Friday, January 23, 2015

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Horsey rides

Photo by Timothy Vollmer


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I was on fours, next to the front door, waiting for my rider. It was about 8 p.m. and Mel, my wife, was sitting in a glider feeding our baby. The lights were out. Tristan, our 7-year-old, was already in bed.

Down the hallway came Norah, our 5-year-old. She was in a blue Elsa Princess nightgown, her hair wet and neatly combed. In her arms were a six-foot long fuzzy green body pillow and a long beaded necklace. These were to be my saddle and harness.

Every night before bed I gave Norah a horsey ride to her room. I’m not sure where she came up with the idea of riding me like a horse. Perhaps she’d seen it on TV, My Little Pony perhaps, or at a friend’s house, but what I do know is that I never suggested it to her. She never rode a real horse, just seen them tugging at grass on the side of the road. In fact, until she came up with the idea I never even thought of giving one of our children a ride on my back. The first time Norah suggested that she ride me like a horse, I grumbled.

It sounded degrading.

Norah was standing next to me now. My head was down so she could place the necklace over my head. All I could see were her little feet. The nails were painted in conflicting bright colors. She placed the body pillow across my shoulder blades and said, “Give me a lift.”

It’s funny to think that even with me on all fours, I am too big for Norah to climb onto. She is a petite little thing, less than three feet. She has her mother’s brown hair and blue green eyes. It’s hard not to look at her without my heart melting.

I turned my left hand into a cup shape, and held it about 6 inches off the ground. She stepped into it, tugged on my shirt, and pulled herself onto my back. I could feel her wiggling around on me. She grunted into position, placing her feet next to my shoulders. She grabbed the necklace, and pulled it snug against my neck. Then she clicked me with her heels and said, “Giddy up.”

I plodded forward, slowly, feeling her slide side to side along with my movements. She nudged me again with her heels and said, “Faster, horsey.”

“This is a one speed horse,” I said.

I could hear Mel laughing behind me.

Before having children, if someone were to approach me and ask to ride me like a horse, saddle, harness, and all, I’d have told them to kiss my ass. I can think of few things more degrading. But with my children, my daughter, I look forward to giving her a horsey ride to bed. I don’t know what it is about children, but they can get you to do some really crazy things and then feel really good about it.

As I crawled down the hall, Norah on my back, I felt a warming chill in my heart. I felt a deep love for my daughter, a feeling that what we were doing was a memory that would last a lifetime. I could feel how happy this made my daughter, and even though crawling down the hall hurt my knees and wrists and pride, I felt wonderful about it. As long as I was able, and as long as Norah was willing, I knew I would plod down the hall with her on my back each night.

We reached her bed, and I walked alongside it. She pulled on the reins, and said, “Whooooa, horsey.”

Norah choked me a little, and even with that, I couldn’t help but laugh. She stood up on my back, and then stepped casually onto her bed. The she reached out and took the saddle off my back, and the reins from around my head, and said, “Horsey, you can be a daddy now,” while patting the back of my head.

My knees were a little stiff by this point, so it took me a bit to stand. And when I looked down at Norah, she was smiling. It wasn’t a smile of control, or anything. It was a look that seemed to say, “You love me.”

I sat down on the edge of her bed, put my left arm around her, and said, “What story are we going to read?”

She didn’t answer my question. Rather she wrapped her arms around me and, “You’re a good daddy.”

I laughed and said, “I love you, too.”

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Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress, and an angry baby girl. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial and error. His work has been featured in Good Morning America, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, The Good Men Project, Fast Company, and elsewhere. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.