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Clean This Car UP

July 20, 2011

We bought a car in 2008. It was already six years old, but it was an object of beauty. It had perfect pearlescent paint, a shiny woody interior, and a powerful V6 engine in case we needed to get away fast after robbing a bank. We bought it not because we needed these things, but because it seemed like a good car, and like we could pay cash for it, and not worry about it too much.

The man who sold it to us was a Jehovah’s Witness from Brewster, New York. He, like the car, was impeccable. He presented with gleaming leather bespoke-seeming shoes, a sharply-tailored suit, and a gentlemanly demeanor. He politely attempted to conceal his horror at the car going to live on the streets of Brooklyn. His parting suggestion was a gentle one: that we stave off the car’s inevitable fate by adding one of those extra rubber bumpers that hang out of the trunk.

We acquired the car in between the time that I was pregnant and the time that I knew I was pregnant, which was about a 48 hour period of time. I like to think of the car as coming to be with us at the same time as the baby.

At first, in the baby’s absence, we treated the car like a baby. We treated it like we treated the cat. Back then, everyone and everything got treated really well.

My husband, who is arguably rather like the car and the Jehovah’s Witness, and who for Father’s Day asked if I could get him a backpack-style vacuum cleaner he could wear around because he thought it would be fun, suggested that we should establish some ground rules about caring for the car.

The obvious rule was, “No eating in the car.”

Sigh. No eating in the car seemed like an imposition, but it was something I could manage.

Well, it was something I could manage until about 3 weeks into the pregnancy, at which point if I were not eating cheddar bunnies AT ALL TIMES, I would either throw up or yell at you or, more likely, do both.


And so we established a blanket layer of magical yellow dust.

Next came tums wrappers, and Mentos wrappers.

And sesame seeds, because we used the car a lot to drive to Connecticut on weekends, and what is better than a bagel on a long car trip? We prefer everything bagels, and so the driver’s seat chair we had a bit of everything. Onion! Salt! Poppy seeds! Everyone is invited to this party in the car’s interior.

It was completely manageable, though. The detritus was on the surface, and didn’t accumulate fast. It certainly was not like the cars of other people. There was no trash lingering for long. The seats just needed a sweep with a flattened hand, or a quick vacuum.

And then the baby came. At first the baby was on a liquid diet, but then he turned into one of those fat and archetypical Cheerios-eating babies. Cheerios are little things, and the little things do add up. There are Cheerios everywhere. It’s like a Cheerios farm in there. A Cheerios infestation. It’s like 2 boxes got scattered. The car seat has gotten a bit gritty. It is very gritty.

Time marches on. Now the baby can perambulate, and he can pit his own cherries and olives—which we DON’T let him do in the car, for what it’s worth—and he can smear his muddy shoes onto the interior. The interior has proved very resilient. It’s made out of that very short stiff fur: poor man’s velvet. Someone, be it the Japanese or the Jehovah’s witness or both, must have Scotch-Guarded the hell out of it. Mud wipes right off; my own skin should be so resilient.

But the food crumbs in the car remains hard to manage, and another thing Henry has added to his roster of capabilities is speaking. We get full sentences, corrections, commands, and opinions; I can tell that we have some fun days ahead. Riding home from camp the other day, he looked around at his surroundings. And I think he shook his head and wrinkled his brow as he said it:

“Clean this car UP.”

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Julia permalink
    July 21, 2011 4:01 pm

    Bea’s first word(s) were, “turn it DOWN” to Loopy and Chris about the car stereo.

  2. July 28, 2011 1:21 pm

    Ha! Sounds like our car. Maybe since it’s not so different from our house, though, Kaspar hasn’t noticed!

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