One morning this fall, I decided to tackle an overdue item on my to-do list: "Clean the car."
The dark cherry-colored SUV—known as “the purple car” to my kids—joined our family six years ago. Since then, our car has logged many miles and facilitated plenty of milestones. It carried my children, then just an infant and toddler, safely when we moved from the East Coast to Wisconsin. It stuck to the road like glue when we drove through furious Midwest snowstorms and tumbling hail. It’s been our companion during summer road trips and family visits. It has witnessed countless temper tantrums and sibling squabbles, and pulsed with the happy energy of many (probably too many) One Direction songs.
Some days, especially this past summer, I practically lived in our car, shuttling kids to camps, play dates and swim lessons, throwing Goldfish crackers and sandwiches in the general direction of the backseat as I called out the day’s schedule like a tour guide. But this fall, once school started and my youngest child entered kindergarten, a big chunk of my driving time became eerily quiet. Suddenly, there were no girls giggling in the backseat, no one crunching loudly on snacks and spoiling her appetite before dinner, no shrieks of passengers arguing over crayons and stickers. Now the only sounds that filled the space were my own breathing, the rustle of the autumn wind against the windows, the thump-thump of tires on cement. I quickly learned to flip on the radio or my favorite tunes, before the silence could feel crushing.
Now, looking at the disheveled car, I didn’t know where to start. The trunk was full of sand-encrusted toys, the travel potty that I swear was one of the best purchases I’ve ever made as a parent, and random clothing I keep meaning to donate. The car seats were littered with crumbs and papers scrawled with children's artwork. The headrest of the passenger seat was beginning to fray, proof of the numerous kicks it has endured over the years from my oldest daughter. Overdue library books and Strawberry Shortcake DVDs that I could recite by heart were strewn across the floor. The cupholders bore the remains of the various caffeinated drinks that have fueled so many of my motherhood experiences.
Almost lovingly, I vacuumed the popcorn and cracker crumbs out of the crevices between the seats and scrubbed the crayon marks off the fabric as best I could. I wiped the windows clean of fingerprint smudges, thinking of how my kids had often pressed their hands against the glass, waving at friends or pointing at cute dogs walking by. There were deep creases in the backseat, under the two car seats that were still installed. Someday soon, my kids will no longer need their booster seats, but I know the creases will remain, a reminder that life existed and flourished within these fabric-covered walls.
Maybe it’s crazy to believe that inanimate objects can have a soul, yet I feel certain that this car does. I can’t help but think of it as an old friend, one that started out shiny and new and became wizened and weathered as our family grew and changed. It's proven itself to be a dependable vessel, having withstood the stickiness of spilled juice boxes, the ugly winter crusts of mud and road salt, and a few unfortunate incidents with garage doors. It might be showing its age, but I’ll drive it into the ground before I even think about replacing it.
When it comes down to it, I know the real reason I'm so attached to this car is that it almost feels like an extension of me. Looking back on my first few years as a mom, I remember how anxious and full of doubt I often felt. As I slowly grew into my role, our car was a space that kept my kids safe, kept them close, always within arm’s reach, until I was ready to let them go out into the world.
So, purple car, I just wanted to say "thank you" for being part of this journey with me. Here's to many more adventures!
~ ~ ~
I'm Gina, mom to two girls, writer, and seasoned coffee drinker.