July 03, 2017

The Cavalry

As newlyweds, I learned the importance of compromise in a marriage.  

First lesson learned - there would need to be compromise with the television.

You see, I learned my husband and I were television-incompatible.

I liked HGTV, and he liked. . . I honestly don't remember, but it wasn't HGTV.

We settled on a "compromise" channel, the History Channel.

I learned a lot about history in those early years of our marriage and a little phrase has stayed with me since, 

"Here comes the Cavalry!"

In battles, the cavalry often were a critical component to win the battle.  Cavalry were critical to be quick to get where needed, secure best ground, set up the infantry to be in the best position possible to battle and provide reinforcement and relief when infantry were battered and weary.

When I had a gaggle of little children at home I used to enthusiastically say to myself, "I am the cavalry!"  I had a busy mommy life with 5 young children (that were ages 7 and under), I had a husband working long hours - often leaving for work by 6:30 in the morning and home after 10pm.  It was me - the army of one.  I knew that when I was tired or stressed or going crazy (or usually all three) that I was the one that would need to assess need, be the problem-solver and would be the only one there when need called to provide the reinforcements.  In the thick and throes of motherhood, I had to find the strength, roll up my sleeves and solve the problem.  My mid-day mantra whisperings of "I am the cavalry!" was an encouraging reminder to myself that I had the ability to get through the challenges before me and conquer the day.

A few years later, my battleground changed.  Those earlier daily challenges of potty-training failings, wall-coloring, raisins stuck up the nose, puking in the car, sleepless nights, crocodile tears, knocking ketchup bottles off grocery shelves, boo-boo's and spilled milk transformed into something else.

They evolved into the challenges of Special.  Special challenges include all of the above, on a much larger scale, with the addition of sleepless years, backbreaking physical requirements, strains to the body, mind, pocketbook and calendar, and guilt to make a wonderful childhood for the other children.  We were fighting daily battles, however we found ourselves deep in the trenches - tired, weary and little room for hope.  

My self-affirmation, "I am the cavalry" lost its effectiveness, because in my new journey of Special, I was no longer certain I could summon the strength to overcome the challenges before me.

I was no longer the cavalry.

But the cavalry still arrived.

The cavalry came in the form of others, coming in to bring reinforcements to me.  And, like it must have been for those weary infantry, the cavalry -- my cavalry are a sight for sore eyes.

My cavalry has come in the form of a friend bringing a chocolate shake on a bad day or a friend showing up on our doorstep and asking for the keys to our lawn mower (and not accepting no for an answer) to mow our lawn so Alan could have some time with his family when he got home late from work.  It has come in many other small but critical waves, including Jill's House.

Cavalry has come in the form of Jill's House - Bridger's respite lodge.  Jill's House has been a large cavalry brigade that allows Alan and I (and our other children) a weekend of rest each quarter.  I cannot describe the feeling of rest and relief we experience in our home that Saturday morning when Bridger is enjoying his time at Jill's House.  It is the feeling of peace compacted and condensed into rich, relaxing moments when he is not screaming for us before the sun comes up and his list of demands and needs begins.

Jill's House gives rest to the weary and wounded.  I often linger in the thick leather sofas after I check Bridger in and watch the other exhausted parents enter with their excited child and their overnight bag in tow.  I recognize the weariness in their faces and also recognize the look in the parents eyes after they hug their child "good-bye" for the weekend and they look gratefully upon the attendants that lovingly take their child back to their room.  It is the look a tired soldier would give to his heroic cavalry brigade.

That is why I was honored to speak the week before last at one of their major annual fundraisers, the Jill's House Ride.

Pictures cannot do justice to the sight of 350+ purring motorcycles riding in a powerful pack from Manassas, VA (a fitting location to this analogy with its rich history in Civil War battles)  to Jill's House in Vienna, flanked on either end by a team of police officers on their bikes.  They pulled into the parking garage waving to our greeting of cheers.  And, prone to spells of lachrymosity as I am, my eyes became quite leaky at the power sight of those roaring bikes pulling in as my family and I stood waving.

During the lunch to follow.  Bridger proudly accepted the check on behalf of Jill's House for over $135,000 that they raised that day.

I then began my remarks by telling those riders something they probably didn't want to hear.

I told them they were beautiful.

I know when you see large packs of power bikes, with men and women covered in studded leather, with beards and heavy boots, tattoos, belt buckles and such, that the words that come to mind might be cool, tough, awesome, fierce. . .

But that afternoon, in that moment, they were beautiful, and I told them so.  I think they felt it, too.

They were beautiful at that moment as they came riding to benefit Jill's House, because they became my cavalry, and the cavalry to everyone of my dear friends that loves Jill's House and all it represents just as much as I do.

Through my challenging experiences in my last decade since our Special journey began, I have learned to listen closely for the same voice that comes to my mind as it did in those early years in motherhood that says, "I Am the cavalry."  

The difference now -- I realize that I am not the one whispering it.