For those of you who may be wondering just who the woman is driving the harness horse in the 1940’s era picture on my home page, and why it’s there, I’ll share it with you. It’s my mom, Barbara Jean Foster. She would have been 90 years old this month. She’s been gone about 9-1/2 years now.
I thought I’d talk a few moments to talk about her, and about why most of the pictures on this blog are from the past.
That particular picture is from a race she won in Massachusetts. Mom was one of 3 female professional harness horse drivers in the state at the time. And while she lived in Rhode Island, she wasn’t allowed to race against the men in her state. Why did she want to race against the men? Well it isn’t much of a race if you only have a few others to race against. There just weren’t a lot of women interested in the sport at the time. And she wanted to earn some money, doing what she loved.
Every time I see this picture, it reminds of the strong confident woman she was at this particular point in time. She was 18. She was headstrong and didn’t take no for an answer. I think my Grandfather had something to do with that. Up until the time her parents divorced, my Mom spent a lot to time with her Dad. They were both outdoorsy and active.
After the divorce, even though my Mom was an adult, Grandmother kept a tight reign, and Grandfather was slowly pushed out of the picture. When they moved to the West Coast, it was many years before she saw her Dad again.
Grandmother was always there, guiding her, pushing her, controlling her. She slowly lost her confidence and her drive. She married my Dad, and I think she was happy, but Dad was easy going and didn’t really stand up to Grandmother either. Grandmother remarried, and that gave them a little space, from the time I was born until I was about 9 years old.
These were the fun times. I have a ton of pictures from my growing up. There were more of my sister, Betty, but she was there first, so I understand. My Grandmother adored Betty. She sent her to ice skating school, put her in beauty pageants, and tried to mold her. My sister was headstrong, too. She had a mind of her own and didn’t listen to anyone. But she was a pretty child, and she was first in Grandmother’s eyes.
Me, I was a different story. I was quiet and introverted. She accepted me, but that was it. I got no special attention from her. There were no bonding moments. Grandmother would call me by my cousin’s name, Randy. We were both born on the same day, so I guess she thought she was being cute. But it hurt my feelings. Every time I would try to say something like, “No, my name is Beverly,” Mom would tell me to shush, and say, “don’t rock the boat.”
When Grandmother died, Mom began to struggle even more. You would have thought that just the opposite would have happened, because she was now free of being controlled. But I think because she had lost her spirit, she felt more alone. She divorced my Dad, and started dating a man who was even more controlling than her mother.
She never married him, but stayed with him for the rest of her life. Betty was in college when they met, so it was just Mom and me. He didn’t treat either of us well. I’ll leave it at that. I hated the man and tried to keep away from him as much as I could. He was another spirit breaker, so Mom didn’t really stand a chance against him.
At the time, I couldn’t understand why she stayed, or what was so great about him. I encouraged her to leave many times, but she always stood her ground. There were times when I didn’t speak to her for years, because of things that man had done, and her choosing to stand beside him.
Looking back, I can understand it all now. I still don’t like it, but I understand it. After her time racing, despite all of her success, once her spirit was broken, she just didn’t feel worthy of anything better than what she had. In her mind, even a crummy “known” life seemed a better choice than an “unknown” one of uncertainties.
I wish she could have understood that she would have been fine; even great, with out him.
There will be people in this life who will try to smother your spirit. They will try to force you to be who they think you are. Maybe they even think they are doing for your own good.
Only you know what’s right for you.
Only you can say what choice is best. Even if the choice goes wrong, it’s your learning experience, and your life.
My Mom, despite thinking otherwise, left me a great legacy. She left me knowing that we choose our life. We can choose to live it in any way we want. We can live in a way that nourishes our spirit, or we can stifle that, and live a partial life. She showed me a partial life. And taught me not to want that.
So I keep this picture at the forefront of my blog. It reminds me of strength and courage and determination. But it also reminds me that you have to stay courageous, even when you don’t feel that way. That you sometimes have to rock the boat a little, to make yourself heard. Because, if you don’t, you might lose a little part of your self. And when that happens often enough, you might lose your way back to the awesomely courageous person you really are meant to be.