Friday, February 15, 2008

Equipment and perspective

This morning I dropped the girls off, and then came home and, rather than settling in to work, got on my skiis and headed out across the parking lot, toward the community center field and woods. I came to a thin little woodland I usually ignore - in summer it is almost always too muddy or weedy to pass through, and skiid through on the footsteps of a recent dogwalker.

One thing I love about different modes of transportation is that I always see the world differently. When I started biking to work this summer and fall, I noticed details I'd never seen - a dam right below my commuting bridge, weeds along the roadside, steepness of various hills - and I began to feel that biking helped me know Pittsburgh better than I had before. Being on skiis this week has given me a new view of our area. Suddenly the power line right of way at the end of our street was a destination worth exploring, because it offered some grassy, gentle slopes just right for me to extend my paltry skiing nerves and skills. This little woodland became accessible, thanks to snow and skiis, and even it is too little to be any sort of wonderland, I felt like exploring it expanded my sense of our territory a bit. I got to know Chicago by running the Lakeshore Trail with Ser, and my experience of the city was forever changed because I now knew, for many, many places, that I could run there, and roughly how long it would take.

I'd love to have skiis for the girls to explore, but realistically, they can't possibly be worth the expense. I'd gotten my own set used at a spring clearance sale from a little ski shop a few miles from our home in Ithaca; they have been absolutely wonderful, and yet if there had been any risk of me outgrowing them the purchase would have been wasted. I am currently craving a really good bike trailer or trail-a-bike, so we can tackle the Pittsburgh to DC trail with the girls as a family vacation, but I resist, thinking how short the time will be before Hazel is biking on her own and the equipment would be obsolete.

For what ultimately became 4 years, Ser and I solved the problem of double-vs-single stroller purchases by taking advantage of her sons' staggered ages with my daughters. When she had her first child, I had my second, and so she bought a double stroller for me to use, and I gave her my old single. By the time she had her second child, my first could bike alongside me running, so she got her stroller back and I got mine back, and we continued running together until our family moved away. Just as I realized that I no longer needed a running stroller, her eldest outgrew the patience to ride, and she now has both strollers, and I get the pleasure of a spacious shed for the family bikes.

I clearly need to find a child-equipment cooperative, where I can find skiis and trail-a-bikes and bike trailers, and where I can feel good about taking my own purchases when my daughters outgrow them. In the meanwhile, I have to sneak in skiing time alone, and plot ahead to when bike season starts again for me, and the girls.


Anonymous said...

Probably deeper than you meant for it to be, in three ways:

1. This is a vivid demonstration of how one's sense of personal space and environment is relative to the source of his/her mobility.

2. You have a good case study in inter-generational optimization, which is in fact one of the frontiers of economic theory.

3. In this context, you show, especially and specifically, how a life-cycle of consumption (age related obsolescence) governs household capital accumulation.

Nancy said...

Thanks Dad!
:) N

Ser said...

I was wondering who in the heck anonymous was!

My comment, of course, was going to be nearly as scholarly: I still use both strollers. Although Luke is 5.5, and people give me funny looks when Luke is riding in the double jogger, they are looking at me from their CARS, and my thought is, "Hey, at least someone in this equation is getting some exercise!"

marji said...

I have been living with your recent post, thinking about all our stuff and how to move forward without acquiring new stuff. I always admired the sharing between you and Ser. Thanks, too, for the link to my blog and the Garden Rant, which I am loving.

Nancy said...

Thanks Ser and Marji! Ser - anonymous really is my dad. He's an economics professor. :) Welcome to my childhood!