I Hate the Inside of our Family Car

I always have this fear about being stopped by the police. I don’t break a lot of laws or anything; I’m just worried that an officer taking a passing glance inside my mom mobile might have it impounded by the Environmental Protection Agency. Yes, I tool around town in a toxic waste dump.

Sadly, I only bought my car a year and a half ago. It wasn’t long before my girls marked it in their own special way. I believe it was fruit punch being flicked out of a straw across the padded ceiling of the car. Once that was done, we knew the car was our very own.

Now, when I get the courage to look in the backseat, I find multiple lollipop sticks stuck to the floor and seats (thanks to the bank drive-thru), assorted trash, shoes, socks, toys, crumbs and multiple stains of suspect origin.

Sometimes this backseat messiness works to our advantage. Recently we were late to ballet class with nary a ponytail holder in Patti’s ballet bag. "Don’t worry," I told her concerned face in the rearview mirror. "I’m sure if you feel around for a while you’ll come up with something." Sure enough, she found three ponytail holders in short order.

I know we’re not the only family with this issue. Recently a friend picked me up to go out to lunch and I was thrilled to see that her car was as much of a crumb bucket as mine! Made me like her even more.

Lately I’ve considered that perhaps we should put a halt to the American tradition of car feasting. Especially since 6-year-old Suzi is a big fan of taking the lid off her drink to play with her ice. That playfulness has resulted in two spilled drinks in recent weeks. How do I find out? While hurtling down the street I hear a clunk and a gasp from the back seat. When I look in the rearview mirror, I see Suzi’s eyes, wide as coffee spills, looking at me with an undeniable guilty conscience. She doesn’t have to tell me.

I wonder just how much Sprite one floor mat can absorb. Hmmm.

As much as our car is a member of the family, we often have to leave it home when we go on vacation. For spring break we flew to Los Angeles for a family reunion and got ourselves a big old rental van to schlep family members around town. When I opened the door my eyes were pulled straight to the floor mat. Spotless! How strange it looked to see a floor mat without crumbs, stains or lollipop sticks. Why, it was just one solid color! Imagine!

We soon realized this van was brand new – it only had 20 miles on it, so we were the first users. The girls, our car-destroyers-in-chief, mind you, noticed it too.

"I wish we had this car," declared a beaming Patti (she who stuffs candy wrappers in her back seat car handle).

" … Instead of the dirty one," added a sulky Suzi (she the Sprite-spiller).

I wondered what damage we might do to that poor van in one week. Well, 500 miles, three drive-thrus, 12 Easter baskets, nine different passengers, two face-paintings and about 1,000 bugs sacrificed on the windshield later, that good old van managed to clean up pretty well. It almost disappointed me. Especially knowing that waiting for us back at Metro Airport is my sad little car and its stained, gummy upholstery.

What can I say but one of these days I’m gonna have to clean that thing.


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