I’m not even sure what the right thing to say is, but all I can think is that the world lost an amazing person today.
At 12:20am a special friend of mine was taken by cancer.
Michel entered my life when I was no more than eight years old. She was my mom’s boss and friend and then became my riding instructor. I used to call her, “my riding lesson teacher.” She was one hell of an accomplished horsewoman and always tried to teach me how to best my fears. If I was too scared to lope on my own she would wait for me to make my come around then hit Tara on the but for proper encouragement. Tara was a very special horse to me. I lovingly refer to her as my first horse even though she was only mine every Wednesday during the summers, for my lessons. She had a fearlessness worthy of channeling if there was something I felt I couldn’t do. When I doubted myself she knew better and she forced me to prove it to myself.
And she knew how to give a kid a good time, those riding lessons were amazing. My favorite day of the week has always been Wednesday because of the joy it used to bring. We’d travel all over her vast acreage on horseback… The little lake, up and down hills, on the streets, and of course in the arena. I learned so much from posture to hopping over poles. For our last lesson day of the summer we all hung around and gave our horses/ponies (actually I was the only one not on a pony!) a nice bath and I gave Tara her favorite treat – sugar cubes. We followed it up with games including bob for apples and snacks. My brother and sister and I would waste hours playing the original Oregon Trail game on her computer, or playing hide and seek all over the house. And I remember just before we moved is when she first brought home her prized buckskin, Slick. He’s an old timer now but just as beautiful as I remember him. I’ll never forget those days.
I also spent a lot of time at the flower shop when my mom went to work. I made best friends with the shop animals and used to request to clean the litter boxes! I guess I liked to be helpful; I even had a few floral customers of my own. Michel would let me craft my own arrangements and even let people buy them – which they did! It was an exciting and fun thing for me. I even got to know the attic ghost! When I was brave enough to go all the way up there I could swear I saw him too. Sometimes I’d go with her on deliveries which I always liked because the van was so big, it was fun to ride in. That little shop on Elm Street was like a second home to me.
Since leaving Missouri I’ve been back to visit only once and it was emotional and very draining for me for so many reasons, but luckily I did get to go to Washington to visit the shop. And Michel. I asked her about Tara and looked all around the place, remembering every little nook and hideaway I used to play in. All the incredible crafts and floral designs everywhere, and the overwhelmingly nostalgic and comforting smell of the basket room… I was 17 then and I’m 25 now. That was the last time I got to see her in person. Last year for my wedding she was sweet enough to send us wedding party flowers as a gift. I wish I could have hugged her for it. Today the bouquets and corsages are still all over my house as decorations.
I could go on, like about how I had my very first kiss in her kitchen or about the time her shirt flew open at a barrel race and we couldn’t stop laughing… But I won’t. I can’t.
This afternoon I took Arizona out for a ride in Michel’s honor as I will do again this weekend, since I cannot attend her memorial. I hope she felt the wind in my hair from heaven!
Michel was an integral part of my childhood and I’m so very sad she’s gone. I can’t say she lost her life to cancer, because she very much lived in spite of it. So many loved her and called her friend and family and I weep with them all today. I pray that this Saturday, her celebration of life is everything she would want. I hope there are more smiles than tears. I wish I could be there but I’ll be thinking about you. And I’ll think of you anytime I see a pretty bouquet or a bulldog. Say hi to my sweet Tara for me.