Then I got in my air-conditioned van, very slowly drove away, and abandoned it there with all that other stuff strangers no longer want or use at the back of a charity thrift store. I had been so impatient to get rid of it, but as I glanced back in my side mirror, I felt a sudden, painful constriction in my chest.
I turned the corner, and a panicky voice began to plead, Go back for it! What are you doing? What were you thinking? Don't leave it with all that junk. I breathed deeply and tried to let go, but the voice took on a tone of logic, No one's going to want it, anyway. It's too old and faded and it has that orange crayon melted in the pocket. Yes, true. I had taken great care to vacuum it out and wipe it down, but the orange crayon remained as well as some dust I hadn't noticed on its frame. There, then, said the voice of sentiment, go and get it before anyone finds it and tell the thrift store you changed your mind. All four of your babies rode in that stroller, every single one of them...save it for the memories.
I was already on the street and going through a light, but even as I made my way to pick up my two oldest from school, the lump in my throat was growing along with an urge to turn back. Those tall, skinny kids who were about to be dismissed from class had once been tiny little things, riding in that blue and yellow stroller. And then their two siblings had occupied it after them. All of them had snacked in it, slept in it, thrown tantrums in it and gone for long strolls on city streets, in nature or shopping centers in it. All of them had been nestled in the crook of my left arm many times as I pushed their empty stroller around one-handed.
I thought back on all the baby-rearing history and adventures as I inched through car line at my kids' school. I couldn't take the remorse anymore. I needed support and pragmatism, so I called my Man up.
"Honey, I dropped off the stroller today," I said. "Do you want me to go back and get it?"
I swallowed several times before saying carefully and tearfully, "Because all four of our babies rode in that stroller..."
There was a pause and then a long chuckle and a gentle reproof, "Silly woman....no, we don't need it anymore. Let somebody else get use out of it. It's fine."
Would somebody else get use out of it, though? Would they sense all the residual love clinging to its fabric and honor that despite its appearance? Or would they cruelly beat it with sticks for being so used and sorry-looking? Surely I had made a mistake in offering it up to the great unknown.
"We could get a lap dog and push it around in it."
"NO. I'm not doing that."
I didn't even mention how my sister had used hers to push around shopping bags on Black Friday. Maybe I could have used it for Christmas shopping, too, with an attached disclaimer that read, "No, I didn't forget my baby. This stroller is retired and hauls merchandise for a hobby."
"We should have had more kids," I said, jokingly.
He replied very seriously, "No, we shouldn't have."
As I hung up I felt better, still shaky but fortified. Then my older kids got in the car, and with one look at their sweet faces, the tears came back. Berto watched me sniffling for a while in silence and then asked, "Mama, why are you crying? Is it the paper again?"
My boy knows me too well and my propensity for crying at news stories. I tried several times to tell him what was wrong but faltered on the words. When I finally spilled it out, his response was much like his father's.
But I still wish I had saved our stroller.