The Mom Car: Where Coolness and Life Collide
Remember the deep unquenchable need, the need for speed? Truthfully, there was only .000005% of the population of teenage girls that were granted that most coveted of wishes, a pink Camaro with vanity plates, secretly staged in the driveway. We imagined a big red bow, for the overly exaggerated birthday that would, somehow, magically enlarge our breasts and give us a little plastic card that simply said, “you can drive now.”
There was a unified lump in our throats when Molly Ringwald’s imaginary parents not only forgot her Sweet 16 but forced her to ride the bus on the most significant of adolescent days.
Driving never lost its delight for me. I like to drive. And I like to listen to bawdy, loud music. My babies all think that 80’s big hair band’s songs are lullabies. I can still rock out to Def Leppard, full blast, and sleeping littles hardly stir in their car seats. If I play Rock of Ages around my 24-year-old daughter, she still nods off and sucks her thumb.
And, if I had it to do all over again, I would have logged every ride I have taken in my car with my children.
That first time, nearly 24 years ago that we, barely, buckled our newborn daughter into her car seat in the hospital parking lot. Truly, looking at the photographs now I realize, she would have been safer if we had thrown her home.
Years later, I can still recount the long drive to Tyler, Texas, in our hideous 12 passenger van, to meet our son for the first time. I rode backward all the way home. I couldn’t take my eyes off the tiny black headed newborn, undone by the marvel of adoption. And, the long drive from the courthouse to pack up a little foster love’s clothes, reminding myself to keep breathing or I’d die on the service road off I-20 West.
Truly, many of our triumphs and tragedies unfold in transit.
What I did not know, what I could not fathom at 16, were the places I would go, or the humans that would travel with me.
Certainly, if I’d known I would morph into a writer, that journal would be most handy now. I do recall a carpool rotation where I had to make the most dreadful of calls to my best friend. I think I started with, “Everything is okay, but…” To which my friend screamed at me, “I KNOW THAT ISN’T TRUE! SOMEONE WHO SAYS EVERYTHING IS OKAY, ‘BUT’ IS ABOUT TO TELL YOU SOMETHING BAD! WHAT HAPPENED???”
And I sputtered out, “Becca has been run over.”
Granted, I did not run over her. But while climbing out of my van, the car next to me in the parking lot ran over my dear friend’s daughter’s foot. And then knowing she had run over a child, fled the scene. It was a fiasco.
In general, traveling with children on board is mothering on wheels.
I am in my car with children more often than not.
At my worst I pinched two toddlers on the inside of their fleshy thighs, to make them cry, to get out of a speeding ticket. And yes, it worked, and yes, I bought them ice cream after… two scoops. And of course, there was the time I was rolled through a stop sign and then was taken into police custody for possession of an illegal narcotic. I am not telling you again, I am not telling that story, you have to buy the book.
I have screamed things like, “THE LIGHT IS FREAKING GREEN YOU MORON!” And then had to explain why mommy says such things, but that they shouldn’t call people morons. I have broken diets with just a few of the hot fries at the top of the bag, and I have promised to start new diets on Monday when the fries in the bag were all gone.
I have begged people to stop yelling shut up, with the very words, “FOR THE LOVE OF ALL! SHUT UP! I DO NOT CARE THAT HE/SHE IS LOOKING OUT YOUR WINDOW!”
I have said other things, things that make no sense to anyone but my passengers and me. My favorite, “Stop touching each other or not touching each other or, pretending you may or may not touch each other, or I am never buying Fruit Loops again!”
I think that might be the title of my next book.
At my best, I have offered comfort and wisdom. Also, one time, I could Spidey sense someone was about to blow chunks, and I reached behind me, caught the vomit, steered home with my knees, holding the barf, and didn’t even spill my coffee.I have said other things, things that make no sense to anyone but my passengers and me. My favorite, “Stop touching each other or not touching each other or, pretending you may or may not touch each other, or I am never… Click To Tweet
This is a true testament to motherhood. The ability to catch vomit, not gag or spill your coffee, all while obeying traffic laws.
And, I have had nice cars. I have had passenger cars. And I have sold my car for $4000 under Kelly Blue Book to buy, formula, groceries, and pay the mortgage.
Driving is humanity. But somehow, now I also realize it is the bulk of my memories as mother.
With the first batch, I recall the smells of pubescent boys, feet, pool chemicals, and mildew. Always, mildew.
Whenever I see a 90’s model Ford Expedition, I remember how touched I was when my dad passed his old Ford to me so I would have enough seats for my ever-growing brood. And I will forever remember when our 16-year-old son was passed the keys to that same car.
It only retired 50,000 miles shy of 400,000.
Of the instincts born of motherhood, none of us has missed the habitual nature that forces our arm across the chest of a child as we nearly miss an oncoming car or opossum. As if this feeble attempt would make a hill of beans, the elbow of a mother readily jerks across her offspring to shield them from danger.
Aside from safety features not acquired through the placenta, there is the hope that a car will be somewhat decent looking, with a stereo and easy to buckle car seat options.
It comes with a pledge to vacuum the vehicle, at least once a year.
And I have promised myself, with every new car, that this time things would be different, cleaner, and more organized. This lasts about 2 days or until someone gets hungry and loud. Then, mayhem. Once we lost a shoe in our van. We looked for that shoe for weeks. We removed floor mats and cleaned out random pockets, the shoe never showed up, so we had to buy new ones.
Four years later, for no reason, the loser of the shoe, chirped from the third row, “HEY! LOOK! My shoe!” By then he was in a men’s size 9, so it didn’t really matter.
Without fail, my car becomes a lost and found and a health hazard. I am certain that my latest vehicle has mold spores, and no one can seem to find our youngest son.
I have only had it for a month.
When my children climb out of the car in the car rider line, inevitably a teacher throws the items that followed them out of the car, back in.
I used to get embarrassed, but if she is a mom, she gets it. And if I had time to please a random car rider line assistant, I might actually go to the car wash and throw out the 299,999 Starbucks cup stoppers strewn about.
I stand by the fallacy that I can’t throw out all those plastic stoppers because I am a friend of the sea turtle. And I am simply not the powerhouse that can single-handedly stop Starbucks from plugging the coffee or clogging the oceans. And, if I am riding with children, I need my Starbucks.
I digress, I have unashamedly told my children we weren’t stopping again. If they were that hungry, dig between the seats and find a snack. I am certain there is a school of goldfish crackers nestled somewhat stalely under their bum. I have sat in a melted granola bar, and I have thrown out thousands of dollars’ worth of sippy cups full of self-made, Houston heat cottage cheese. Because no one has the physical or emotional fortitude to break the seal on that festering mess.
Still, years of experience in my dust, I recall that desire to drive. The need for speed, and a really nice ride. And this I know, I wouldn’t trade the grossness or madness, of riding with children for the thrill of a hot pink convertible Camero. Certainly, it isn’t what a thought it would be and yet, it is the most exhilarating and ridiculous ride on the planet.
May your floors have custom mats, and your insurance rates stay cool… Beep, beep. Love, Jami
Psalm 16:8-9 “I keep my eyes always on the Lord.”
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