Good News! I got my car washed, and it's squeaky clean.
Well, maybe not squeaky clean....
My minivan gets disgusting. I have to clean it before going to the carwash: Pick up discarded cheese-stick wrappers and Goldfish bags, squashed Fig Newtons. Scrape up encrusted spilled coffee from the cup holders. Pry up from floor mats sticky candy canes or melted Gummy Bears.
At the carwash, I can barely look those guys in the eyes who do the real cleaning; the ones who wipe down the dashboard, scrub out the cup holders and vacuum up crushed cracker crumbs and dried-up raisons. Other squeakier-clean cars can come and go, and these poor souls are still slaving away on my relatively repulsive minivan.
The boys were with me, as it was winter break. They more often frequent the carwash with Daddy, who has a very clean, squeaky clean, I might add, car.
There are "packages" I have to choose from and I always choose the cheapest, the "silver" one.
Kenny asked, "Mommy, aren’t you going to get the colored bubbles?”
We were at the cashier. “Oh, that’s with the gold package," he said.
“Daddy always gets the colored bubbles," Kenny said.
Daddy also will buy Glad garbage bags, name brands, while I'll buy generic. Call me a cheapskate. Though if you ask my mother, I’m a spend-rift who doesn’t understand the value of a dollar: “Maybe you’d have more money if you didn’t waste it on things like aluminum foil.” My mother not only will buy generic, but reuse her own foil and run her plastic freezer bags through the washer (where they melt and get stuck to the blades).
Evidently, when Daddy takes our boys to the carwash, he also gives them coins for the motorcycle video game, and even for the massage chair (yes, a massage chair at a carwash) in the waiting lounge.
I don't like being a cheapskate. So I gave them each a couple of coins for the motorcycle.
Kenny's not great at counting change yet, but he knows how many coins one game takes, and evidently I only gave him enough for one game.
"One game is plenty," I snipped in my snippy motherly tone.
"Well, there's not even enough for the massage chair," Ryan countered.
Do 6 and 8 year olds really need a massage? Is their daily childhood that stressful? Please, Daddy.
"If anyone gets to sit in that massage chair, it’s me." Though as infrequently as I frequent the carwash, it never occurred to me once to waste two coins on the damn thing.
I thought Kenny would lapse into his soulful whining mode. He didn't. "You should, Mommy,” he said. “You need it."
He held out his two coins to me. "It costs the same as the motorcycle ride," he said solemnly. Valiantly.
I looked at the coins. Kenny was giving me back money? I was stupefied.
But Kenny is also the child who has proven to be surprisingly intuitive, the one who best might be able to pick up on Mommy’s stress signals, as when she can snip for no fair reason really; snap really, a snapping turtle you stay clear of when she overreacts to a spilled cup of juice, as if it were a tsunami flood. Just because she might be feeling a little frayed after frame shopping with Gramma, making rounds of five opticians, in search of the perfect pair. Only for Gramma to have her license suspended, anyway, due to the fact that she failed the eye test.
So now snappy Mommy is chaffeur not only to her children but to her mother, though instead of tennis or music lessons, it’s now to an ophthalmologist, other doctors, haircuts, and to the grocery store. Or to pick up this and that, calcium pills, the exact clear brand of candelabra light bulbs she prefers, to replace the burned out ones in her living room chandelier. A different kind of terrain than Mommy had imagined, eight years back, cradling a new born, when balancing a family seemed as simple as nursing and changing stinky diapers.
Ryan was a bit less intuitive. He grabbed his own coins and headed for the motorcycle.
"And would you like a drink?" Kenny asked, pointing to a little counter.
Coffee! A fresh full pot! How could I not have remembered that they also served coffee?
I was on the edge of feeling pampered. As when Ryan wanted to braid my hair, and Kenny do my nails.
Yes. I did want a cup, but when I went to pour it, Kenny said, "The chair kind of wiggles a lot. You maybe don't want coffee in the chair."
"Wiggles?" I looked at the chair. It actually frightened me. It was awfully big and dour, with a ton of buttons, like an aircraft.
"I'll just take the coffee."
After being so magnanimous, Kenny tried to suppress a delighted toothy grin. "So I can keep the coins?"
Keep the coins.
He went off to wait his turn behind Ryan to virtually ride the video motorcycle.
I took a seat with my coffee on an unwiggly comfy couch. Really, who needs Starbucks? I wondered if they had a good internet connection. I should have brought my iPad! I could have been working on my next blog post!
This must be what it feels like for the snapping turtle when she finally reaches her preferred habitat, that of a cool stream or pond. Did you know snapping turtles are really only cranky out of water? Maybe that is true with mothers as well; we are cranky outside our original expectations of what mothering meant, when we realize just how many people rely on us. Need us. And as much as we love them all, it is not so easy, always, simply to give thanks. Sometimes, selfishly, it takes an escape – for some moms, the snapper’s escape into cool waters is a pedicure. For me, it was this. A still moment, with a cup of coffee and sitting on a comfy couch, gazing out a big glass window as if at a serene wooded lakefront.
In reality, I was gazing out at the poor souls slaving on my car.
And then they were waving their rags at the window, signaling that my car was done. They looked defeated and forlorn, but I tipped them well, as what's worse than cleaning my car? My bathrooms, where toothpaste adheres to the walls and is harder to scrape away than the old candy canes.
But maybe I actually would get my car washed a tiny bit more often. Maybe I would indulge. Because I can get snappy. Just don’t prod me with a stick.