As I stood staring at the stack of books I started feeling faint. I was in Barnes and Noble across from Rittenhouse Square surveying row upon row of parenting books as goose bumps popped out of my arms, a light sweat moistened my brow and everything started to tingle.
If asked what I thought an out-of-body experience would be like, I would describe the feeling I had as I scanned through titles like What to Expect When You're Expecting, The Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy, even Parenting for Dummies. I breathed deeply, picked up the Mayo Guide and went to the register. I walked out the door and down Walnut Street, floating my way back towards home in Bella Vista. It was April 2010, my wife was pregnant and I was going to be a father.
We had moved from Manhattan to Philadelphia in February 2008 seeking more space (our 375-square-foot studio was getting a bit cramped) and a less hectic city. I was confident Philly would provide both. My wife and I were both suburban kids who grew up in reach of a major city - she in Long Island and me in Oreland. We both loved city life, and wherever we ended up we wanted to make sure a trip to the grocery store for milk involved a five-minute walk rather than a 10-minute drive. We had not yet decided whether or not to have kids when we moved, but both of us agreed that the cramped confines of New York City would not be the right place to start a family.
Almost two years later we know we made the right choice. The tiny BYOBs we frequent, the fresh-cut pasta from Talluto's that we've become addicted to, strolls to the north of our home to Society Hill and walks south to the lively strip of East Passyunk Avenue - Philadelphia is our home now. And at the end of January we'll be welcoming our son to this beautiful city.
There is a real sense of history here. In the narrow, cobble-stoned blocks of Quince Street or the tree-lined tranquility of Rodman Street, the city just feels old. And the boot scrapers sticking out of the sidewalk outside some homes still come in handy after squashing stinky berries from the Ginkgo trees into the tread of your shoes.
My wife and I are looking forward to showing our son our city, pushing the stroller around and letting him look at the wall murals throughout the city and the mosaics of Isaiah Zagar reflecting the South Philly sunlight. And after a few weeks of deliberation, we think we've finally found the right vehicle for these walks.
Having a baby means needing a lot of stuff. And the amount and variety of "stuff" out there is overwhelming to say the least. Having just researched and negotiated the purchase of a new car, I thought picking a stroller would be easier. How wrong I was. Graco, Chicco, Peg Perego, Bugaboo, Maclaren, Phil & Ted - at least I knew a Honda vs. a Toyota when car shopping. My wife and I were lost when we started our stroller search, and spent an inordinate amount of time reading online reviews, ratings and rankings.
In the end, some live market research helped us make a choice. Our weekend walks around town turned into stroller focus groups as we chased down young parents shopping at the Headhouse farmer's market, parading their babies through Washington Square or sitting outside Paesano's waiting for fried meatloaf sandwiches. We needed a stroller that would do well in the snow, one couple said. This one is great if you have a second child because it has an attachment you can purchase, another advised. Do not buy the one I bought, said a woman disappointed with her Phil & Ted stroller. Our baby registry was updated weekly with a different stroller as we would rush home from these heart-to-heart talks desperate to remove the stroller we had selected and replace it with the "right" one. Relief would wash over us when we logged onto babiesrus.com and found that, thankfully, nobody had yet purchased the stroller we were about to delete.
We think the right one is there now - a sturdy stroller with shocks and rubber wheels ready to navigate the uneven brick walkways and bite into the snow and ice covered sidewalks. Our son will have a front row seat to enjoy this beautiful city.
And when he's old enough, when he's itching to run around on his own two feet, we'll take him out of the stroller and have a family race up the Art Museum steps.