Atop my daddy’s shoulders, the world seemed vast—endless, limitless.
I could see the treetops, the tops of heads.
I could nearly touch the clouds.
It was my best, most favorite place in the whole world to be sitting.
My hands cupped safely around his chin, my knees gripped tightly in his rugged arms, I felt protected, strong, and invincible.
I was aboard the shoulders of my hero.
If it wasn’t for needing to nap or go potty, I would have never come down.
One day without warning, I noticed the distance between my daddy’s shoulders and the ground below no longer seemed as immense.
He no longer held as tightly to my knees. My legs bounced freely by his sides.
I didn’t grasp him as tightly either.
Instead, I rested my hands atop his head.
I felt safe enough to point out landmarks, people, places we loved, without holding on.
And one day not much later from this day, a much sadder day indeed, he didn’t bend over to scoop me up atop his shoulders at the county fair.
I had been in that place of honor for eight years.
Today I stood beside him on the ground, eye-level with the other kids.
And right before he bought me my yellow balloon, I realized the biggest thing I’d ever realized since turning eight. . . I’D OUTGROWN HIS SHOULDERS.
At least my Dad seemed to think I had.
I didn’t know how to tell him I hadn’t.
He held my hand.
It was nice.
We swung arms back and forth, giggled like always.
I caught myself looking up at his shoulders a few times that day.
Wondering if he missed me being up there, being his little girl.
I wondered if he didn’t know how to tell me.
Many years later I watched my daughter being scooped up and placed in my prior seat of honor.
I knew exactly how she felt seated upon those shoulders.
I have never found a place as safe, nor more perfect.
Nor do I expect I ever will.
His shoulders are stooped now.
His rugged hands brittle.
I once sat atop the shoulders of my hero.
I now come behind him, wrap my arms around those same shoulders, kiss the cheeks of the man who safeguarded me from the world.
And feel exactly like the little girl who never wanted to come down.