The Farkle Family went to the races this weekend. The Farkle Family is what we’ve always called my family. We are a big ol’ group of people who all look alike and always seem to be clueless about our surroundings. We piled into the ridiculously gigantic conversion van that my little mom drives around town, and headed out in search of big bucks at the horse races at Canterbury Downs.
I initially thought it was just going to be Padrin and Prinna and me. Then Perek and his wife Leah decided to join us. Then came my mom. And after a little encouragement, my Dad agreed to come too. I noticed, on our way there, my dad knew exactly where to go. The exits, the parking lot, everything. And my dad is not a gamblin’ man. But, we pulled up and parked the crazy big van in a handicapped parking spot (my mom had foot surgery several weeks ago, and was rewarded with a handicap parking pass. She is currently without cast, and appears to be walking just fine). So, already we’re “that family".
As we walk in, my dad picks up a brochure for a Yearling Sale. My dad went through a phase a long time ago when he was obsessed with the horse business. To this day, I’m surprised we don’t have one. But when he picks up the brochure, I saw the spark in his eye that gave me hope that it could still happen.
We wandered around, spreading out across walkways and blocking doorways, taking a quick little tour of the place. We don’t really know where to sit, where to go, or what to do. In times like this, it’s customary in my family to wander aimlessly, blocking doorways and TVs, and just generally get in people’s way.
So we get a quick bite to eat, and then it’s time to place some bets. Ooooh Lordy. The Farkle Family does not bet outside of family blackjack games. But my mom (thankfully) hands me $20 and wishes me good luck. So we each go up to the little automated betting machines, and we are a bee hive of questions for Perek, who’s the only one who actually knows what to do. Perek gets a little stressed with the 5 women each poking him saying “Perek, what is this? How come there are no horse names on here? Why won’t it let me bid just $1?” He’s bouncing in between us all answering our questions, looking like he’s trying to teach a dog to do algebra. My dad, in true Kip fashion, sits off to the side and minds his own business.
At this point, I’m already stressed out. I do not like being in a big group of confused people. I think, ‘This is gonna be a looooong night‘. We take our places outside, filling 2 rows of seats. By this time, my mom and Prinna have somehow managed to gather up about 100 different newspapers and booklets about the races and are reading them diligently (I think it‘s important to note here that after the first race, my mom and sisters discovered the Recycling Bin of discarded programs and race info. They picked up some booklets from the GARBAGE and I immediately distanced myself from them. After about 30 seconds of them being very proud of themselves, Prinna declares “Wait, these are from last night!” and my humiliation dissipates into red-faced giggling).
It’s about at this point I learn that my dad worked at Canterbury Downs. He was the doctor who rode in the ambulance after the horses to clean up any carnage that may happen, though he assured me nothing ever really happened. I was like, “What? You WORKED here? Well, I must not have been born yet, then.” No, I was 5 at the time. This happens a lot. My dad could be Batman for all I know. I’m told he’s a doctor, and that he works at some hospitals. But that’s about all I know about his job. I kind of like it that way. He’s not one of those men who takes work home with him and gets distracted by it. But every once in awhile, I’ll find out something like this, and it connects so many puzzle pieces. THAT’S why he knew exactly where to go, where the horses come out, and it definitely explains his fascination with horses.
After the first race, I’m crushed to find out there’s a LOT to know about horse racing, and it all involves stupid numbers. And when I won, I won like my original bet back plus $0.40. But it was cheap to bet, and every once in awhile, I’d “go with my gut” and pick horses like Red Shoes because, well, I love shoes. I started getting into it, and snatching up a racing guide for myself (NOT from the garbage). In between races, we’d each study the next group, make some notes, and then head inside to bet. By the third race, I feel like a pro at using the machines.
I was no longer distracted by the constant chatter among us, and my mom’s combination of confusion and oddly high level of confidence is the hit of the night. She was standing alone at a table, with all her racing info spread out, studying it and making notes, with her reading glasses on her head, and a bystander commented to Leah, “Wow, she really knows how to play the horses!” No, Sir. She doesn’t, but it’s working for her. I mean, she looked like Rainman. It was awesome.
By the end of the night, I didn’t want it to end. It was so fun. Padrin and my mom each won big a couple of times, we sat around talking about who picked which horses, and it was an excellent way to spend a Friday night. When we left, we walked back to the ginormo-van and I was soooo happy that we were able to park so close. As we drove home, high on our modest winnings, I thought about how great the night ended up to be, and let the thought wash over me that maybe I’m a little too hard on the Farkle Family. Maybe.