We saw Secretariat the other night. From the first few moments, I had tears in my eyes. I reached for Jim’s hand as he turned his face toward me, both of us remembering.
It wasn’t so long ago that the big red horse swept the news and found a place in our hearts. It wasn’t so long ago that I taught kids who thought of Belmont Race Track as home. The school was only a stone’s throw from that world of gorgeous horses. In back, were the huge white stables with neat vegetable gardens, hens wandering, and sleek cats who were fed as well as the horses.
I was a reading teacher and many of my students read years below their grade level. They could explain odds and past performances though. They knew jockeys and handicapping and speed figures. Sometimes I taught reading through the sports section of the newspaper.
So Secretariat, that wonderful movie, brought back my own memories of Belmont. As I watched , I pictured sunny afternoons when I had finished teaching for the day. Jim, a young policeman, would have finished his eight-to-four tour. Married only a few weeks, we’d meet there at Belmont, to watch the last few races. We’d stand at the railing holding hands, the wind blowing in our faces, the dust coming up at us as the horses raced by a few feet away, the jockeys in their colorful silks.
Fifty years later, we still go down to Belmont sometimes and hold hands at the railing. And so I wondered. Did we both love that movie because of our connection to Belmont, to the love of that horse? Did it add that extra dimension?
Everything for me is connected to the writing. And I’m reminded that it’s not only the story that matters, it’s the reader’s connection to it. So I picture my young readers as I write, hoping they’ll find something of themselves in my books. I can never forget that.
All kids love horses. I suggest you take one by the hand and go to see Secretariat. I may go again myself.