I remember driving into the parking lot, and the "Gold Buckle" lot, which meant first row of the VIP parking. When did we ever have that before?
We crossed the street, and there was Jeremy. We walked around, and saw the draft horses. The photographer from CBS4 called me and we arranged to meet in the Petting Zoo area.
I remember walking for what seemed like hours to find the Pettin Zoo area in the Hall of Education and glimpsing a carousel, the Nuggets head coach, and many many cowboys. I had no notion that the Stock Show was this large. The three of us were a bit lost and kept walking walking walking.
Then we got to the Petting Zoo and I called the photographer to say we were there only to discover he really meant for us to meet him at the Adventureland for children, but I had no idea where that was so I made him come to us.
He was very nice, and we shot a short segment. Thank the gods I was not on film (except for my legs).
We walked the miles and miles (symbolic miles, of course) back to the coliseum where the rodeo was, and along the way Brody ate a footlong hot dog and a big pretzel.
We connected with the Shriners and we met the Potentate and his aide and the medical staff and their wives, the men all wearing decorated and sparkly fez hats. We chatted about Brody and what the surgeons did for him and us. Most of them are board members at the Salt Lake hospital where we go, and we told them how it's like visiting family now when we see the nurses and cafeteria staff and anesthesiologists and surgeons.
Then Jack, one of the Shriners, took us behind the scenes at the rodeo. Down the rows of the seats, down the sloping walkway to the underground, we were behind the ropes, and we walked onto the dirt underground arenas where the horses and men practiced, and the beauty queens pranced on their horses.
And then there were stalls, and more cowboys and more Shriners. Every one of them was so welcoming, not just to Brody but to Jeremy and me. Kind, and excited with and for us. Jeremy and I do not often feel impressed, but we were then. One cowboy took us out farther from the stalls to get our credentials. We left Brody with the Shriners. I don't know which was more shocking: that we left him with strangers, or that he let us.
There was a trailer in the very back, where the contestants went to sign up for each event. More cowboys signing up for roping and bull riding. And us, signing release forms. We got our credentials and because Brody is so little, he got a number to wear on his back, just like the real cowboys.
We trudged back through the stalls to the row where Brody and the Shriners cowboys were, and he had already ridden Trigger! I couldn't believe they did it without us, so they did it again. And Trigger looked exactly when I needed him to for the best picture. Love that horse.
Then the cowboys took Brody from stall to stall, explaining who each horse was and what he or she liked.
Then we went back to our seats, and the rodeo began.
Brody did not exactly care for the pyrotechnic booms and fireworks that started the show; I could tell because of his clinging and terrified crying.
It stopped, the lights came on, I told him the bombs were over. He turned and was mesmerized.
Then it was our turn to be led back down, past the rows of people wondering who we were that we got to go down and under and down past security . . .
We entered the holding area for the rodeo and you know when you read "the air was thick with excitement." Well, I understand that now. The horses and humans were each and all animated, moving constantly around us, cantering, trotting, turning, talking as we walked toward two beautiful, enormous, gleaming black horses in the middle of all of this movement, leading a white carriage. The horses snorted and stomped their hooves and the carriage moved a foot forward and back a few times as we were all climbing in, and instead of being nervous or frightened, we were thrilled, Brody on my lap and Jeremy's arm around us...
I had the odd thought that there were no car seats in carriages....
Then we lurched forward and it was fast. I think the horses were only trotting, but it was faster than I thought. And smoother. Rhythmic.
The sea of cowboys parted for us and we moved through the low tunnel and the horses seemed as happy as we were, anxious to see the crowds and hear the applause, and suddenly we were in the wide open brightness of the arena, surrounded by stands of people, and I could hear the announcer reading my words, except he added "Now this is Brody, and listen to this, listen folks. . . " and then something about being born without thumbs, and Shriners moving his index fingers into thumb position, and then his words drowned out as we moved down the line of faces smiling and waving at us.
I could hear applause and see them waving at us, more than I thought they would, and as the announcer read through my words, people clapped even more, and I think I saw a few of them them looking at their own hands and trying to get a better look at Brody's, Brody who was just as in awe as we were, Brody who was so brave he waved and smiled at everyone from my lap and me, glad for Jeremy's arm around me to hold me up, me smiling ear to ear while my eyes welled up with tears because this, this moment took my breath away because I realized all over again how fortunate, blessed, loved and unique Brody is, and we are, and how if he had been born with 10 fingers and radius bones, we would not be reveling in this surreal, bizarre experience.
I remember when we passed in front of the Shriners section, and they all stood up and roared to us, and I blew them a kiss and stopped trying to stop my tears and then we lapped back into the tunnel and I couldn't stop smiling, and I didn't try, and I had this undeniable urge to kiss Jeremy senseless and squeeze Brody breathless, and so I did, and then I kissed a few Shriners too.