The Original Kensington Cruiser – aka The Little Pushcart

It’s 3:00 AM on Christmas Eve. I look at the various pieces of cut wood strewn about the shop, take a breath, and then turn to my husband and say, “Do you think we should call it?”

“Yes.”

“Are we bad parents if we have no gift for our child on her first Christmas?”

“No.”

A few months before the holidays, I started to think about what I might want to give our little daughter for her first holiday gift. We had no plans to buy her anything; there is not much a 7-month-old needs that we didn’t already have. I wanted to give her something special, something handmade or crafted, something that would bring her joy for more than just a few months.

I decided to make her a little push cart. She is an extremely active baby and practically walked herself out of the womb, so I thought making something to help her get to her feet and get moving would be perfect. I have also been wanting to learn more about using my husband’s wood-working tools and a little wooden cart seemed like an ideal opportunity.

I fixed this image in my mind for inspiration. On December 25th, the little cart would be sitting under the tree, bathed in that magic Christmas morning light, and adorned with a big bright bow tied neatly around the handle. My husband and I would carry Merlyn out to the tree and she would see the cart and her eyes would light up and she’d reach for it with those baby chubbo hands. Mike and I would tear up and  exchange a first-parent-Hallmark-movie-worthy glance. The whole scene would be epic and awesome and I would officially be the best mom ever.

We looked at a variety of push carts online, including a great how-to with instructions for building one. Once we had an idea of what was out there, we discussed features we liked or thought were important. We decided that we wanted the cart to be the right height for a new walker or a baby learning to pull up; we wanted it to have adjustable friction on the wheels that would turn slowly in the beginning, but more quickly as she grew. We wanted it to have a basket in the back for storing and pushing her toys, as well as a little seat that would lift to uncover a secret storage space (because secret spaces rule). We wanted it to be sturdy enough that it wouldn’t topple as she was pulling up on it.

Keeping in mind everything we had discussed and using existing carts for ideas on measurements, I set out designing the cart in Google SketchUp and cutting paper patterns. My husband bought the pine board and a dowel for the handle.  We were ready to build a cart!

But then we didn’t.

And suddenly it was Christmas Eve.

Sure, at this point most rational adults would have stopped at Target and picked something up, but that’s not how we roll and so when we got back from Christmas Eve dinner at 10 PM, we put the baby to bed and headed back to the shop to get started. We could do it. We knew we could.

We had so much fun that night. My husband and I were hanging out together in the middle of the night, laughing, drinking tea and working on a project that would be the first holiday gift for the love of our lives. We were driven with a purpose. We were humming along like a well-oiled machine. In just that night, he taught me to use a jigsaw, router, and bandsaw. We were totally going to pull it off. We were AMAZING!

But then we realized… it was 3 AM, and we were exhausted, and we weren’t going to finish. It was time to go to bed and let the dream of having it built by Christmas go. And so we did. Christmas day came and went and we received no complaints from our daughter regarding her lack of gift.

We spent the next few weeks taking our time to complete the cart. Mike focused on getting the axles and wheels right and I worked on the design. I decided to pay homage to my husband’s favorite motorcycle, his 1931 Matchless with Brough sidecar, by using their logos to give it an “old-timey-ice-cream-shop” look. When it was finally completed and assemble, we sat together and wrote an inscription on the bottom. Then we looked at our little cart with pride and privately exchanged that first-parent-Hallmark-movie-worthy glance.

It’s been a few weeks since we finished the little push cart and I’ve been stalling on writing. I couldn’t figure out what it was I wanted to share, but after reflecting, this is what just keeps coming up for me.

When I make a gift for someone, something special that takes me time and energy, something that I think about and research and collaborate to bring into existence, I create stories that go on to become a part of my family lore. 

Mike and I now have a story to tell Merlyn. Long after the cart is stored in an attic somewhere and forgotten, we will have the story of our little push cart. We will tell her how her Daddy and I spent her first Christmas Eve, up all night, bundled up and sipping tea to keep warm, laughing and loving and cutting wood, believing we could do anything, and thinking of only her happiness and the memories we would someday have of her and her little push cart.

I think Merlyn is pretty happy with the final result, but why I don’t I let her tell you in her own words…

Do you have a hand made object in your family that has a story to go with it? I’d love to hear about it.

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