The Lesson I Learned Watching National Velvet

Recently two of our granddaughters spent the night. Part of the requisite for a sleepover is a movie. Usually it’s some Disney® or Pixar® animated “new release” but this time my wife suggested a classic: Elizabeth Taylor’s National Velvet.

What a treat! Not only was it a nice diversion from the usual fare but it is a beautiful film from 1944 that tells the tale of a girl who, against all odds, wins the British Grand National Steeplechase. Our granddaughters were mesmerized. First by the fact that they love horses; secondly by the fact that Velvet, the young girl played by Elizabeth Taylor, was disqualified because she was a girl (only boy jockeys were allowed in 1944). The girls were both delighted and outraged. They know full well that they can do anything boys can do.

My own little equestrian

My own little equestrian

But the message of the film was not lost on them. Velvet’s success in training and racing her horse and ultimately winning the race was what mattered. The recognition and prize money were less important. Velvet loved and believed in her horse and her reward was knowing that together they had achieved greatness regardless of what society deemed worthy or acceptable.

Of course I love my granddaughters but my pride in seeing them embrace a film that is not cutesy or Disney-fied is hard for me to put into words. They might have struggled with some of the British accents and some of the antiquated ideas from the 1940’s but they followed the story and cheered for Velvet and her horse. They both spoke later about how the important thing was that Velvet never gave up on her dream. Pretty profound for a six and nine year-old.

I’m guilty of sometimes dumbing-down stuff for my grandkids. I try to take some of the harshness out of reality. I want every day for them to be all sweetness and light. And I always want them to have rainbows and fairytale endings. But that’s not really such a good idea after all.

The girls taught me a valuable lesson the other night. I know now that they are tougher than I thought. They will be able to handle disappointment and heartache in life because they realize that they are surrounded by love. And they are capable of tremendous compassion. I’m certain that they will be winning their own “championships” someday and that their gains will be in character, faith and love.

It seems certain that there is much more they will be teaching me in the future. I can hardly wait…



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