My new set of wheels

F0onmybI got rid of my last stroller more than a year ago. Once I owned four—simultaneously. I had the umbrella stroller for the car, the single with the standing bar on the back for long trips with one kid or shorter trips with two, the regular double that I knicknamed the greyhound bus, and the double jogger. And then there were none. I wouldn’t have given any of them up without my husband’s nagging. He had a point; when I finally sent the last one, the umbrella stroller, off to goodwill my youngest was turning seven and hadn’t sat in it in six months. But I knew I would miss them all desperately.
    And I do. Yeah, I know I don’t need them for the kids anymore. Sure, I liked my walks a lot better when I could put the kids in a stroller and enjoy the scenery; these days I take less walks since I’ve got to keep my eyes on the kids. But that ship, as they say, has sailed.
    These days I miss my strollers for their hauling power. We’re out at a picnic, the kids hand me their sweatshirts and hats, and my arms are full for the next two hours; I used to just dump it all in the stroller. When I bring in snacks and juice to the elementary school I feel absolutely ridiculous driving two blocks, but I do, and I miss that double stroller that used to handle a tray of cupcakes and three jugs of juice without a squeak. I haven’t gone to the local farmer’s market since I sold the double—there’s no place to park a car, and I always buy too much to carry home if I’m walking. (For about two minutes I thought maybe I’d get one of those wire-mesh
carts that old ladies in New York push to the grocery store. But
they’re called granny carts, so I just couldn’t do it,  I mean, come
on, I don’t have blue hair yet.) For the past two summers we’ve driven to the Palo Alto twilight concerts; again, we used to walk, with a kid and a cooler in the stroller and the other kids on scooters.
    But this horrible hole in my life left by the departure of all my strollers is about to be filled.
Because earlier this month, on our annual shore vacation, I met the WonderWheeler.
    You see, in New Jersey, no one goes to the beach with just a towel and sunglasses. Jersey Girls are serious about the beach. We hit the sand right after our breakfast coffee and, if at all possible, stay until the sun sets and the seagulls are picking through the garbage cans for pizza crusts. Such long beach days require major amounts of gear. Specifically, for my current family of five, I need six striped towels, five sand chairs, three boogie boards, two beach bags (full of books, newspapers, extra t-shirts, extra lotion, sunglasses, plastic cups, pencils for the crossword puzzle, cameras, and shells we forgot to take out the night before), two long-handled shovels, one big blanket, one beach umbrella, one jug of lemonade, and a giant bag stuffed with sand toys.
    It’s not a long walk from our beach rental to the sand, but it’s still long enough that all that stuff gets heavy. And it’s a matter of pride not to do two trips. So my husband and I load up the kids as best we can (life is better now that we have a 5-foot 9-inch teenager in the party, but still, someone is usually whining about the unfairness of the load distribution), grab whatever’s left ourselves, and lead the march to the water’s edge.
    This summer, as we set off on our first trip to the beach, looking like a bunch of sherpas attacking the Himalayas, I noticed that none of the other families around us looked quite so burdened. In fact, everyone else had all their gear loaded onto hip looking navy blue carts that the dads were pushing; the moms were blissfully emptyhanded. The carts looked almost like strollers, or at least like my strollers used to look when I piled them nose-high with stuff. Where did these carts come from? How come I didn’t get the memo?
    I confronted one cart-pushing family (between the aunts and grandparents they had three blue carts). I wanted information, and I wanted it now. "Wonderwheeler….Rio Beach…" they stammered. "60 bucks online, 40 if you can find it at Sam’s Club." I scribbled the details on the back of my trashy paperback, and ordered it the next time I got in front of a computer.
    It shipped today, and I have a feeling that it’s going to be my new best friend. So look for me at the farmer’s market, the next school picnic, and just tooling around downtown; this girl’s finally got some new wheels.

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