The Dirtiest Car in the World

Yesterday Ellie was acting weird at school, so I picked her up early and decided to keep her home today to watch her. At school, her teacher said she kept falling asleep throughout the morning and didn’t want to participate in anything. Typically a Mrs. Kravitz, this was a sign that she likely wasn’t feeling well and was worrisome to all because of her heart.

When I went to get her out of her bed this morning, she had one leg swung over the side of the bed and was growling at me with her hands and fingers stretched out like a T-rex. I decided to stick with my plan to observe her at home, but I knew right away that a good night’s sleep had made all the difference.

We still had to take Jack to his piano lessons and Gus to school. Jack was excited so he ate his breakfast and got dressed on his own without much of the usual pushback. Gus walked around crying for an hour.

“I think he’d be a good papoose baby,” Ben said because Gus only wanted to be held, like every morning … and afternoon… and night. To be fair, Ellie can’t smother him with hugs if he is up in an adult’s arms.

Ben was planning to leave for work at the same time I was loading my car, but both of our vehicles were covered in ice and had to thaw. Ellie and Gus stood at the glass front door to supervise us. Somehow Ellie bit her tongue and was bleeding. Gus was still crying.

After one more diaper change, I loaded everyone in the car and we were ready to “Go! Go! GO!” as Ellie says. I looked down when I heard the ding: “Low Fuel.”

While on the interstate I thought of three things I had forgotten at home and hoped I had spares in my purse or the console. “I will just stop at the full-service station on the way to school. They can fill the car while I try to get a handle on everything,” I thought.

I asked the attendant to fill up the car and got to work digging around. I gave Gus his bottle, found an extra pair of socks, a snack bag of goldfish, some extra diapers and enough cash to pay for the gas. Except, when the attendant finished and told me the total, I didn’t have enough. I was $3 short and I couldn’t find my debit card.

In full disclosure, this is the second time I have done this to this poor man. I very rarely visit this station and when I do, I hardly ever ask for full service. In fact, the only times I have used the full service lane in the past 12 months are these two times.

I was so embarrassed and I told him that. I promised him that I could count and didn’t know why I had such a hard time with having enough money for him. I was stressed that I couldn’t find my debit card. “When is the last time I used it?” I wondered out loud.

Gus was crying, Ellie was pretending to be a T-rex and Jack was saying “Mommy” over and over again to get my attention to show me the pretend Carnortarus dinosaur babies that were hatching in the backseat.

“It’s fine. Don’t worry about it,” he kept telling me. I dug out some change, but I didn’t even have enough coins to give him.

“I am so sorry. Can you give me 30 minutes? I will be right back with the rest, I promise,” I said, wondering if I could just leave Ellie for collateral.

“No, don’t worry about it. It is fine. You have a good day, okay,” he said to me before he walked away. With that last “okay” he paused, nodded his head and looked in my eyes and I could tell that he really saw me, even more than I saw myself.  

As I drove away, I looked down at my car. It is filthy. There is trash and tissue everywhere. Old crushed cheerios and cookies are on the floorboard. The kids are yelling. I am wearing my standard uniform, workout pants and an old sweatshirt, the same thing I have worn for eleven months.

When I looked in the rearview mirror at myself, I saw the dark circles and wrinkles and heard Rod Stewart sing, “The morning sun, when it’s in your face, really shows your age.”

I dropped Gus at school and called Ben. He sits in on the piano lessons and gave me $10 when I met him to hand off Jack. I took the money back to the gas station. The attendant wasn’t there and the place was busy, so I just handed the $10 to the clerk and quickly tried to explain the situation. He responded like he understood, but I don’t know if he really did.

After piano, Jack got back in my car. “Mommy?” he asked.

“Yes, Jack,” I said.

“I think you have the dirtiest car in the world,” he laughed. “But I like your car and I love you.”

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Vicki Burge says:

    I “love” reading your blog so much!


  2. I remember an event at the on-campus Walmart. The smoke alarm in my dorm was screeching from a low battery and maintenance was likely to take a week or two to get there.

    I casually mentioned my predicament to an employee. Then, when I realized I had forgotten my wallet, my face fell. She smiled at me and said “just take it.”

    Maybe she thought I looked stressed. Maybe she thought that students shouldn’t have to pay out-of-pocket to handle things that maintenance should be handling. Or maybe she knew the pain of screeching smoke alarms.

    Whatever the reason, I haven’t forgotten her kindness years later.

    Liked by 1 person

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