There are the rust colored stains in the back seatbelts from the great 3-year-old-in-a-carseat nosebleed of 2009. (Imagine three-year-old Paul, trapped in a carseat, experiencing his first major nosebleed. Imagine his three-year-old friend Eric, trapped in the seat next to him, eyes wide and silent, splattered with his hysterical, headshaking, screaming friend’s blood.)
There’s a urine smell that’s awakened when the sun comes out, a relic of a Camp Fire Girls’ trip that ran, uh, just a little too long between rest stops.
There’s a bit of Gramma-vomit in the front passenger seat carpet and probably some other residues we’ll not discuss from that trip down from Seattle that ended straight into the emergency room at Eugene’s Riverbend Hospital.
More recently there’s the smell of dead dog. It was a hearse for our Beagle, the legendary and mightily difficult Moby.
Pine needles from a camping trip in 2014 collect around lego heads, gum wrappers and a sticky half-eaten cereal bar someone decided she didn’t like. I think there’s a bit of mildew growing in the very back seat because I didn’t open up the stowaway seats again after the last big haul in the summer.
I threw an old horse blanket over it so the kids’ friends wouldn’t be completely creeped out.
There’s sticky coffee-milk scum over loose change in the cupholders
–because mom’s no better at keeping this dang van tidy than anyone else.
And I’m driving the damn van to the garage because it’s December 27th and the oil hasn’t been changed since June and the front headlight has been out since September. I have to get down to Eugene to work with my sister on my mom’s memorial.
The van is a fucking mess — even by my standards. And while I’ve vacuumed it before taking it in, I’m still feeling hot and ashamed — frustrated and angry.
This ugly, smelly, beat up van, despite my abuse and neglect, runs great.
It’s going to fucking outlive me.
And the front desk clerk at the garage has no idea what’s coming at him.
“So what was the mileage when you last changed your oil? Are you SURE?”
“It’s what the sticker said”
“Let me go out and look at this. The sticker is supposed to mark when you are supposed to GET an oil change, not when the oil change happened,” he lectures.
Like I give a flying crap.
His office mate gives me a knowing look and tells me this guy can get a bit into the care-for-your-car lecture.
I can feel one of those cancer-fits coming on, like the outburst at the department retreat and the tantrum camping with my family last August.
I start rehearsing. There’s been a lot going on in the last six months. Nah. I know I can’t explain without losing it.
Clerk-guy comes back, his milky face pinched and earnest, triumphant. Yes, the mileage was when the car was SUPPOSED to be serviced…
Clerk-guy starts flipping through paperwork.
“Now let’s look, here. See? We can detect some patterns. Let’s look at your car service history.”
Steely and still. I am steely and still. I feel my scary rising.
He taps his pencil on a line entry in some logbook he has.
“If you think going through a log of my service history with me is going to change my behavior, it’s not.”
He’s appropriately taken aback. Sputters he just wants to suggest….
“I can’t discuss ANY of this right now.”
Tears rise. Voice shakes. Body solid with anger.
“Ok. Ok. No problem. No problem.” Hands thrust forward, his angst clouds his face — goal clear: Get her out of here….
And I just can’t shake the ANGER I feel at. that. VAN.
It’s everything HARD about motherhood — errands, kid-shuttling, rat-transport, dog-hearse.
It’s the ammonia smell of sweaty clothes left days in a gym bag and swim suits hanging to dry over the back of the car seat. Because squeezing a rare workout in already seems like a HUGE stretch. Bringing the gym bag in, after grocery bags, forgotten school notebooks, and your work computer for that evening telecommute is just. too. MUCH.
It’s the dirty, smelly, chaotic, overwhelming side of motherhood. Where we overfunction and overextend and snap at the kids and beat ourselves up — for the mess and the chaos and the dirt and the sticky, drippy residue of the breakfast we gobbled at a stoplight, balanced precariously between the dashboard and steering wheel.
Because we’ve not made a plan for how to get kid A to point B and kid C to point D in time to make our 8:30 appointment.
We beat ourselves up.
I HATE THIS VAN.
HOW DARE THIS VAN OUTLIVE ME?
How dare this van continue its life, hauling back wet, snow sloppy boots, hot chocolate spills —with socks, gloves, hats and snow pants spread like confetti among a half-dozen giggling boys?
How dare this van steal the future scars left by adolescence? The bumps, dents and bruises of a newly emerging driver?
How dare this van, this mover of furniture, carrier of campers — and witness to load after load after load of childhood artifacts transported to Goodwill —
How dare this van outlive me?
I have worked so damn hard at this motherhood thing.
And I’ve not always been very good at it.
And just when I think I’m getting some of it right.
How dare you steal this from me?