My daughter Ronia and I are proudly car-free in Philadelphia, which takes some doing. One of Ronia’s first phrases was “Here comes the TRAAAAIIIIIINNNN” and she sometimes asks to ride it even when we have borrowed a car for the day.
However, I didn’t realize how dependent we had become on another four-wheeled conveyance until Ronia returned from her trip to Toronto without her stroller.
Ronia does have a backup stroller, but it’s a relic of the period where her mother lived up a narrow stairway, it’s basically a glorified doll-hauler. It is just a treacherous inch or so too short for my height, so I lurch like a proverbial “Hunchback of Notre Pere”
So when I picked up Ronia from school, despite needing to visit the bank and our winter CSA pickup, I set off on foot. Unwheeled.
I have written about Ronia’s endurance before, but something about not having the backup made her uncharacteristically wearied. Also, I was much less able to corral her, and had to surrender utterly to her pace. We made slow progress, punctuated by joyful cries of “Ants, Daddy, Ants!!” and queries of “Are those tulips or crocuses?”
I realized how lacking my stroller made me much less able to physically coerce Ronia, I couldn’t bundle her in it when my patience was finally exhausted. Nor could I keep her within reach. I lacked any personal space for her to have accidents in. If I wanted to move her, I had to carry her, my hands interlocked under her tushy.
I was wheeling a fashionable rolling cart of the kind I imagine to popular in Manhattan, purchased at deep discount in Philadelphia. It was very tempting to stuff Ronia into it, but I resisted. We were rained on. My iPhone, which I use to check email during Ronia’s moments of reverie, died. When I ran into a daddy friend with a newborn in tow, I had to force myself to cross the street to see him, costing us precious feet.
At a certain point, I realized this had taken an hour, interminable feeling but not time out of our life. In fact, it was our life. I was encouraged enough to go to the food coop. With Ronia’s tricycle. That she refused to ride.