I used to say that I thought a stroller would be the worst part of parenthood, and I meant it, inasmuch it was a bad thing that I could tangibly imagine, from back when I used had a job babysitting an 18-month-boy in Montreal that required me to push him around in an awkward BabyJogger (one time he fell out of it, I still feel bad about that, I hope he’s OK, if only I remembered his name I would google him).
And it’s true, a stroller is bad, bulky and irritating when you’re used to moving at speed. But what is worse, perhaps, is that every kind of baby transport is hard. The thing that I have loved so much about living in a city until now — the car-free freedom — is now so limiting with the addition of a person who weighs about 15 pounds. If I know you in life and you haven’t seen me, I apologize, I really do, I thought I would be the kind of mother who darts cheerfully around the city with my pleasant child in tow, but the truth is that though he is pleasant (you know, in my opinion, of course I think that) and I am pretty cheerful, at this stage in the game any travel beyond the perimeter of our neighborhood feels like an onerous project.
At the weekend we were going to New Jersey for one night, to see our friends in a place that is, to be clear, only seventeen miles away. Not far. At 1:30 the baby and I got out of swimming class (another story) and E said, Oh, we need to get a car to the train station at quarter past 3, and I snapped, That’s not going to happen, and E said, in his kind and reasonable tone, Well, let’s really try. At quarter past 3 we were ready but when the app indicated that we would arrive at the station with 5 minutes until the train departed I bellowed WE ARE NOT GOING TO MAKE IT and that began the cascade into crisis.
First, we had an argument about the cost of a ZipCar, and then I tried to storm out of the building, which was out of proportion, and then we agreed that we would just pay for it. But then when we got to the car there was something wrong, it couldn’t be driven. E called the company and they said, Sorry, but don’t worry, we can give you another car, it’s just 7 miles away! and E said, Do you have any idea how far that is in New York City?? and then I said, OK, I’m calling an Uber, and we will take a bus.
At the Port Authority Station we climbed out of the car and popped up the stroller and everything seemed OK and then E realized that he had dropped his phone in the gutter. In the Port Authority gutter! If you’re not familiar with the Port Authority just know, that’s not a good gutter. He wrapped it in a brochure for a Broadway show and then we proceeded to an elevator, and then just as I got in with the baby and the stroller (thank god I had the stroller!) E, who had now reached a level of stress that I had last witnessed when I was having a Caesarean section, said: I have to wash my hands, they have touched this gutter phone!
So there we were, me and the baby, on our own in the Port Authority. The baby was crying and I was singing his favorite song, ‘I’ve Been Working on the Railroad’ and I was thinking to myself, Everyone knows you should never split the group! and of course it was the wrong elevator, and so I rode back up into it and figured out where the bus was departing from and then walked through the station to the other elevator whilst singing ‘Someone’s in the kitchen with Di-NAH’ and rode down to the bus gate and there was E, with his gutter phone in the queue for the bus, and I joined him and I said in maybe not the kindest of voices: This is probably the worst day of our marriage so far! and he said, Yes! and then we sort of laughed because, of course, that makes us very lucky.