Rodeo Queen

I’m frozen when the train stops in Rhinecliff, NY. The minute I step on to the platform the July heat and humidity hit me on the head like a sack of burning coal. I don’t care for air conditioning much. My back aches, my throat is sore and I’m mildly coughing. Great. The ride was nice though. Have you ever done it? It’s kind of spectacular, and almost makes you forget you’re sitting on a polyester fiber chair – I think I have a rash. It only takes the train about twenty minutes to leave the cityscape and find the tracks next to the Hudson River. From there on all you see is shimmering water on your left and wild, green shrubs and trees on the right (unless you accidently picked a backwards seat). It’s hard to believe I was creeping down 14th Street this morning, stressing out the cab driver and sweating to get to Penn Station. This is peaceful, y’all. And I think I can breathe now.

Ryan’s husband Garrett picks me up in his car; three children of various ages with curly hair are in the back seat. Life is good in the Roche family. Dad is a successful Irish builder and a strong father figure, red beard, mustache and mild European accent living proof. The kids are healthy, smart, impressive human beings. They play guitar, dismantle Ipods and know sarcasm. And mom, she’s the glowing glue that holds it all together. Ryan Roche is beautiful, with skin as dewy as the morning grass down her doorstep and eyes so clear and happy you want to look for daisies. Her favorite color is pink because in her opinion, “no better color exists in so many lovely shades”. Pink is like Ariadne’s thread in Ryan’s existence. It’s on the window sills, in her wardrobe and around her fingers, from bright fluorescent to pale pink, it’s her go-to, snap-of-a-finger medicine. She collects hats with strong brims, “with my short hair, it keeps it fresh”. She finds Victorian cottons just down the street at Outback Antiques. And one day she will own a horse again, because when it all began, Ryan, now 34, lived in Idaho, riding horses. “I was a cowgirl or rather wanted to be rodeo queen.” she says proudly.

And then there’s her love story. Garrett and Ryan met in New York ten years ago. He was visiting her boss and came over to the store (Costume National on Greene Street) where they worked. “It was love at first sight,” she smiles. “We spent the whole weekend together. He left to go back to Dublin, but we spoke on the phone for three weeks solid. He came back, moved in with me and we were married one month later. We had our daughter Luella exactly ten months and our son Fionn fifteen months after! It’s been non-stop. We had a little break with Ronan…” They moved to a Dutch stone farm house in Hurley, NY five years ago and restored the heck out of it. It’s a solid, warm beacon of prosperity and vigor, where Ryan works on her eponymous knitwear line, makes the best pizza dough in the neighborhood and dreams up tie-dye events for the kids. When I ask her what’s cooking for the near future she shrugs. “Another baby? Maybe in a few years! But for now the collection feels like a newborn so I will give it all the love it needs.”

We spend 48 hours together, the Roche family and I. I learn that Ryan works with a women’s cooperative in Nepal to produce her cashmere. That her grandmother was a milliner in the 20s. And that she used to own a children’s wear line and store in Williamsburg called Mor Mor Rita, named after said nana. We go swimming in a river (not that cold) and prepare food for Diego Uchitel’s brick oven pizza/barbeque soiree where I fall head over heels in love with April Hughes’ 6-month old girl, Mathilde. I am also witness to a death in the family: the poor, ailing fish Luella won at the county fair a few days ago kicked the bucket (or should I say bowl) on Sunday morning – it’s still a mystery who flushed it (it was Garrett). When it’s time to go back to New York, the car gets stuck in a crazy thunderstorm and it becomes a race against time. But we don’t care. We are all singing like idiots to Katy Perry. Because there is no secret to being happy. And my rash is gone.

September 5, 2012

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