I left it, all dusty and alone, with bags of used clothes piled on its seat and tray.

No one was there to receive it, and no one emerged on the loading area despite the loud click when I unfolded it and the rattle of its wheels against the pavement as I set it down. Ah, well, someone will find it, I thought as I rolled it out of the sun and locked its wheels.

Then I got in my air-conditioned van, slowly drove away, and abandoned it there at the back of a charity thrift store.

I had been so impatient to get rid of it, but as I glanced back in my side mirror, I felt a sudden, painful constriction in my chest.

I turned the corner, and a panicky voice began to plead, Go back for it! What are you doing? What were you thinking? Don’t leave it with all that junk.

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I breathed deeply and tried to let go, but the voice took on a tone of logic, No one’s going to want it, anyway. It’s too old and faded and it has that orange crayon melted in the pocket.

Yes, true. I had taken great care to vacuum it out and wipe it down, but the orange crayon remained as well as some dust on its frame.

There, then, said the voice of sentiment, go and get it before anyone finds it and tell the thrift store you changed your mind. All four of your babies rode in that stroller, every single one of them . . . save it for the memories.

I was already on the street and going through a light, but even as I made my way to pick up my two oldest children from school, the lump in my throat was growing along with the urge to turn back.

Those tall, skinny kids who were about to be dismissed from class had once been tiny little things, riding in that blue and yellow stroller.

And then their two siblings had occupied it after them. All of them had snacked in it, slept in it, thrown tantrums in it, and gone for long strolls on city streets, in nature, or shopping centers in it. All of them had been nestled in the crook of my left arm many times as I pushed their empty stroller around one-handed.

I thought back on all the baby-rearing history and adventures as I inched through the car line at my kids’ school. I couldn’t take the remorse anymore. I needed support and pragmatism, so I called my husband up.

“Honey, I dropped off the stroller today,” I said. “Do you want me to go back and get it?”

“Why?”

I swallowed several times before saying, “Because all four of our babies rode in that stroller . . .”

There was a pause and then a long chuckle and a gentle reproof, “Silly woman, no, we don’t need it anymore. Let somebody else get use out of it. It’s fine.”

Would somebody else get use out of it, though? Would they sense all the residual love clinging to its fabric and honor that despite its appearance? Or would they cruelly beat it with sticks for being so second-hand and sorry-looking? Surely, I had made a mistake in offering it up to the great unknown.

“We could get a lap dog and push it around in it.”

“NO. I’m not doing that.”

I didn’t even mention how my sister used hers to push around shopping bags on Black Friday. Maybe I could have used it for Christmas shopping, too, with an attached disclaimer that read, “No, I didn’t forget my baby. This stroller is retired and hauls merchandise for a hobby.”

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“We should have had more kids,” I said, jokingly.

He replied very seriously, “No, we shouldn’t have.”

I hung up, feeling better, still shaky but fortified.

My older kids got in the car, and with one look at their sweet faces, the tears came back.

Berto, my firstborn, watched me sniffling for a while in silence and then asked, “Mama, why are you crying? Is it the paper again?”

He knew my propensity for crying at news stories. I tried several times to tell him what was wrong but faltered on the words. When I finally spilled it out, his response was much like his father’s.

“Oh, Mama . . .”

That was several years ago. My son Berto is now preparing to graduate and leave for college. My youngest child is entering middle school.

And you know what?

I still miss that stroller.

Originally published on the author’s blog

Hillary Ibarra

Hillary Ibarra is the mother of four children and the author of The Christmas List, an inspirational novella based on true events. Her humor writing has appeared in New Mexico Woman Magazine, and she contributes to CatholicMom.com. When she is not baking, hugging trees, or playing endless board games with her children, she blogs at Humor & Faith by Hillary Ibarra.