image by sarah mccoy photo

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Racing Stripes

In 2010, two months before Gale Force’s due date, we got a new stroller.  It had two seats and racing stripes.  It had a big storage basket and sticky-up handles that could hold bags.   It supported my water bottle and Starbucks mocha simultaneously.  It was a mama Cadillac.

That month, the wives whose husbands were together in Afghanistan planned an ambitious trip from North Carolina to Washington D.C.  I went with one of my closest friends, and invited my mom to offset the daunting kid-to-parent ratio (she then had four). 

Within the first hour of our arrival on Andrews AFB, there were kids jumping on couches, cushions strewn across the small living space, and crying from all corners as the only drink between them all was Songbird’s three-hour-old OJ from a McDonald’s drive-through.  My 8-month-pregnant belly was reminding me that it’d been six hours since my last meal.  Darn that beltway traffic.

And then my friend spotted the poop.

Our house had a raw sewage leak in the back yard, it turned out.  Chaos ensued.  My friend called the after-hours housing line while Mom and I jetted to the Commissary and Wendy’s for emergency rations, and then we were re-packing eight suitcases and moving in the dark.  The trip was starting off swimmingly.

The next day our caravan of SUVs and minivans tried to head to the zoo.  In the drama of organizing multiple families, between us nearly 30 children, we didn’t get off base until 1:30: naptime.  A baby needed feeding.  Another kid needed sunglasses.  The caravan waited.

Then we all misunderstood the metro parking lot and got stuck, without exit tickets, in a pre-paid commuter lot.  As our combined five strollers, three of them double, headed for our train (complete with 30 minutes of figuring out the ticketing system), we found that the elevator was broken.  We were USMC wives, though, so we muscled our way through that and many other D.C. metro stops in the midst of lunch-rush.  We had lions and elephants to see.

That April day it was over 90° in the shade.  We hadn’t even seen anything yet.  Eventually, my mom and I broke off from the group for fear that I’d go into early labor with the exertion, and tried to find a restaurant where we could sit and relax and maybe, at least, see the cherry blossoms.  Following directions from a local, we walked six blocks to find the only restaurant in that district closed for the day.  Along the way, we found that the cherry blossoms had fallen the day before we arrived.

In the end, amidst exercise-induced contractions, we settled for Starbucks shakes and trail mix on a park bench while Songbird chased pigeons in the abandoned square.

If you’d have heard my conversation throughout that day, you’d have thought me a bit superficial.  It always came back to my new stroller:

“I just love the racing stripes!”
“Such a big sunshade!”
“This storage basket is so accessible!”
“Look how she can recline in here!”

It might have seemed like an obsession.

But verbalizing this one constant blessing was the best weapon we had against the swollen feet, fatigue and irritation of the day.  When my ire rose, I could say, “These double wheels have shock absorbers!” out loud and remember that Eloi, the God who sees me, saw me and my short fuse and blessed me all the same.

And when, at 8:30 pm, we were wrestling that enormous stroller up two flights of metro stairs because of a broken escalator, I was glad that I’d already branded my thankfulness for it on my heart.

No comments:

Post a Comment