My father rode horses all his life. I rode horses until they were taken away. Watching my kids ride horses, even for a day, was magical.

I grew up on a horse farm until my parents got divorced around the age of seven or eight.

For a few years of my childhood, I practically lived on the back of a horse, often riding bareback through without any adult supervision. A horse once bolted with me on it, and my father didn’t bother to chase us down. He knew that the horse would eventually come back, and all I needed to do was hold one.

It did, and I did. At a young age, I was becoming quite the cowboy.

Then one day the horses disappeared. I had nothing to ride anymore. My days of hanging onto the backs of horses was over. 

I didn’t ride again for a very long time.

Two years ago, Elysha took me horseback riding on our anniversary, and it turns out that riding a horse is a lot like riding a bike. You never lose the ability. I climbed onto the horse fairly easily and instinctively understood how to raise and lower my body to match the motion of the horse.

Elysha came away with a sore butt.

I felt great. It felt almost natural. 

A couple week ago my children rode a horse as part of their friend’s birthday party. It was Clara’s second time on the back of a horse and Charlie’s first.

Horseback riding looks a little different from the days when I rode. No helmets or step stools in my time. Just bare heads and a wooden fence to scale to help me climb on.

It’s a lot safer today than in my time. Slightly less fun, perhaps.

Still, I can’t wait to show these photos to my father. Though he gave up horses a few years ago because of his body breaking down, the man spent almost his entire life on and around horses, and he still wears cowboy hat every day. 

I think he’ll be happy to see his grandchildren on the back of a horse, if even for a day.

And even if my daughter was less than enthusiastic at first.

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We finished our anniversary in the negative

Yesterday was our seventh wedding anniversary.

I couldn’t imagine a better day.

Best of all, we ended the day in the negative.

My anniversary officially kicked off the night before when I arrived home around 11:00 PM from a wedding and discovered that my lawn had been mowed while I was working at a wedding. I had lamented my bad timing on Facebook earlier that day after noticing that I would probably be spending a portion of my anniversary mowing the lawn, so my friend, Tom (who owns a landscaping business), came over around 9:00 PM and cut it for me.

I have made Tom the villain in the golfing memoir that I;’m in the midst of writing. He’s the villain for good reason, but it’s moments like this that make it difficult for me to be mean to him.

He actually helped to save my marriage immediately following our wedding.

Off the golf course, you won’t meet a better guy.

On the golf course, he is a villain of the greatest order. At least that’s what I want my readers to believe. 

On the morning of our anniversary, my wife and I exchanged gifts, although we had nothing to actually hand to each other.

My wife informed me that she was taking me horseback riding for our anniversary. I couldn’t have been more thrilled. I grew up on a horse farm until my parents divorced when I was about nine years old, and so I spent the majority of my early years on the back of a horse.

Since the divorce, however, I had never had a chance to ride again. It’s one of my deepest regrets from my childhood. Climbing on the back of a horse flooded me with memories of my youth. We had a great time riding through the forests and fields behind the farm where she had brought me, and it made me want to start riding again.

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I couldn’t imagine a better way to spend the afternoon.

My gift to Elysha was cooking lessons at Sur La Table. I’ve arranged for her to take one class with her mother and another with a close friend later in the month. She was equally excited. 

One of my favorite moments from the entire day was when Elysha said, “We both managed to find gifts that didn’t bring any more stuff into our house.”

I loved that.

I recently noted that there are only three types of gift that I want to receive in the future:

  1. The gift of time
  2. The gift of cash
  3. The gift of experience, including learning something new that I can’t currently do

I later added the gift of spiteful yet meaningful charity to the list as well, but this is a gift better suited for a particular breed of human being.

My gifting criteria seeks to eliminate the gift of things in favor of a means of living a more meaningful and full life. I don’t want any more stuff. Instead, I want to be able to do more stuff.

Of course, there are exceptions to this rule.

Elysha gave me a signed first edition of a Kurt Vonnegut novel years ago that I cherish to this day.

Her Christmas-time stocking stuffers are always amazing.

The occasional clothing item, golfing gizmo or new fangled electronic, especially when it is truly needed, is always appreciated.

But as a general rule, I would prefer that items be removed from my home in a gifting situation rather than added to it. 

Our gifts to each other, as well as Tom’s gift to me, matched my criteria perfectly.

And the day wasn’t over.

Elysha and I went to dinner that evening and were surprised to learn at the end of the evening that her parents had called the restaurant and picked up the check.

It was a wonderful surprise.

Our final anniversary gift was given to us by our babysitter and friend, Allison, who refused payment (after much protestation on our part) for her babysitting duties. 

It was an ideal anniversary. I spent it in the company of my beautiful wife, and at the end of the day, we had added nothing to our home in terms of stuff.

Actually, the garbage and recycling were picked up yesterday. We actually subtracted a considerable amount from the home yesterday.

We ended the day in the red. I couldn’t be happier.