Seventy-nine is the cost in cents of the horseshoe magnet and bar pictured above. I will cut to the chase and tell you now that this unexceptional tchotchke is – save for my engagement ring and wedding band – the greatest physical reminder I have in my possession that a marriage can thrive against all odds if the two people involved are committed to it.
I received this magnet and bar at the first NFL Retired Players Convention I attended with Scott back in 2005. This post actually serves as a follow-up to my initial post on that convention, which you can read here.)
The long and short of it is this: Although I received a Tiffany & Co. trinket box at a seminar the conference hosted for the players’ wives and girlfriends (while the players spent the day teeing it up on the links), that gift was not the most valuable gift I received during that convention.
Quite emphatically, this $.79-cent horseshoe bar and magnet was.
But first, some background: Marriage can be hard work. But this isn’t a newsflash, of course. And marriages involving NFL athletes are certainly no different – if anything, they’re infused with an extra helping of doom: excess – or lack thereof after the well runs dry, inflated egos, and a myriad of additional external pressures I won’t bother to mention here can conspire to be the nail in the proverbial coffin for happily ever after.
So it only stands to reason that a relationship expert would serve as a guest speaker at this financial seminar I attended. Ironically, Scott and I weren’t even married yet – we were serious, yes, but still dating nonetheless – and my marital status (or lack thereof) certainly made me feel as though I stuck out like a sore thumb: It is daunting enough to attend a seminar solo, but then add to the mix being surrounded by the wives of NFL players, which, on the onset, I had perceived to be a tough bunch. There I sat, trying to keep up appearances by feigning interest in the pamphlets on the table while at the same time trying in vain not to down my mimosa too fast. You could say I was slightly intimidated. But I soon discovered that I had no reason to be.
A woman named Tina (who shall remain last nameless), whose husband spent nearly 10 years playing for the Baltimore Ravens, sat down next to me. There was something about Tina. She exuded an air of wisdom that said I’ve been here before. She was several years older than me, yes, but her age had little to do with my perception of her. She was part “girl’s girl” and part tough cookie. I liked her immediately.
Tina and I got to talking and, eventually, began trading stories about life, love, you name it.
“You got him at the best time,” Tina said.
I was perplexed. “What do you mean?” I asked.
“Scott’s retired now. You missed the playing days – the traveling, the juggling schedules…the temptation,” she lowered her gaze and stared dead into my eyes for emphasis. “I don’t miss that one bit. Plus, they change after they leave the game. Retirement humbles them. Think about it: No one really knows when they’ll be cut, and when they are cut, chances are, it’s not up to them. They take it hard,” Tina explained. “Trust me, this is the best time.”
I could have picked Tina’s brain for hours, but our chat was cut short when the relationship expert took the stage and began her lecture by holding up the tiny horseshoe and bar and asking us what we saw.
“A toy,” said one woman.
“A magnet,” said another.
“Not even close,” said the expert. “This is symbolic of what you and your partner have to be.” She took the pieces apart and held the bar in one hand and the horseshoe in the other. “This is you…and this is your partner. When you make a commitment to stick together, you will. Unless you let stuff – money, challenges, life, anything – come between you. The choice is yours.”
I still have my horseshoe and bar.
For the longest time, I carried it in my purse; now it has found an even better home: In the kids’ diaper bag. It’s not like this little horseshoe and bar have superpowers – they don’t. And I know this.
But they are a symbol that the power to hold things together resides in me. In us.
The photos of Scott and me above were taken at the 2005 NFL Retired Players Convention. The photo on the left was at a Miami high school’s football field where Scott volunteered to coach youth; the one on the right was at the welcome party on the first night of the convention. On a side note: I’ve kept in touch with Tina, and we send each other our family’s Christmas cards every year. She still remains happily married, although I have no idea if she still has her horseshoe magnet.
I should ask her…
* VOTE * VOTE * VOTE * VOTE * VOTE * VOTE * VOTE * VOTE *