STROLLER DERBY SEASON

STROLLER DERBY SEASON

From Chicken Soup for the Father & Son Soul

Stroller Derby Season

You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.

Plato

Stroller derby season is in full bloom again. It happens like clockwork every spring. As soon as the snow melts, the stroller invasion begins. They crowd the sidewalks, jockeying for position. Every year, of course, a few new entrants join the field—and a few have called it quits.

I don’t know what the rule of thumb is for when a kid is considered too old for a stroller. But I had not-so-secretly wished that this was the year for my kid. Over the long winter, we even put one of our two strollers out to pasture. But we held on to one just in case we ever needed it. That same Principle of Junk explains why we have barely enough room for our one car in our two-car garage.

The reality is that my son, who is now pushing four, had been pushing away the stroller for some time. The old jalopies are growing cobwebs just sitting there in the garage taking up precious space.

That is until a light pole sideswiped the vehicle I drive (and, no, Officer Friendly, it was not the other way around), causing a chain-reaction series of events that ended with yours truly pushing an empty stroller to my son’s day care one fine spring day.

As I pushed nearer the day care, I heard the kids. When I heard my son’s name, I looked up to the second-floor where I saw a bunch of his classmates sticking their heads out the window. Unlike me, they thought it was cool that I was pushing a stroller instead of driving a car. That apparently rubbed off on my son, who, rather surprisingly, showed great glee at being chauffeured home in his Model T stroller.

A bit of a hill is on the route home, and I asked if he wanted to go faster. A smile broke across his face as he nodded. Gentlemen, push your strollers, I heard in my head. There we were racing down the hill, passing all the newer deluxe models, and he sat up partway in his seat and shook his fist in the air like a jockey going for the roses.

At the bottom of the hill, he urged, “More!” to a winded and rusty Daddy.

“After we cross,” I told him, needing to replenish my fuel supply.

The sidewalk in front of our house was wide with lots of room to maneuver, so I knew it would be a good one for us to let loose on. When we reached it, I half-jokingly asked, “Should we just take it easy and go nice and slow?”

Speed Racer’s head zipped around. “No, go fast!”

“You sure?”

“Uh-huh,” he said, grinning from ear to ear.

Down the block we zoomed, Daddy huffing and puffing, and Speed Racer’s giggling and fist-waving serving as the whip. It was one of those most unexpected father-son moments, when your kid brings out the kid in you that rarely gets out—especially on a public thoroughfare.

The problem was that daddies, unlike their sons, lack an endless supply of fuel. When this daddy finally pushed the stroller into its spot in the garage, his tank was on empty.

Several days and several more stroller rides later, my vehicle was back in its proper place in the garage, its battered side mended so that you couldn’t even tell it had been bruised. That day I happily buckled myself into the driver’s seat and set off to pick up my boy.

As we walked out the door of the day care, my son turned to where the stroller should have been. “No stroller today?”

“No, remember, we got the car back. It’s right over there.” I pointed.

My son sulked in his car seat.

“You like the stroller better?” I asked, already reading the answer on my son’s face.

The next day I was back to pushing the stroller. Only now, I noticed the stares from passersby as I pushed an empty stroller. In the days that followed, I saw this reaction more and more. Even a little girl in a passing stroller pointed out the obvious. It was as if she was saying, “Um, sir, you forgot something.”

I nodded and pushed on. Soon, I knew, the solid green flag would be waved and that the little driver at the controls would push me to my limit with that call, “Go fast!”

Randy Richardson

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