I’m figuring out that the stroller isn’t coming home, won’t miraculously turn up on our porch one of these mornings; and we’re thinking about how to replace it. But I’m amazed how many vivid memories are linked to that stroller. Before moving on completely, here a few …
We bought it deep in wintertime when Apple-Apple was an infant; and almost immediately questioned the purchase. The stroller wasn’t designed for infants, and Chariot hadn’t yet invented its “infant sling” attachment; Apple-Apple screamed and Albus tried to climb out as I plunged through snowbanks on our first walk around the block. So it spent winter buried under a plastic tarp behind our house in Guelph and I used a heavy Graco double-stroller instead; I used to drive to the mall and wander around, feed them french fries at the food court, just to get out of the house. That June we moved to Waterloo; even after Apple-Apple was big enough to sit up, I rarely used the Chariot. The side-by-side seating of a two toddlers resulted in … violence. Albus was a biter, and Apple-Apple fought back.
One of the first times I hooked that stroller to my bicycle, Kevin was far away, travelling for work (as he was required to do regularly, during our early years as parents), and I set out alone after supper, hoping to pass the time and get some exercise and entertain my two little ones … who were jolly right up until they weren’t. I turned around on the trail, the stroller crowded with howling babies. We were about two kilometres from home and there were no easy solutions. So I carried the littlest, who’d been bitten and didn’t want to be carried, whilst pulling bicycle and howling two-year-old-in-stroller combination All The Way Home. It was summer, hot, and felt epic in terms of sheer physical and emotional will. If that doesn’t teach you forbearance, nothing will. Didn’t use the stroller again till the following spring, when Albus was nearly three. This was when life got easier, and the two children did not require utter and constant vigilance. The stroller really came into its own, became a huge part of our daily lives and journies.
When I was just a few weeks pregnant with Fooey, just before Christmas, we set out for the library in the midst of a blizzard. Why? No longer remember, but suspect I enjoy setting such challenges for myself; and this one turned out to be greater than anticipated. Heaving, pushing, sweating, tossing the stroller over giant snow banks, snow falling thickly, cars getting stuck in the middle of the road. It truly seemed we might never arrive, yet there was no way we could turn back, my two little ones safely tucked inside with the cover down. The warmth of that library, when we stumbled into it, at last. But we thrived on such adventures. Often, we’d make them up for ourselves: Arctic explorers crossing frozen seas, on the look-out for polar bears; or desert explorers; or pioneers crossing mountainous terrain. The ordinary was made extraordinary.
That spring I was big and pregnant with Fooey, Apple-Apple was two and Albus was almost-four, and I transported them everywhere in the bike stroller, peddling my impressive bulk around the city till about a month before giving birth, when I could no longer reach the handlebars. Albus started school in the fall, and from that moment onward we gave the stroller a twice-daily workout, in fair weather and foul, with baby in sling. Kids grew. The stroller’s front wheel could be used to nudge a tricycle forward, or a bike with training wheels. With the two older ones on their own bicycles, the stroller could be pulled behind loaded with a picnic lunch and swim clothes. Last summer I added a top-rack for carrying extras, and ran after the older ones, baby CJ in a borrowed infant sling attachment, big sister Fooey lovingly beside him. I’d been anticipating new bicycling adventures this summer, with CJ now old enough to be pulled behind my bicycle.
And we’ll still get to do that; just not in our well-worn, much-loved, raggedy old Chariot. Life goes on. Maybe this is a lesson in material attachment. Whatever. I’ve got the memories.