We recently returned from a five day get-away in Paris. While roaming the incredibly charming sidewalks, taking in the stupendous sites, and gazing at famous works of art; I couldn’t help but have to stop to catch my breath. Have you ever felt so completely overwhelmed that you can’t breathe? Usually when this happens to me, it is in times of great sadness; during my hold-nothing-back sobs where there just isn’t room for air. Like when my grandmother passed away, I just couldn’t catch my breath. Or when the three doctors and that nurse walked in to the hospital room with grim faces the morning after Annie was born to deliver the news of her diagnosis. It was as if all the air had been sucked from the room.
In Paris it was different. I was overwhelmed to the point of breathlessness in the completely opposite way. As we walked along the Seine, with the towers of Notre Dame in view, I had to stop to adjust my coat. As I looked up my new view included the Seine, Notre Dame, and Michael pushing Annie in her little blue stroller. Tears welled in my eyes, and I felt more lucky and at peace in this moment than I ever have.
Annie’s little blue stroller. The stroller we purchased just a little over a year ago before our ten day trip to Tunisia. After trying to haul Annie’s enormous (“spaceship” as her dad calls it) stroller onto buses and trains and squeezing it through crowded alleys, we decided we needed the smallest, lightest-weight stroller available. Annie’s first stroller “system” cost almost 450 euro. (And we never use it!) We forked over 59.90 euro for our little blue one.
The stroller is just over a year used. But you would never guess it. It looks like it’s been handed down for years, like the little bums of several little tykes before her have left their imprint. The wheels are worn, the light blue turning a pukish-gray, stains from gelato and spilled milk and Polish Zurek soup. From Tunisian cous cous and and Baklawa. From a hot chocolate from London, and juice from a fresh Sicilian blood orange. Sometimes as I clean off the crumbs from the crackers she loves to snack on, it’s as if I can feel the sand from the Sahara or from the shores of Ischia that once occupied the crevices of the seat.
I have a love/hate relationship with this little blue stroller. I love that I can lift it onto a bus with Annie strapped in and my enormous diaper bag hanging from the back all by myself. I hate that the wheels often get stuck making turns impossible. I love how easy it is to close and open and the tiny space it takes up. I hate that it shows every stain and ounce of dirt. I LOVE all the memories we’ve made with it. I HATE it for the guilt that consumes me for having Annie in it for too long, especially during our trips away. I LOVE it because every time we take it to explore a new city, I am reminded of all the places Annie’s experienced. I HATE it because I CAN’T go without it. Annie is still not standing on her own, which makes it impossible to put her down. This little blue stroller is essential if we are going to leave the house. I use it everyday. Rain or shine, this little blue stroller is always there, a constant in our lives. And for this, I both love it and hate it.
I can’t sugar coat it. I get sad. There are days when we’re strolling with our little blue contraption and we run into a group of children playing in the park and I get choked up wishing I could undo her buckle and watch as she runs towards all that fun. In Paris we were taking some photos in a beautiful piazza and a mother was sitting on a bench as her two children (one at least five months younger than Annie) were running and chasing each other around the fountain. My heart broke a little bit.
Which brings me to my back. It’s not easy having an almost two-year-old who can’t walk, let alone stand on her own. If we’re out of the house, she’s either in the stroller or my arms. She can’t be in the stroller for long periods without getting cranky, like any kid. And so my nights are filled with icepacks and pleas for back rubs from my husband. My back is a bit broken too.
I could sit back and say, “Enough, it’s too much, we need to slow down.” But then I catch a glimpse of our tiny folded up stroller in the corner. And we’re off.
Annie may still be extremely dependent on her little “Blue,” for now anyway. She may not be able to run around fountains, or get on a tricycle, or climb the steps to the slide. Or walk hand-in-hand with another toddler her age. She may not be able to stand as she feeds the ducks with her dad.
BUT, oh the places and things she has seen in her little blue stroller.
In a few weeks my little girl will turn 2. The time has flown. It doesn’t feel that long ago that I was in a hospital bed with her tiny body in my lap, and I couldn’t breath because I was filled with so much worry that her diagnosis would make her life harder, sadder. Everyday since her birth has been better than the last. Her life amazes me more each day. We know she’ll walk one day and that she won’t always be so dependent on wheels. But for now, we can’t wait to see where that little blue stroller takes us next!
again.. beautifully said.. and sounds like the little “blue” stroller” needs to be a story that everyone can read.. a great book. or maybe a series..just think, that stroller has limitations to you.. but to annie, it is freedom.. everytiime her little seat drops in.. she knows something is coming.. maybe doesn’t understand it all, but def knows she is going .. it is her safe place to explore the world.. miss the three of you. with my first grandbaby coming in may, i will get to experience what your parents feel when annie is in the room.. love to you !!
The little engine that could was always blue in my books. 🙂
Wonderful! Life and love gets stronger and more bountiful. You will always appreciate much much more than most… because you see through different eyes. We ARE the lucky ones.
Colleen – as always thanks so much for sharing Annie with everyone!! And as I said after reading your very first post – you should be a writer – and it sounds like many others agree – you have a wonderful gift. 🙂
I LOVE seeing the pics of Annie – she just gets cuter and cuter as time goes by!! There is a wonderful sweetness that “jumps out” from her photos – I can only imagine how GREAT that sweetness is in person. 🙂
Although you may be far from home – it’s such a wonderful blessing that you & Michael are able to show Annie so many awesome places in the World that most of us can only see in pictures!! 🙂
PS – I hope the Tunisian cous cous you mentioned was as good as the cous cous I got in Morocco last month!!! mmmmm good – would love to have some right now.
Love this post. While those wheels bring restrictions and limitations, they also bring her freedom that she wouldn’t normally have. Wishing for “normal” is normal though, even when you know you have more blessings than you can count. I’m glad you can still see the bright side of those ice packs and the little blue stroller!
Hi Colleen. Sorry to hear about your back, but love to hear about Annie’s adventures with you and Mike. And the illustrations are awesome too! Mille grazie! (I hope I got that right. My Latin is a little rusty.)
I feel your back pain! Jake wont let me put him down in public, he’s a bit timid. So he’s usually on my hip, or in our ‘space’ stroller. Get those massages when you can, you are entitled!!