We are very fortunate to have Steven Moss as a guest blogger with another addition to his Daddy Handbook.
It’s my daughter’s favorite story. She tells it at dinner parties and family gatherings: her near death experience when I allowed her unattended stroller to careen down one of San Francisco’s steepest hills. Even my wife throws in details, and she wasn’t there. I’ll protest that, no, it didn’t quite happen that way. But the particulars aren’t important in the face of such cartoon-like daddy negligence. The tale is in the same mythic category as narrowly missing a toddler with a one-ton anvil, or leaving an opened bottle of Tylenol at baby level after a night out drinking (okay, I did that, but she didn’t actually eat any).
Here’s what happened. I walked my then three-year-old daughter down the two flights of stairs outside our Potrero Hill condominium. At street level – which tilts at something like a 45 degree angle – I strapped her into her stroller. We were set to go to Jackson Park, her favorite playground, a few blocks away when I realized I didn’t have my wallet with me. Shoot. What if we needed to buy a snack? I looked at her, happily playing in her stroller with two small stuffed animals. I looked up at the two flights of stairs. I made my decision.
Before I go on, I need to tell you about the stroller. This wasn’t one of those $500 turbo-charged models with a built-in bottle warmer and fold-out diaper changing table; the kind our nanny used to say made her peers so nervous it’d be stolen that they’d spend more time watching the stroller than their charges. This was a $30 Costco umbrella stroller. No cup holder, no extra carrying case, no skid-proof wheel system, nothing.
I turned the stroller sideways against the hill. Despite what my wife – remember, she wasn’t there – or my daughter – who at the time thought sand was edible – say, I set the brakes. I ran up the stairs, unlocked the door, grabbed my wallet, ran back down the stairs. And she was gone.
There are a moments in life when time stops. The universe seems to shudder and crack open, creating a new reality in which everything is different. Unless there are drugs involved, this temporary suspension of time is never a good thing. It happened to me when I took a hard tumble down a steep mountain slope skiing at Squaw Valley. And it happened when I came down those stairs, and my daughter wasn’t where I’d left her.
Strangely, I looked up the hill. She wasn’t there. I looked down the hill, into the street. I couldn’t see where she went. I started down the slope. That’s when I saw a small knot of Latino men running up the hill toward me, one of whom had my crying daughter cradled in his arms. They’d been gardening at a house a few doors down when she’d flown by in her stroller, before toppling over. I took her from the man, “thank you, thank you,” I said, as they placed her stroller and toys next to my house. One side of my daughter’s face was scraped from her scalp to her chin, like a skinned knee. Other than that, and the shock of what’d happened, she was fine.
I brought her upstairs, cleaned her up, and put her in front of her favorite video. Soon enough, she was back to her happy self. And then I had a thought, and the universe cracked open for a second time: how would I tell my wife? I’ll leave the specifics of that to another time. Perhaps it’s enough to say that we’re still married.
Steve Moss is a writer and publisher of The Potrero View. You can read his editorials here: http://www.potreroview.net/
Read More from The Daddy Handbook: