It wasn’t until two years after my second baby that I found a practical quality stroller that really worked for us. I didn’t know what to look for before having kids and bought our original stroller based only on the most important criteria—price range (reasonable) and how many cool people I saw pushing it (ridiculous). A couple years later, I did a photography trade for a fancy-shmancy stroller upgrade but still didn’t find it practical for our needs. Oddly enough, the stroller on which I relied the most ended up being a pink $20 umbrella stroller we bought for travel backup—a light-weight junky little thing that fit nicely in the trunk of our car and garnered a collection of jibes from friends. Pink Panther and Crap on Wheels is, I recall, how it was referenced. When it came time for a three-week family road trip two years ago, we packed our pink Crap on Wheels between suitcases and coolers, hoping it would suffice for the trip.
At the halfway point, we landed in the heart of Chicago—also known as Land of the Cadillac Stroller. Trekking along State Street, surrounded by city fashion, I watched my husband guide our rickety stroller—its cheap stained canvas sinking from the weight of a kid plus baggage—between other moms’ Bugaboos and Orbits—strollers that rolled where you wanted them to go without straining your wrist, strollers that had baskets to hold purses and bags, strollers that reclined for sleeping children instead of containing them to neck-straining huddles, strollers that didn’t look like they had been rescued from a street alley dumpster.
“This is embarrassing, Kelle,” my husband finally whispered at a packed cross-walk. “This thing is a piece of junk, it’s pulling to the right, and I look like I’m pushing a doll stroller.”
And then he said something unexpected. “Let’s buy a new one. Right now.”
“Yeah, right,” I answered. “I mean, a new stroller would be awesome, but this is downtown Chicago, Brett. Any stroller store you’ll find here, you’re going to pay a pretty penny for a new one.”
He smiled. “When in Rome. It’ll be fun. Let’s do it.”
I was in shock. My husband compares deals, complains about big city price inflation and has never been one to care too much about baby gear—that’s my territory. And here he was in the middle of downtown Chicago, excitedly suggesting stroller shopping as if it was a new car—a character flip as epic as George McFly finally punching Biff Tanner. At that moment, at the corner of the crosswalk, I found him irresistibly sexy.
“Excuse me,” he said to an attractive woman pushing a stroller next to us. “Can you tell me where we can find a nice place that sells strollers here in the city?”
An hour later, we were test riding wheels in Galt, a high-end baby store next to Bloomingdale’s on Michigan Avenue. I watched in admiration as my husband examined handle height, read through feature options and asked the store clerk all the right questions. Our girls took turns sitting in our top choices while my husband steered them around the store, stopping to evaluate wheel pressure and canopy coverage. I overheard him at one point telling the clerk, “We definitely want to upgrade to the good rubber wheels.” After much deliberation, we settled on the Baby Jogger City Mini GT—not too pricey but still a vacation splurge and certainly a much nicer stroller than the old Pink Panther.
After we paid for it, my husband pulled the stroller from the box, opened it right there in the store and began transferring our belongings to the new purchase.
He handed the clerk the box. “Do you mind throwing this away for us? I think we’ll use this right out of the store. Oh, and one more thing—” he added. He folded the Pink Panther up and laughed as he passed it to the hands of the smiling clerk. “Take this too.”
We walked out of Galt, down the elevator and back out to the electric energy of Michigan Avenue much like a closing scene of a movie when the cowboy rides off into the sunset. We would swivel those wheels through city streets all day, commenting often on how easily they turned, how much stuff the basket could hold, how conveniently the seat reclined, allowing our littlest to comfortably nap while we toured the city. And for the following three weeks, we’d clock a lot of miles and memories with that stroller, visiting landmarks in several states along the way.
Two years later, I still love our stroller and use it frequently. But more than anything, I love the memory of how that stroller came to be. It was an unexpected family bonding experience, spurred from vacation enthusiasm and highlighting my husband in a way I won’t forget—a spontaneous fun shopper who dropped everything for some cool baby gear. And secretly, I think he knew I loved it.
That stroller was worth every penny.