Generally speaking, I’m not a messy person. My house is an average level of organized, save for that one corner of the kitchen counter that seems to collect every broken toy in need of superglue, school newsletters I plan to read eventually, and pennies that even the three-year-old has deemed useless.
I can’t stand getting dirty, which is a discomfort I’ve passed onto both of my children (note that my son has been known to wrap the end of a chicken wing with a paper towel.) My desk is pretty sparse, and 6 nights out of 7, I see to it that the kitchen sink is empty when I go to bed.
I offer this information to temper the confession I’m about to make.
My car is a dumpster on wheels. And I’m ready to be ok with that.
Here’s the thing. It’s not for lack of trying. But for six years, this slate blue Subaru Outback has been the sole vehicle for my family of four.
Years ago, when we took it on a test drive, my then 4 year old somewhat accidentally opened the door while we were (thankfully) at a stop light. We drove it back to the dealership at about 20 miles per hour (after initiating the child locks) and in a couple hours had made not only our first large purchase as a couple, but as individuals as well.
Though it wasn’t brand new, it sparkled. The cupholders, if once defiled, had been restored to a level of sterility they haven’t seen since. (Now they are dotted with stickiness and slime, a flytrap of sorts for spare change and receipts. I’ve scrubbed and wiped with vigor, but there’s really no coming back from spilled sunbaked chocolate milk and melted half-eaten lollipops. Have I mentioned the restraint in not yet trying to sell these kids on Ebay?)
It’s possible that enough snacks to feed a modest sized elementary school have been smashed into the backseat. Sure, we vacuum up the carnage from time to time, but short of actually taking a firehose to the interior, nothing could rid the nooks and crannies of being stuffed with a buffet of pulverized goldfish. There’s a slight film of filth, akin to what you may find in say, a roadside diner kitchen, and 75% of us have thrown up in it at least once. (But only one of us has done it while simultaneously operating the car, and I’m not going to name names, though it wasn’t me and two of us can’t see over the steering wheel. You do the math.)
The wayback, as we refer to it, is an ever changing cornucopia of cast offs. It’s like a 7 layer dip of things that left the house with intention and have fallen into some sort of trunk purgatory.
I prefer to think of it less as “laziness” and more of “an investment in my future unpredictable needs.” Case in point, last week I picked my three year old up at preschool. As I hoisted her up onto my shoulders (a choice I’d regret for the rest of the day), I couldn’t help but notice an eau d’ subway station wafting from her person. I jerked her back to the ground inquiring about her successes and failures with the toilet that afternoon.
“Did you pee your pants?”
“Don’t worry, mama. How did you know? It was just a little bit. I can’t even feel it any more. It’s all the way dry.”
It was the last week of school. I hadn’t properly packed her backpack in at least a month, and it was completely void of anything that could be used to supplement the offending (formerly) piss soaked jeans.
Around to the back of the car I went, and dug through the garbage bag full of clothes I put in there two weeks ago to take to Goodwill. BAM. Problem solved.
It’s not lead us on any epic adventures, but it’s gotten us to New Jersey a few times. Never once has it left me standing on the side of the road with the hood open pretending I have any idea what the hell I could do to fix it (blow on something? I don’t know.) It’s handled the last few winters far better than I have.
It wears the battle wounds of a minor backing up incident and the various poles and shopping carts that have intercepted opening doors. Once, in the dimly lit parking lot of the grocery store, my son, unbeknownst to me, slipped from my right side to my left and I smashed the door right into his face. The damage to his lip was minimal. Even still, I mentally added a tick mark to the “failing parent” column, my eyes welling up as I willed him to be as angry at me as I was at myself.
The trunk has seen the comings and goings of baby furniture, hauled each piece of outgrown clothing to new owners (eventually), and assisted in the covert missions of playroom cleanouts. We’ve cleared it out completely, filled it with blankets and pillows and watched hours of drive-in movies while being devoured by mosquitoes. (There’s likely still a few kernels of popcorn clinging to the carpet.)
We’ll get a new car eventually. And though I’m tempted to hitch some sort of horse trailer to the back for the children when we do, I guess there’s no family memory making in that.