There's a certain look that the car's of nearly every parent of young children that I've met takes on. Beyond the simple fact that most of us are driven to buy wagons or small vans or little SUVs that we swore we'd never be nerdy enough to drive; and even more than the scads of accessories that babies and young children require you to carry around with you - anything from diapers and wipes to hair clips and juice boxes; there's that look a car gets when it appears as if it took a direct hit from a cookie crumb and toy cluster bomb.
"Ugh!" I said involuntarily getting into the car this morning, "this is awful."
We had a long trip back and forth to Brooklyn this weekend for the holiday and something, something very smelly and very hidden was lurking inside the car and making it nearly un-drivable without a gas mask.
I feel so hapless sometimes; so tired and overwhelmed that the toys and the crumbs and the lord knows what else just multiply and spread like a growth of mushrooms under an old rotted shell of a tree.
"Enough," I thought as I sat in the driver's seat, "That's it. Tonight, I'm cleaning this thing."
For anyone who has read my posts opposite my wife on She Cooks He Cleans, you'll know that I like things to be neat. When I was a young man this was especially true of my cars. I'd clean them weekly, sometimes twice a week; vacuum, wash, detail. I loved a clean car. Living with the compromises that a grown man must make with the care of his car for the sake of his kids has been a sore trial for me.
Tonight though, the kids went to bed on time, and I had the energy. I went at the car as I would have years ago:
- Collected the whole pieces of food into a bag
- Swept behind and under every seat
- Stripped both child seats of their cloth covers and pre-washed and washed them
- Removed all the travel shrapnel from the wagon portion of the car and organized what remained into boxes.
- Collected all the travel toys into their bins
- Windexed every surface and put out a vanilla scented tree
I'll need to hit the car wash to finish the job (no hose outside my city house), but I already feel as if I've grown another foot taller in the recovery of my dignity.
"Better," I thought, looking at the lavish leg room I've recovered on both the driver and passenger side of the car, "Now I can move my feet."
I know it won't last. The mess and (lord give me strength) the smell will return before long. I'll have an old, half eaten, rotting something or other like I found five of tonight ripening slowly behind one of the car seats; or under it; or in the crevices that even the manufacturer forgot were in the car's design.
But tomorrow, if only for a moment, I'll feel like a prince behind the wheel of his Duesenberg. I'll have a clean car.