Today is my Dad’s birthday. He’s 85. On Wednesday my mother turns...well, let's just say a certain venerable age. Tomorrow I will go back to work after a two week rest (if you call Christmas a “rest!”). I am looking forward to it, the way I always looked forward to the start of each academic year with its new pencils, notebooks, classes, teachers, and expectations. For a precious moment, you stand at the brink of possibility. It’s like the beginning of a romance. Intriguing. Exciting. All roses and rosy, before the blooms droop and the leaves curl. Inevitably, they do, however. That’s where my mom and dad come in.
My father, Robert Kinloch Massie was born in 1929 in Lexington, Kentucky. At a young age, he showed an interest in history and, according to his third grade report card, “mesmerized his classmates with his retelling of the lives and exploits of famous historic figures.” Not surprisingly, he became a writer, a biographer, specifically, and has riveted his readers over the years describing the life and times of such formidable personages as Peter the Great, Catherine the Great, Nicholas and Alexandra, the last tsar and tsarina of Imperial Russia, as well as the international movers and shakers of the First World War. Currently he is working on a book about Napoleon and Josephine. When I was a teenager, I asked him why he was so fascinated with history.
|A great dad!|
“People make history, not the other way around. I want to know and to share what characteristics and life circumstances mold the individuals who commit to and bring about the change that alters the world.”
I got it. Be the change you wish to see in the world.
My mother, Suzanne Massie, the daughter of a diplomat and born in the United States, has dual nationality—Swiss and American—and grew up with a foot on either side of the Atlantic. Genetics and geography aside, her heart and soul are Russian. She didn’t know this until her mid thirties when she and my father went to the U.S.S.R. for the first time. But once she realized it, she never looked back, immersing herself in the language, history, and culture of her adoptive home country. When we lived in France (1968-1972) , she traveled back and forth several times a year to the Soviet Union, compiling, writing and publishing her first book, The Living Mirror, Five Young Poets from Leningrad. She made many friends in Russia and became a student of the times, too many friends, and too good a student, in fact. Before long she was no longer permitted to enter the country.
For years she tried to go back, approaching anyone and everyone about getting a visa. I wish I could say that she never lost the faith. She did. A bunch. It was bleak at times. But I suppose one can lose faith from time to time, but perhaps not hope if one’s passion is great enough? Invariably after each spell in the shadows my mother would reemerge to try again, and again, and again. Until finally, Ronald Reagan was elected President and he started bandying about the moniker “The Evil Empire,” when speaking about Mom’s beloved country.
|Mom and Reagan in the Oval Office|
That was it. The call to be the change she wanted to see in the world was clarion clear to her. Like a laser, she beamed her way right into the Oval Office. (She always said one was only two phone calls away from meeting anyone!) Over many meetings and several years, she talked to the President about the Russian perspective from the street up and the Kremlin down.
He listened. He asked questions. He respected her and sent her on some private diplomatic missions, all of which she funded out of her own pocket. She always came back to him with invaluable insights to share such as of the role of Russian women in society or how the Russian orthodox church was rumbling beneath the crumbling underpinnings of the Soviet regime. She brought him gifts from common Russian people. She taught him Russian adages such as, ‘doveryai no proveryai,’ TRUST BUT VERIFY, which Reagan loved, used often, and is now known for. Reagan’s chilly perspective on the U.S.S.R. began to thaw. Summits were held. Agreements were made. The Soviet Union collapsed.
|Mom and Gorbachev|
The message? If you have a passion for something, stay the course.
So here we are at the beginning of January, a new year.
Instead of new pencils, notebooks, classes, teachers, and expectations, I am faced with new projects, programs, events, horses, and challenges. Great! Intriguing! Exciting! Sitting by the fire right now, drinking tea, sleeping dogs at my feet, the visions of 2014 in my head are rosy. There are so many things I would like to accomplish both for the MMSC itself, as well as for the movement of aftercare for OTTBs which is growing ever stronger with each passing year.
I have picked out a few horses which
|It's one degree today!|
are currently in foster care as the first members of our Spring class. I can’t wait to start looking for more MMSC candidates. I have plans for a Master Clinic series. There’s Sips N Saddles 2014 ahead. I want to figure out how to build a covered arena. I need to start an endowment campaign. I hope to get accreditation from several important organizations. I’d like to help the Retired Racehorse Retraining Project, as well as other organizations working towards the same goals that I am. I am chomping at the bit!!!
|Look for this special boy in February!|
What characteristics will I need to draw on or hone this year to get all of this done? What challenges will I encounter? What detours will I have to negotiate? How will I fare when the bloom fades on the rose of 2014? Will I have what it takes to stay the course another year?
Thank goodness, I have ample passion for horses. But to help me stock up on faith for the year, I spent time with my parents’ two latest books over Christmas— Catherine the Great, Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie,
Trust but Verify, Reagan, Russia and Me, by Suzanne Massie to remind me of what they taught me as I was growing up: Be the change you want to see. Stay the course. Thank you Mom and Dad! And HAPPY BIRTHDAY to you both!!
As for the rest of you, HERE’S TO AN INTRIGUING, EXCITING 2014!
Cheery bye, Susanna