The Way I Remember It

Jacqueline Doyle

If I had told you this story, say, last month, I would have told it more or less this way.

When my husband and I lived in Fresno almost twenty-five years ago, we used to take our young son on walks after dinner in a small, lightweight stroller. (How young was he? Not yet two, so let's say one and a half.) We lived in a sleepy subdivision tucked away between a canal and a high footpath. The houses had been built in the fifties and all the streets were named after women, the developers' and contractors' wives probably. It was one of the few neighborhoods in Fresno with mature trees. We lived on Beverly Way. That night we were walking on Ramona. Outside it was dark and quiet except for the occasional whoosh of cars passing on Maroa Street nearby.

It was a warm night, not as hot as it gets in the dog days of a Fresno summer, sometimes an entire month of temperatures well over a hundred. At least that's what I remember. Unrelenting heat, 110 degrees every day, our small air conditioner turning on and off with a muffled roar as it labored to keep up and failed to do so. But that night was pleasantly warm. The tall trees cast shadows on the street and obscured the occasional dim streetlight. There were no other people outdoors—no walkers or joggers or neighbors watering their lawns. There were no sidewalks in the subdivision, and the two and three-bedroom ranch-style bungalows were set far back from the street. Everyone's curtains were always drawn. Here and there you could see the glow of a TV.

I'd had a glass or two of wine (how many? probably two). I had a game I liked to play with our son, where I'd run ahead of my husband, not very fast, but run, pushing the stroller, and then let the stroller go so it would sail along and my son would chortle happily. I don't remember whether my husband ever objected to that. We were in good spirits that night. I pushed the stroller, and let it go, and my husband said, "Watch out!" as the stroller hit a pothole, and tipped crazily forward, and I reached it just in time to grab the stroller and right it before my son spilled out onto the street.

That's the way I would have told you the story, but I probably wouldn't have anyway, since the story doesn't really have a point, except maybe don't play that game with your child in a stroller. Or maybe, I'm so glad we moved away from Fresno.

Recently the episode came up in conversation, though. "Remember the time the stroller almost tipped over, that night on our walk in Fresno?" I said to my husband.

And my husband said, "The stroller did tip over."

"No it didn't."

"Yes it did."

"Are you sure?"

"I'm sure. The stroller tipped over."

My husband has a far better memory than I do, and I often trust him to fill in details and context when I'm trying to recall something. What movies we've already seen, the names of our neighbor's children, what year I started my job, what happened when or where and with whom. After the first shock of disbelief, I realized he must be right. The stroller did tip over.

He can't remember much more about the incident, except that he was mad at me. "I was really pissed."

Our son wasn't hurt, but probably he was crying, probably I rushed to pick him up, and held him against my shoulder, jouncing him slightly up and down the way you do to comfort a crying baby. Or maybe my husband swept him up and held him while I picked up the stroller with shaking hands and we checked him for cuts and scrapes, murmuring, it's okay, it's okay. And maybe I realized it wasn't okay. That I shouldn't drink wine and play games with our son in the stroller, though the warm night felt so sheltering, and I believed nothing bad could ever happen to the three of us, ever.

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