Abby sits in the middle of the wagon while I pull her around the yard, down the driveway, along the street in front of our house and back to where we started. She occasionally points here or there with the confident authority of an eighteen-month-old and tells me something in gibberish. We trace this path several times and I ask if she’s ready to do something else. She wags her head “no”, which is her first answer to every question these days, so we continue. A moment later she reconsiders her response and begins climbing over the side, unconcerned that I’m still pulling it. I stop and help her from her little green coach and she holds my hand as we head to the garage to store the wagon in its place. Another journey completed.
I haven’t kept count but this is probably the hundredth-something time that I’ve chauffeured one of my grandkids in this wagon. And the hundredth-something time we’ve shared this experience together.
Abby is the latest in a line of passengers that began fourteen years ago when Damian was a toddler. Sitting in the well of a brand new Step 2 wagon, propped up with pillows and blankets, we embarked on our journeys. When he was old enough not to wobble too much, we left the pillows behind but carried our sense of adventure with us. Around the yard a half-dozen times just for fun. Four blocks to the neighborhood park. A little farther to the elementary school play yard. An expedition to the distant convenience store to retrieve candy bars in winter and ice cream in summer. Racing down the sidewalk for half a block, zig-zagging from side to side. When the wagon came out of the garage, an adventure of some sort would likely follow.
Along came Brianna and Evan and out came the pillows and blankets again until before long they were old enough to negotiate among themselves who would sit in front and who would sit in back. Early one Saturday morning the three of us, Brianna, Evan and myself, set out on an odyssey to the faraway land of the donut shop. Clad in pjs, wrapped in blankets, they huddled in the wagon, discussing the relative merits of sprinkles and chocolate as we coursed our way through the neighborhood and across the strip shopping center to the counter of breakfast delights.
The sturdy green wagon has been absolutely great. Solid and well-built, it’s practically indestructible. Its life seems endless and it’s age is apparent only by its fading color and the scuff marks of time. To paraphrase the chorus of a children’s song, the wheels on the bus have gone round and round for close to fifteen years and they show no sign of stopping.
Yes, it’s been and continues to be a great wagon. And the truly wonderful thing is that the better part of its purpose is also as enduring, as timeless as its physical attributes. It remains as constant today as the first time I pulled my oldest grandson down the driveway because the little green wagon is something beyond its sundry components. It’s not just a toy that transports a child from one place to another. It carries with it a kind of gestalt, where the whole is more than the sum of its parts. Just like a magic carpet or a pumpkin turned into a carriage or a winged unicorn, it’s a vehicle that can transform an ordinary ride into an adventure.
They may not be conscious of the transformative nature of our little journeys, but each of my grandchildren will carry with them a fond memory of the days that we explored the world in a little green wagon.