National Champion to National Artist


The Story of “National Velvet” Comes Alive

This Classic Movie is Great Fun for the Whole Family

“National Velvet” is one of my all time favorite movies.

It tells the story of an English adolescent girl, Velvet, who manages to acquire a horse, train him and enters him in the Grand National Steeplechase.  [Caution: Movie spoiler alert!]  When she can’t find a suitable rider, she pretends to be a man and rides the horse to an apparent victory. The win is disqualified when it is discovered that she is a girl. Despite this, she has become a national hero.

An often overlooked subplot of the movie revolves around Velvet’s mother. She is a wise yet taciturn woman who had once gained international fame for swimming the English Channel.

Upon coming home from the Grand National, Velvet gives her mother a big hug, looks her in the eye and asks, “Were we the best in the World, Mother?”

Mother Gently Inspects Velvet's Haircut. It Was Necessary to Make Her Look Like a Man

It was clear that Velvet was trying to live up to her mother–and succeeded!

Flash back to when I was 19 and I managed to win a national championship in wrestling. This remarkable feat was all the more surprising as I had never won a varsity wrestling match in high school. Like Velvet, I had somehow bloomed from a nobody to a national figure.

This accomplishment became a defining moment for my life. It had a profound impact on the man I was to become. It gave me confidence and it gave me credibility in ways I could not have imagined.

Now that I’m a father, I see the story from a different perspective. When I was younger, I identified with Velvet. I had a dream, a desire and a laser-like focus on accomplishing it. Now, I identify with the mother. I am older, hopefully wiser, and I watch my children as they struggle to find the dreams in their lives.

My youngest son has always had a passion for art. I enjoy watching him focus on his art and hone his skill.

Last week, he fulfilled a commission to paint a portrait of Condoleezza Rice, the former Secretary of State. He presented his portrait to her at a press conference in Sarasota, FL.

Colin Discusses His Portrait with Condoleezza

But it wasn’t until I saw my son handing the portrait to Condoleezza Rice that the parallel to the National Velvet story suddenly hit me.

I was the older, hopefully wiser, parent who had his moment of national fame many years ago at the age of 19. Now Number Two Son was the young 19 year old seeking his way in the world. In the movie, mother was a swimmer, daughter was a horse rider. In our story, I was a wrestler, Number Two Son was an artist.

I only won a sports championship. Number Two Son received a commission to paint one of the most powerful women in the world.

This time, it is Number Two Son who is “the best in the world.”

And I am content.

One Response to “National Champion to National Artist”

  1. Top Ten Posts ’09-’10 « Lance Around Orlando Says:

    […] National Champion to National Artist – This poignant, heartwarming and true story talks about the parallels between the accomplishments […]

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