My daughter and I took a walk to the park today. An ordinary day and ordinary walk, except that today is the last day of our summer vacation. Her hair bleached by the sun and chlorine from the pool, days at the lake and afternoons at the park. She was wearing her sister’s hand-me-down skirt and a bright pink shirt and she was perfect. She asked me to push her on the swings, way up high.
“Look Mommy, the seagulls are having a party. Let’s go play castle — you are the queen of the castle and I am the princess.”
With that directive we climbed on to the playground equipment. She told me to sit there, and she climbed back down. I sat there looking out at the day, enjoying my daughter. I watched her dig in the sand, burying her legs, sprawling forward, rolling over, smiling back at me.
Behind her is our stroller, the one I should have gotten rid of by now. My daughter will be 5 this winter and it’s past the time for riding in strollers. But I like to take long walks and she likes to ride, and it’s something we have done together for almost five years now.
Before that, my son rode in that stroller. I wish I had a pedometer to tell us the miles we have traveled together, my children and I. Nature trails, airports, other states, walks along the lake, through golf courses, around the neighborhood, farmer’s markets and museums, art fairs, antique shows, the zoo, to the bakery, to the library, to the park, the park and to the park again. All the snacks and fights and tears and tantrums, the lost sippy cups and forgotten sand toys, all those naps taken as we walked together on so many summer afternoons.
And then my daughter was back, sitting beside me there at the top of the playground structure. “Here Mommy, this is the royal room,” except when she said it she pronounced the room like “womb” so it sounded like
“Here Mommy, this is the royal womb.”
She jumped through the opening and down the slide and I couldn’t help but think, yes, this is the royal womb, this piece of playground equipment and the slide the birth canal and there you are, almost 5 years old, sliding out with your arms held high, yelling with glee and jumping up to exclaim look at me, look at me, look at me.
I see you, my beautiful child, and all your glory and wonder, and I know that you are almost 5 and it is time to give the stroller with all our miles traveled away. But it is so rusted with my own memories, I don’t think anyone else will want it.
Again she wants to swing. I sing her a song I learned years ago in a music class I went to with her older sister. I have sung this song to all of my children, and here at the park beside our rusty old stroller on this summer afternoon I will sing it again, and then it will be time to go.
“When Mommy pushes me on the swing I go up so high, I think I have wings, I think I have wings, I can fly, I can fly, I can fly.”
Maraya Steadman, who lives in a Chicago suburb, is a stay-at-home mother of three children. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.