coffee and crying like a baby. My Mother understood why I couldn’t visit her grave that day–it doesn’t matter, she said, she wasn’t there, anyway. But even then–19 years after she passed–the grief of being at the races without my Racing Buddy was almost more than I could bear.
She died in June, but before she died she made me promise that–even if she died ON the morning of that year’s Travers–I’d go to the races and bet on Thunder Gulch. She loved Thunder Gulch, and knew that he’d win the Travers. So, two months and change after my treasured Mother died, I went alone to Saratoga–I could not stand to be with other humans, and expected to be “chipper.” I went, I bet for her, I won.
So it’s now 2015. Another Mothers’ Day approaches. Every year, Mothers’ Day hurts. It doesn’t matter if I’m 59 or 159, I’ll always be my Mother’s Baby Grrrl. And Mothers’ Day always will cause a prick of pain in my heart, because I can’t hug her–tell her how much I love her–and bet on horses with her.
So I won’t be at Belmont on Mothers’ Day, but you should be. NYRA is going all-out to make sure that your Mommy knows that she’s special. You can relish a spectacularly-delish buffet in the beautiful Garden Terrace, overlooking the track. And you don’t even have to buy flowers for your Mum, as NYRA will give her a red rose when she arrives. 🙂 To purchase tickets, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 888-516-6972. (At this late date, I suggest calling.)
In the Garden Terrace, also, you can participate in a wine tasting, compliments of Kendall-Jackson. (I suggest strongly that you raise your glass of Jess Jackson‘s wine and toast his Big Horses, Curlin and Rachel Alexandra.)
Before lunch and tasting–because you do NOT want to forget!–register on the first floor of the Clubhouse and the Grandstand to win an absolutely stunning Longchamp bag. These bags are so beautiful, you’ll want to buy the whole line after you win your first at Belmont! 🙂
And you have the rare opportunity to do good, while giving your Mother an experience that will send her heart to the moon: Treat Mom to a special experience of watching horses saddle from inside the paddock and then watch a race from the Winner’s Circle. (Now, THAT’s a Mothers’ Day Present!) The cost is $100 per person with all proceeds going to benefit the Racetrack Chaplaincy. 🙂 Call 516-835 -0275 to make reservations.
If you’re not a Clubhouse type–if the Garden Terrace and wine tastings aren’t your style–there’ll be plenty of family-friendly activities in the backyard, including pony rides. (WHAT better way to introduce your Mother’s grandchildren or greats- to the beauty of relationship with The Horse?)
Remember: you’re special, too, for being your Mom’s beloved child and for being cool/savvy/intuitive enough to know that your Mother–regardless of how old she is–still loves horses, and loves horse racing. Why would you take her to Denny’s or a joint she’s been a thousand times, when you can give her an actual experience?
If you’re a fan of horse racing, chances are very good that you inherited that love from your Mother. If you haven’t attended the races together for a while–Sunday is your opportunity to make up for lost time. Take your Mom–take yourself–and make a new memory with the one who gave Life to you, and who introduced you to the joy of our magnificent sport.
You have no idea how much I’d give to be able to watch Tabasco Cat run just one more time with She, Who Gave Me Life. Have a joyous and blessed Mothers’ Day, friends.