I never had a “Little Red Wagon.” Instead, I had a “Big Green Tricycle.” And by “big,” I mean that it was about twice the size of the tricycles most kids had in the 1950s. I’d estimate that its front wheel must have been at least 15 inches. It was a behemoth – I could easily have crushed my friends’ trikes like Gravedigger does at the monster truck show.
I’m not sure why my parents bought such an outlandishly big trike; we didn’t have a flashy car or a huge house. Whereas other families who went car shopping drove back in a Ford or Chrysler, my dad invariably drove back in a Rambler. Never a Nash Rambler Landeau convertible, the very cool car that Lois Lane drove in TV’s “The Adventures of Superman,” but always a battleship-gray shoebox on wheels. And just about as reliable.
So most likely, my parents bought that giant trike because it was cheap. But that was OK, because I was thrilled to have it and – truth be told – would have been thrilled to have any tricycle. I think the same could be said for most of today’s kids. That is, if only their parents would allow them to be satisfied with good enough instead of the best.
I have been questioning the motivations, and perhaps the sanity, of some of today’s parents since hearing a story on National Public Radio the week before Thanksgiving. Seems the latest trend in some quarters is for parents to abandon strollers or baby carriages in favor of pimped-out, heavy-duty wagons loaded with extras, the better to haul their kids around while leaving room for bags and such. A Los Angeles woman mentioned in the story was pulling a 7-foot-long, 4-foot-high wagon sporting wooden railings, an L.A. Dodgers logo, a rear cargo rack with a canopy and ice chest and, under the wagon’s belly, a chrome storage locker.
Her wagon was built by West Coast Wagons, based in L.A. It won’t surprise you to learn that many of West Coast’s customers are celebrities: Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow and Tom Cruise are just a few. Among the specialty wagons offered on the company’s website are a red or yellow Hummer ($750 and $1,000, respectively); a base pirate-themed wagon like the one built for Johnny Depp ($450) and a comparatively bland sports-themed wagon ($350). The NPR story states that prices can go as high as $2,000 (Snookums wants a DVD player in her wagon! Yes she does! Yes she does!).
This isn’t all sour grapes. I learned long ago that “expensive” is a function of income. If you make $250,000 a year, $2,000 is just a drop in your platinum bucket. And I know well that how you spend the money you earn is nobody’s business but yours.
And my kid, now 24, had a pretty nice stroller. Not a $2,000 stroller, but still, pretty nice. But even if I’d been able to afford a wagon, I wouldn’t have bought it.
I’m willing to bet that, rather than buying these luxury liners to satisfy the longings of the screaming kids who will ride in them, today’s parents are snapping them up to salve their own hurt feelings over the Little Red Wagon they never had. And a classic red Radio Flyer wagon still costs less than $100.
In retrospect, I’m kinda glad that my dad could only afford that cheap Big Green Tricycle.
If he’d had more money, I’d probably have been chauffeuring my teddy bear in a Rambler.