Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Empty, Wobbily Stroller: A Retelling

Thursday, Lillian's second day of preschool, found me debating the best way to pick her up when class ended at noon. We live roughly 1 1/2 miles from preschool and I sat outside in the hot September weather wondering if it made more sense to ride my bike or walk the distance. Given Lilly's affinity for filling our free Wesco popcorn bucket whenever we are over that way I thought it would be best to walk, I could only imagine the scene she would make juggling an overflowing popcorn bucket and an ice cold mushy {her word for slushy}, most likely I would end up wearing much of the frozen treat on my back. No thank you!

Now, our road is super busy with no sidewalks, {another rant, for another day} which means I have the pleasure of walking down a narrow strip of shoulder, against traffic so I can see the car that will most likely hit me rather than a sneak attack from behind. Ya, old lady who shouldn't have her license anymore, I am talking to you! It is the thought of walking down the busy road that has me thinking just how ridiculous I am going to look pushing an empty stroller on my way to preschool. Solution? My iPod - because if I can't hear the people jeering at me then it isn't happening, right? Problem solved...

...or not, since the darn thing decided that exact moment would be ideal to die and need to be charged. “Let the weird looks and jeering begin”, I said to myself as I got ready to set out. Quick mental check - talking to myself while walking a beat-up empty stroller is not helping the situation. Maybe I should bring a large baby doll wrapped in a blanket with me, or at least a blanket balled up to confuse the people driving towards me. Then I thought of my insane daughter who would insist on wrapping up in the blanket on the way home even though the weather was hot for once this summer.

Okay, no baby doll, or blanket - so in my genius I pulled the shade down on the stroller, in an effort to make passerby's think perhaps they did not just see an empty stroller and it was just their imagination, because certainly no one would be that odd, right? Now I just needed one of those starched leashes that hold themselves up with out a dog at the end, to add to my air of mystery. Seriously, I feel so silly, like I am the town crazy who walks around caring for a plastic baby... you know who I'm talking about... and I don't wanna be that person, ever.

So, I set out, popcorn bucket in the basket and a few quarters in my pocket for the mushy. No biggie, I cross the road to walk against traffic, straighten my back and sucked in my stomach as I walked for the benefit of strength training… we in the lazy, couch potato world call this multi-tasking! See Billy Blanks, I know cardio and apply it in every day life, so ha!

Ten or twenty feet down the road I encountered my first dead animal, eww! Remember how I mentioned before that the shoulder is narrow? Right, so when a flat squirrel is facing you down the choices are pretty limited. 1. Walk over it – bleck! 2. Walk out in to the road around it – unless there is too much traffic 3. Squeeze between the remaining shoulder and the 6 foot ditch full of scum and trash. Okay, so option three wins and I do my best to not touch the dead hyde, however the wheel of the stroller catches the very edge of the toe nail and the thing actually flips up, vertical to the road, falls back down and vibrates from side to disgusting side for a few moments. Road kill flap jacks are so not on my list of favorite things. By my count I had a road kill obstacle course consisting of 5 squirrels’, 2 rabbits and something so far gone I have no idea what it used to be. Lovely.

A half mile in I pass my friend Sherry’s house and much to my chagrin her devastatingly handsome husband {that’s right, I said it} is pulling out of their driveway. I pushed on, hoping he wouldn’t recognize me or perhaps where ever he was setting out to was so important he would be solely focused on his destination. Um, no – he noticed me and waved a big ‘ol friendly southern howdy from his Jeep. I swear he was looking in his side mirror to see if, in fact, I was pushing a barren stroller. Yeah, Matt, it is what it looked like, and, yeah, I’ve been fitted for my straight jacket.

Another half mile down the road it occurred to me that the stroller is shaking, almost to the point that it is difficult to push. I have never had this happen before so it obviously has something to do with, oh I don’t know, being empty maybe? I gripped the handles tight, avoiding the exposed metal where a hunk of foam used to be and push on. As I heave the thing and it shakes more violently, I imagine one of the tread-bare tires flying off, certainly it is more than possible due to the unnatural angle the wheels are already operating at. Actually, I thought to myself {ya know, rather than talking to myself out loud}, if anything would make someone driving down the road think there is a child in the stroller it would be from the serious bend and apparent pressure that something is putting on it. If only…

To occupy my embarrassed mind I ran through the worst case scenario, that being if the tire did actually fly off, so I was prepared to act quickly. Well, it has given us 9 years of great service so I would be okay with ditching it along side of the road. What did you think I was gonna say – that I’d carry it home? Pish, whatever. With any luck it might just do it in front of that unsightly house on our road that already stores loads of junk out front and no one would be the wiser. Hey, don’t judge me – it isn’t as though it has a VIN and could be traced back to me, so long as the yard it dies in does not belong to one of the parents who recognize me at the boys school by my “ride,” which is often “parked” out front when I am at school with Lilly in tow. I suppose that does present a complication, so this darn thing had just better make it to and from with no further hassle.

Finally, I neared the main road the preschool is on. I really should not have worn jeans if I was planning on power walking a wayward stroller. Nothing says “I walked really far, really fast with a crappie stroller” like a sweaty Mom among the fresh, composed Mom’s who drove to pick up their children.

I should feel very fortunate that I have a narrow shoulder to walk along on my road because once I hit the main road there is nothing, nada, zip to walk along besides the road itself. The way I avoid holding up traffic, or joining the road kill brigade, is by cutting through the parking lot of a few restaurants, which caused me to wonder if people pulling in think I may be so desperate to go out to eat {or to the bar} that I am walking with my stroller there… I suppose nothing is impossible.

After I ran out of parking lot I skillfully scaled down a steep, dusty dirt hill of sorts in to the Wesco gas station parking lot. Nothing says mental patient like walking your stupid stroller by gas pumps – “Fill ‘er up with unleaded, won’t ya?” Actually, it is tempting to mess with people by pretending to top off my ride, maybe I should outfit it with a gas cap?

What could mess with my already damaged self-esteem more than walking with a phantom child down a busy road? Waiting by an even busier road, standing still until traffic clears, under the Pines Motel sign, which boasts “Recline with the Pine, nightly, weekly and monthly rates available.” FYI to my fellow preschool Moms’ – I was not reclining at the Pine. Thankyouverymuch!

So, I finally arrived at school and preceded to give myself a pep talk about how it is okay that I walk to and from school and that it is okay that I have the ugliest stroller in town. “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and dog-gone-it, people like me.” I repeated this mantra to myself and, at the last second before reaching the door, ditched it behind a large bush on the opposite side of the front door. So sue me, I was ready to abandon the stupid thing if it blew to pieces in a strangers yard, so no love lost, believe me.

I collected Lilly and heard about her fabulous day at school. We headed back outside and as much as I had hoped she would notice the stroller off to the side, in the distance, she did not and I had to point it out to her… and thus anyone nearby us. Hey, maybe I could start a self-help group, “Momma’s with a Stroller Complex.”

We waited to cross the road again, popcorn bucket in hand. Lilly charmed the clerk at the station with her darling smile, I paid for her multi-flavor mushy and we set off for home. This is where my story ends, for there was no more uncontrollable shaking and the flat animals were remarkably absent on the opposite side of the road. My baby girl rode happily oblivious in her ancient chariot, munching on her prized treats, and all was right in the world.


  1. Isn't life with one car grand?! I can totally sympathize! ;-)

  2. Love this...if you were on the side of the street I would pick you and your wobbly stroller up! :)