Apologies for any confusion – this is a backdated post, necessary b/c I’m rebuilding the website. No new content, here.
“This is not a good idea. This may be child abuse.”
“It’s not child abuse. If anyone’s suffering here, it’s Smokey.” Dan dug his fingernails into the permanently itchy spot behind the quarter horse’s ears and smiled as the animal rolled his eyes in appreciation but kept the rest of his body just as frozen as it had been for the last three minutes, ever since the precious package had been deposited on his back.
“Okay, okay.” Evan kept one hand on Robbie’s chubby thigh but eased slightly away from the child.
“Dan, you need to step back a little, or else get Smokey to lower his head. I can’t see you.” Tatiana waited while Dan shifted around. “Jeff, can you shift Robbie just a little? His butt’s off center and it’s making me paranoid.”
“It’s a strange world where Dan is the one who’s calm and easy-going,” Jeff grumbled, but he shifted the baby as requested, and he kept his hand hovering around the child’s waist, ready to lift him off the saddle at the first sign of any trouble.
“Dan’s calm because it’s a horse,” Evan said. He nudged Dan’s shoulder with his arm. “I’m keeping the rocking parrot, dude. It’s too cool to send back.”
“Rocking HORSES,” Dan said firmly. “It’s a tradition for a reason. There’s no point letting the kid think he’s going to grow up and ride parrots.”
Okay, you guys, Robbie’s the only one who’s looking at the camera. Would it kill the rest of you to give me a smile?”
They did, and the photo was taken. But Tat had been snapping away the whole time, and it was a different picture that RJ loved the most. The one that he took with him when he went away to school, the one that travelled with him on all his life’s journeys… it was the one where Dan was scratching Smokey’s ear and looking playfully grumpy while Evan grinned at him and Jeff watched them both fondly. RJ knew he’d been too young to actually remember having the photo taken, but he definitely remembered the mood, and the emotions it recorded. Dan, Jeff, and Evan, loving each other, teasing each other, and all three of them, always, keeping an eye on little Robbie, ready to help him if he needed it, but letting him try new things on his own. That was what made RJ carry the picture with him, in his wallet and in his heart.