I wanted to be a cowgirl.
No, seriously. I did. The real deal, too: Gold-tipped boots and leather chaps and a button-up pastel shirt to accent my long, beautiful neck and fabulous hat.
My father had taken me to a rodeo when I was about ten, and every detail bulges crisp in my memory: The sun precise and perfect, the sky an untouched blue. It was the type of summer day that was a gift, all by itself, existing to make magic. At the rodeo, I watched the cowgirls especially closely, the big hats and confident footfalls; the dusty, glittery jeans; the red lips and shimmery hair.
On the way home, we listened to a cassette of the Dan Seals song Everything that Glitters. We sang along—my father on harmony, me on melody at the very tip-top of my lungs. The song was about a cowboy’s lost love, which sounded melodramatic and super-awesome. I thought I’d like being the kind of efficacious cowgirl capable of eliciting that kind of country song.
So I decided I’d go ahead and be a cowgirl.
I had a horse, which gave the whole thing some oomph. I got home and started working to turn her from a regular old horse into a rodeo horse. My father was kind enough to find three big medal barrels, which we placed in the pasture, just so, and I put my horse through hours of barrel-racing practice. I saved all my money for a good hat and a bridle with shiny silver trappings. I didn’t bother saving for a saddle—good ones were hundreds of dollars—but I sure dreamed about it. I did my best with the creaky, dried-out saddle I actually did own, rubbing Feibing’s saddle soap over it relentlessly, hoping it would turn into a something worthy of a rodeo queen.
The dream faded, as many dreams do, and before leaving for college, I sold my horse to an Amish kid who came to pick her up with a handful of twenties underneath his hat. It was enough money to buy me a semester of textbooks. He was impish; I was solemn. I ached to clutch my mare’s neck and sob. Instead, awkwardly, I asked if he wanted to buy my saddle, too. He said no. He leapt on, clean and graceful, and rode away, bareback, which was something I thought she’d only let me do, but he did it nonchalantly, as if my horse had always been his, which broke my heart into a shattering of pieces.
I bet that old saddle is still in the barn somewhere.
I’m a long, long way from being a cowgirl these days. I’m a suburban mom and a school principal and other things, too, instead. This isn’t a lament; it’s just a remark on growing up. It’s the way things are.
Dreams turn into possibilities, which turn into options, which turn into choices.
I like to think about those early dreams, though, because the imaginings of the young are so irresistibly inspiring. I like thinking about kids and their dreams—the potential and promises of imagination without limitations. I wish we could bottle all those dreams into the air and release it into the earth.
Because wouldn’t that be something to see? What would happen if it flipped? If our choices could match our fiercest dreams? It's something to think about, is it not?