Years ago, when we adopted our dog Maddie from the shelter, one of the first things we did was arrange for her to be spayed. “Just make sure she doesn’t eat anything after midnight” were the instructions from the vet’s office.
I loaded the very hungry Maddie into the car early the next morning and started driving. Then I heard her rustling around in the backseat and my eyes grew wide with the realization that she was, at that moment, finding every scrap of hamburger, every petrified French fry, every bit of leftover burrito, and frantically licking the old cups that once held milkshakes.
This was my Mom car she was in and she had quite selection at the buffet. I drove, weaving down the street, leaning back, one hand on the steering wheel, the other hand trying to grab the feasting animal.
During the full-blown kid years, HOB called my car a rolling trashcan. I preferred to think of it as a large purse with wheels and I challenged him to haul around kids, groceries, and pets and see what his car would look like at the end of the week.
Like most moms, my car served as more than just mode of transportation. It held the remnants of our days and the essentials of our lives. Frankly, I was too busy to care what it looked like and I figured that eventually everything in there would serve a purpose.
I was right most of the time.
The non-matching dirty socks in the glove box, for instance, came in handy during the cold soccer game when I used them for mittens. (I have no shame when I am cold. I will do whatever I must to restore my body temperature.)
The shoebox decorated for Valentine’s Day for school came in handy in October when the neighbor kid decided to throw up after a big meal at In n’ Out. (Thus giving a whole new meaning to “In n’ Out.”)
And the half-eaten peanut butter sandwich on the dashboard made me the coolest mom in town when I placed it on the moon roof and we all waited inside the van as seagulls came down and to eat it as we watched from our fully reclined seats.
Mom cars are as unique as the moms who drive them. One time I as I was walking the kids to school, I saw a mom kneeling on the sidewalk outside of her van, working feverishly. Coming closer, I could see she had a box of granola bars, two large bags of chips, an assortment of juice boxes and a box of Twinkies on the floor of passenger's side. She assembled her children's lunches then and there like a real pro, pulling the brown paper bags from the door panel as though it was meant to be a lunch bag dispenser. She handed a bag to each child just before they ran to the school. I nodded and smiled in admiration as I went by. Cool.
I got into another woman’s van and saw a series of seven numbers and letters scrawled in crayon across the dash. "The kids?" I asked. “Oh no,” she said in explanation, “I saw a guy driving like a maniac through my neighborhood the other day. I was driving and all I could find was a crayon, so I grabbed it and wrote his license plate number there. I’m on the lookout for that SOB,” she said, tapping the dash with her fingernail.
To me, mom cars are fascinating, alive and life affirming. They reflect those kid years exactly—unorganized, messy, and always full of surprises.
Now that I have a new car and my youngest is old enough to have his own car (which, by the way is neat and I was actually instructed not to “mess it up” when I drove it the other day) I miss those days of having at least twelve Hot Wheels, a couple of smelly shin guards and a few half-empty Capri Sun pouches around the car.
My car stays a whole lot neater these days, but, frankly, it’s pretty boring. And when it does get messy, well, I don’t have anyone else to blame for it.
Betty’s Current Car Inventory:
Lots of Napkins in glove compartment.
Dental Floss and Tooth Picks (driving time is dental hygiene time)
Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman (you never know when you’ll get to read)
Scissors (for immediate opening of snacks and shiny things just purchased)
HOB’s Current Car Inventory:
What’s in yours?