With you I can steal horses

The next in the series of photographic portraits by Ophelia King features Bella, her first friend to have a child, and her wee daughter Ivy.

“Ivy sees only for the glory in this world and she sees it at a running pace. Shooting Bella and Ivy reminded me that visual control in making isn’t as important as it seems. Kids look for the best parts of everything, they are truly present in process, something us adults need to get better at.”

This series is also accompanied with writing, by the featured mother Bella Rooney.

There is a Polish idiom my mother and I say,

Z tobą konie mogę u kraść

With you I can steal horses

It is spoken after we have just made the impossible happen. When we sit down in a heap, exhausted and laughing like two bandits on a mound of hay.  Sometimes it’s accompanied by a lazy wink or a pinch on the arm.


My Ivy is three now, a big girl she says with her chin up high and mischief in her eyes.  She wakes up long before the sun rises because the sky is awake and so are her wants. She hugs me good morning while holding my hair.

Can I press my face on your face Mama?

She whines that she’s hungry even while she is eating her breakfast; I sit with her and a pot of black coffee. We tell each other stories about big girls being brave and sometimes about a monster in a cave, who drinks from a bottle and becomes a big monster and is really really scary. But then the monster just wants a friend and is sad. It’s important to be nice to people, it’s important to listen.

It’s ‘portant to not steal food.

Yes… that’s important too…

The sky turns pink and she calls it her treat, she wants a treat, a hot Milo but she doesn’t want hot Milo because it’s really really hot and will burn her so she wans a cold Milo. She whispers conspiratorially,

With chocolate. And Marshfellows.

She wants to go to the park and see the ducks and the fairy cave and I say after my coffee which I’m drinking while folding the washing, putting on a new load, mixing that Milo, feeding the yowling cat, taking out the rubbish and casting on a new hat.  My yarn is Mustard and it makes me laugh because for a year the colour only reminded me of the yeasty poo that stained absolutely everything, especially the expensive merino from Nature Baby when we were in Spotlight. It dripped down my arm as I fumbled with the Eftpos machine. Now it’s my favourite color.

I’m huuuungry.

When she first entered the world she released her meconium on her way out which was black and sticky shit that coated my entire chest as she lay there and I didn’t notice because it was hers and I’d never held a baby before. They dressed her in the little suit with the circus animals printed in Maroon, and she vomited greenish black down the front in the night. They were so concerned that I was a young mum and didn’t have enough warm clothing for her, “She can’t get cold, that’s really dangerous, they can’t ther-mo-reg-u-late, don’t you have anything warmer? Actually we don’t encourage bed sharing at this hospital so you can lye next to her and look at her for awhile but you can’t sleep with her,” so I sat awake with her the entire night on my chest. She’ll be warm if she sleeps on my heart. That’s where she sleeps best.

Mama you put your boots on ok? Mama? Ivy’s got her shoes on, let’s go mama, let’s go (claps hands).

Ivy you can’t go to the park in your ‘jamies you silly bum, go pick some clothes.

A dress.

Ok if you want a dress. No not your sequin shoes they are too big and they will get all mucky.

But I want to wear them (incomprehensible whining noises).

What about your glitter toe sneakers that light up?

No I want to be the Sky Fairy.

Well what about your glittery gumboots?

(Sits down with a frown to think about options)

Sky fairies wear boots when they come down to the ground.

(Sage nodding)

She takes her doll, a small plastic horse and a piece of cheese, and manages to open the front door by using the cat flap as a foothold.

I hold my breath and just allow it to happen.  It’s still early. There is a courier van driving one of those small covered motorbikes along the path, and some dogs barking. She hands me the horse and the cheese, and cherry picks the best rock from a gravel path, like she were selecting a fine diamond. She puts it in my pocket with a knowing look, like she just told me a momentous secret.

It’s starting to rain and she flies into a panic about zipping up her jacket.  It’s heavier by the time we get to the park across the street so we seek refuge under the trees. She is worried the fairies will be getting wet and she urgently needs a cuddle.

We stand there, nestled in the trees just watching the rainfall. Her curls are tickling my nose but she smells like everything good in the world mixed with a bit of cheese. I say it to her then,

Z tobą konie mogę u kraść

I love you too mama.

There is a swelling in my heart that feels violently lovely, because I know this is only a sun shower and I know how much Ivy loves rainbows.

Bella Nina Horlor









Photographer Ophelia King

Muses Bella and her daughter, Ivy