If you have a little girl between the ages of one and four, my guess is that you own that little pink stroller. It is flimsy and folds. The “hardware” is bubble gum pink and the seat is pink gingham. The stroller probably weighs all of eight ounces.
That little pink stroller was Toddler’s Big Sister gift. Yes, on the day we brought Baby home from the hospital, when Toddler was napping, Husband ran out and came back clutching the tiny stroller. We presented it to Toddler post-nap, and she was less than thrilled, and probably a bit confused. Was she supposed to put her new baby sister in that little seat and push her around? In retrospect, a predictable and clumsy gift.
As some of you have gleaned by now, Sundays are not my day. Invariably, I wake up some shade of gray. It doesn’t help when the day is actually gray which it is here today in NYC. Insistent that our morning would be better than my mood, we headed out when the girls woke up. Toddler insisted on bringing – yes, you guessed it – that little pink stroller. I strapped Baby into the Bjorn. The four of us made our way to Starbucks. Upon seeing sundry dogs and birds, Baby kicked and squealed. I looked down at the round head covered in peach fuzz and at those chubby legs pumping, and I had a cliched thought we mothers have from time to time: She was once inside me.
Husband chased Toddler as she zigzagged behind her stroller and taught her about traffic lights. We arrived at Starbucks and Toddler announced: I made it all the way to Starbucks! And we all clapped. Including Baby. We picked up our typical fare – chocolate milk for Toddler, Pike Place and feta wrap for me, but Husband decided to try something different. A Morning Bun. The name itself made me laugh.
Then it was on to the playground. We walked down the street. Baby reached for my coffee. Toddler tripped periodically behind her little stroller while sipping chocolate milk. A father and his daughter were stopped up ahead. As we approached, Toddler slowed as she does when she sees “friends” who are close to her age. So we all stopped. The father was young, handsome and hip. He had a tattoo on his arm. The daughter was probably six or so, cute as can be. She pointed to that little stroller and said, “Daddy, I have that stroller at home.”
We kept walking. Toddler picked up speed when she saw the swings. Husband turned to me and said, ‘Did you see that little girl?” I nodded. “Did you see her arm?” he asked. I did see something. “She had a cast on her elbow, right?” Husband shook his head. “No, she had an IV.” Now that little girl might be just fine. I have no idea whether she is sick. But still. I felt sick. We kept walking.
At the playground, Toddler and Baby swung side by side, matching smiles. Then Toddler left her stroller with Baby and me. We sat on the bench and I fed Baby tiny bits of Morning Bun which she simply adored. I watched Husband and Toddler in the distance. Husband mopped wet slides with a yellow towel. Toddler chased a little boy just her size and Husband chatted with his father. I smiled. I looked around at the playground, empty this morning because of gray skies, and smiled some more. A few clouds and we had this utopia all to ourselves. And then I spotted that same rock star father with his darling girl. Now they were with a woman, her mom, a lanky beauty with blonde curls. And a little blond boy. The girl’s younger brother.
Baby and I walked over to Husband. We clapped as Toddler and her new friend raced down the slide. But my eyes were fastened to the little family in the corner. The girl and her brother wrestled each other and laughed. The father broke out a baseball bat and ball. The girl pulled off her Crocs and threw them down the slide and then her little brother followed suit. Through a medley of smiles and frowns, the parents chided them. Just as we parents do. But through it all, I was focused on one thing – that white gauze wrapped around a skinny elbow. That thin tube dangling.
It was time for Baby’s nap, so I retrieved our things from the bench. I fetched the little stroller and as I brought it toward Husband, an orange ball rolled toward me on the ground. I started to bend to pick it up, but I had Baby on my chest and my hands were full. I stood as someone else picked it up. I locked eyes with that father. That nameless, cool, hands-on, father. He looked at me and slobbering Baby on my chest. And then he looked at that little pink stroller and said, “The all-important pink stroller.” And I nodded and muttered a simple “yes” and watched him turn and return to his family as I returned to mine.
I took Baby home for nap. And realized Husband had the keys. Normally, this would make me pout. Especially on a Sunday. But this time, sleepy Baby and I turned around and walked back to the playground. As she rubbed her eyes, I kissed her head over and over. Back at the playground, Husband approached with the keys. Now all the kids played together on the big slide. Taking turns. Giggling. Clapping for each other and for themselves. I watched that girl go down first, all skinny limbs and big smiles. And then I watched Toddler spiral down after, a few years behind.
At home, I changed Baby and lowered her into her crib. Stayed a little longer than usual as she inched toward sleep. And then I began writing this. Halfway through, Husband and Toddler rang the doorbell. I buzzed them in and listened to Toddler weep as they came up the stairs. I met them at the door and Toddler ran into my arms, face crumpled, eyes wet. Husband told me she bit her tongue. I hugged her hard as Husband parked that little stroller by the fridge and collected ice cubes in a Dora cup. I squeezed her tight, desperately thankful for minor miseries like bitten tongues and gray mornings, and looked at that little predictable stroller that so many little girls have. That little stroller stuffed with a towel, sunny and damp. That little stroller on which an empty Starbucks bag hung. Our little pink stroller.