‘We’re getting rid of a buggy,’ I messaged my friend. ‘Want it?’
‘How many buggies do you have?’ she replied.
‘This is it,’ I told her. ‘The last one.’
The last buggy. Just a few bits of fabric wrapped around metal rods, really, because once they’re big, children rather than toddlers, you only need the thing to hold them in and move them along, or to be wheeled along beside them as a backup; mostly, tiny children will want to walk. Or run. Or skip, or, more perplexingly, go sideways and backwards, because ongoing forward motion towards a fixed destination is a skill that proves surprisingly difficult to instil.
We kept the last buggy for too long, probably. In case I needed to take our youngest on a long walk (where?) or move him while he was asleep (why?) or, or.
Yeah, I know it sounds as if I’m hanging on to this, the last vestige of his, both my children’s babyhoods, but trust me, I’m not. A buggy is a contraption that renders a woman invisible from the second she touches its handles.
And I am no longer that woman, her boundaries smeared, wrestling with a rain cover, every sense attuned to the mewls and screeches from beneath the sunshade. Now, with two children bounding at my side, I can feel my edges once more. I am, increasingly, myself again, and I am glad.
The first buggy was a gift, a huge and lumbering contraption over which my newborn daughter and I vied as to which of us could loathe it the most. With all the speed and agility of a built-in wardrobe, it took a full five minutes to collapse the thing, and once down, it did not like to get back up. (On this, at least, it and I were in agreement.) After a few months we replaced it with something that appeared slightly smaller and lighter. Only it wasn’t, really. The seat was filled with my increasingly enormous daughter, and the base with everything I could ever possibly want for the day, which was everything I owned, minus the one thing I would actually need.
We knew every bus stop, every single dropped curb. It filled the space by the front door, the boot of the car, it filled my life, that buggy. The condensation on the inside of the rain cover. The warm sweat on the back of my baby’s neck when I lifted her as she came swimming up from deep sleep. The socked feet that would sometimes protrude from the hood.
Flat for the newborn, then tilted. Turned around at six months to face out, face the world. The whole thing swapped for something truly light and verging on the flimsy not long after my girl turned one.
When my son was born, I cycled through all of this once more, big buggy, smaller buggy, turn it in, face it out, swap for the buggy that’s lightweight. And this time, there will be no putting it away, just in case. Buggies and I are done, have been for a long time. But it’s only today that I take it to the charity shop, explain that, ‘It’s a really good one, with long handles, super light. It collapses like this! See?’
And I look at my sturdy children, and see them in this buggy, still; know that by giving up the buggy, I am, in some unspoken way, giving up the last of their tiny selves. Know, too, that those soft baby arms and legs are there, somewhere, in these children that will so soon become teenagers, adults, even. They’ve not gone, and they have. And they can’t, I won’t allow it, not while I carry them, keeping everything, just in case.
Chuck it all in, I will keep it, I will bear it, for you. For us. And I will have everything I can think that you might possibly want, and I know, too, already, that I will be missing the one thing you find that you need.
They are not original, these thoughts. I do know. No human emotion is new, but those of motherhood are, perhaps, some of the least original of them all. On they come, not just punctual, but timetabled; first steps, first words, the first day of school, the last buggy, and every time I am overwhelmed, each one as astonishing and inevitable as the first day of summer.
The last buggy stands outside the charity shop, sponged clean of its many and mysterious stains, bearing a small paper label, £10, awaiting whoever comes next. I’m thinking of that toddler, how he or she will fight as they are strapped in, their sudden sag of acquiescence. How their father or their mother will push them on into the horizon, as the rain comes down and the sun shines, and how that child, too, will grow.
How there is a last of everything, last buggy, last nappy, last sippy cup, last bedtime kiss. How we all grow up, move on.
I walk home, just me, just me. And I must remember, because I have forgotten, now. I! must! remember! that I am glad.