New York is in the midst of a pretty heavy cold snap. It’s been about fifteen to twenty degrees for about a week now. This morning we had our second snow of the year, nothing ominous but a pretty solid flurry. Enough to make getting around annoying and a little precarious. As I was out a woman slipped on a metal plate that was hidden beneath the powder. I did the gentlemanly thing and helped her to her feet. I like to think of myself as chivalrous. I open doors, give up seats… I have even mastered knowing when it’s okay to say hello to women in the street and not make them feel uncomfortable or seem skeevy. If you live in any major metropolis you know that this is nearly impossible. Ninety percent of dudes who say hello to women in New York are trying to get the panties. True Story.
I take my son Cole to and from daycare every day. It’s one of the joys/responsibilities of being lucky enough to work from home. His daycare is about a mile away which in New York is odd because we pass about eight other daycare’s along the way. We used to live closer but my wife found a nicer apartment with a backyard. We decided not to move my son out of his daycare because they treat him so well despite being one of the more affordable places in the neighborhood. We usually walk to daycare with Cole either in his stroller or in one of those giant baby backpacks that essentially turn me into a beast of burden. But between the cold and the snow, we have been taking the subway back and forth for the better part of the winter. He likes it for the most part unless the train is running particularly slow in which case he turns into a twenty-six pound flopping fish on dry land.
When Cole and I reach our stop we step off the train with the rank and file and shuffle through the turnstile, the cold air billowing down the stairway where, at the bottom, a woman waited for the crowd to make their way out the station so that she could either pull or carry her stroller up the stairs. This is why I refuse to bring a stroller on the train despite my wife’s suggestion. It’s a pain for me and pretty much everyone else suffering the slings and arrows of public transportation. I’m not passing judgment, I’m just stating the obvious.
The crowd thinned and with Cole sitting on my left arm the lady asked if I could lend a hand. I say lady because I’m not completely sure whether she was the child’s mother or grandmother. She looked older but between the stress of living in New York City and advances in medicine that make it possible for children to be born to older and older parents venturing generational guesses can be tenuous. I thought it odd that she would ask me for help since I had twenty-six pounds of humanity in my arms. I really didn’t mind the request, it just seemed that I wasn’t the most likely candidate. I agreed, in part to be helpful and in part to satiate my need to be chivalrous.
The stroller was sizable enough. A red three-wheeled faux jogger with a long canopy that obscured the child underneath except for her feet. I grabbed the front wheel as (grand)mom held the handlebar and walked up the stairs with me at the bottom. We trudged up the stairs in syncopated step with her thanking me all along the way. I look at Cole and he has a face that resembles the constipated look that comes with observing the absurd. I follow his line of sight to the child in the stroller. I say, child, because there was nothing babyish about the young lady folded into the seat of the stroller. Bundled in a winter coat and a scarf that wrapped around her head more than once and covered everything but her eyes was a girl who at best guess had to be at least four years old. Her eyes locked in on Cole’s with, what seemed to me, a look of embarrassment as if to say “Yes, I can walk. Yes, I’m willing to walk. No, she won’t let me”.
As we walk up the stairs I’m noting the ridiculousness of the situation including the length of leg spilling past the front wheel even as her head rubbed the bottom of the canopy. I’m feeling the burn in my left arm as the reality of Cole’s growth collide head-on with the reality of my need to add the gym to the list of new year’s resolutions. As the slush on the stairs slogged beneath my feet I wonder if she has her semi-grown child in a stroller as a matter of convenience or some sort of subconscious desire to try and retard the passing of time. I feel that way every time Cole outgrows a t-shirt or pair of sneakers I like in particular. I also note that I have never squeezed him into an infant onesie or crammed his foot into an old pair of shoes. We reach the top of the stairway and (grand)mom thanks me again for the umpteenth time. I respond with the typical “no problem” type platitudes and make my way up the street. I still feel Cole’s annoyed stare burning my face. For a soon to be two year old, he understands way more than he should about life. Clearly, he gets that from his mother.