The baby stroller was my gift to Wyatt on his first birthday. I went online to find the right one, which was no easy task -- most baby doll strollers are intended for little girls, and tend toward hot pink. But there was a blue gingham one that seemed masculine enough, and I sent away for it.
Rarely in my life have I scored such an unequivocal home run with a gift. The baby stroller was his favorite thing: he wheeled it furiously around the apartment, down the hallway on the way to the elevator, and he could have a hard time at the playground if his stroller did not accompany him there. It folded up and stowed behind the seat on his real stroller, like a rifle on a gunrack, so that it would always be available when needed. He strolled along busy Atlantic Avenue with it, garnering smiles from every adult he met -- "Where's your baby?" someone would ask. But Wyatt never answered that question. He just kept walking -- never saw the point of putting a baby in the baby stroller, although I did buy him a blue-clad baby doll to that end, thinking that it would train him to be a great dad someday. No, the baby stroller was never about parenthood. It was about wheels. Around and around the playground climber he would careen with it -- "Running so fast!" he would crow as he ran, and he would invite partners: "Everybody running so fast!" he would say, taking me by the hand. How could I fail to run along? I would follow him anywhere.
Other toddlers at the playground had baby strollers, too. And ours wasn't the only little boy with one; they all loved them -- this is a new era. There were plenty of hot pink ones -- but I snapped a photo of Wyatt staring dumbfounded at a blue one, identical to his, driven by a little girl from the neighborhood. There are two? you could hear him asking himself, How can this be?
Nothing lasts forever, of course. Wyatt's just learned to push off with one foot and go like the wind on his scooter, and the baby stroller is history. Over, just like that. Just in time, too: its blue gingham seat was full of holes, and its plastic wheels were wearing out. Well, done, good and faithful servant.
The playground, the laundromat (he likes to watch all the washers go into their spin cycles) and the child-friendly ice cream shop down the block, called Blue Marble: this has been our loop on the afternoons while his mother tutors her students at home. "Mommy teach, go inside Blue Marble!" he says the moment I appear in his doorway at the end of his nap. "Yup, we're definitely going there," I answer, and we always go. But Blue Marble is closing on Sunday, the casualty of an unworkable rent increase. Always we had the same thing: a mango sorbet mini for him, a ginger one for me. We went yesterday afternoon for the last time.
He didn't know it was the last time. He didn't know the last time that his baby stroller was magic -- running so fast! -- was the last time, either. There will come a time, and it will be soon, when a dozen washing machines' simultaneous spin cycles no longer fascinates him. He will have moved on to something else. One day it will be magical, and the next day it won't. That's all.
And he doesn't know why this stings a bit, for the adults who love him -- in fact, he doesn't even know it does. How could he? We don't know time is passing until it already has.
Nothing Gold Can Stay
Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
For nothing gold can stay.
-- Robert Frost, 1923