Wednesday, March 28, 2012

On Cleaning The Car

"FILTH. UTTER FILTH." Repeating myself with each car door I opened, rags and sprays in hand, I was prepared. It was time to clean the Dufresne limousine, our Honda Odyssey. Not that I was dreading it, mind you. I love the feeling of a clean car. In fact, I prefer to clean it myself. I know where all the cracks and creases are, and I CARE about cleaning them. I remember when it took my mother by surprise when I finally "grew up" and began keeping my surroundings clean. Of course, my surroundings aren't just mine anymore...with seven people living in the house, cleanliness is a luxury. The car, however, is considerably smaller than the house, making it an easy target for my desperate need for order.

First step: take out the contents. This is a harrowing and humbling experience for me, since I am a borderline pack rat (no giggling, please) and I feel "safe" having every item I could possibly use (and some I will realistically never use) at the ready during transit. Unfortunately for the kids, I place several "packs" of these items near their assigned seats in case I am driving and the need arises for a particular item. So I removed all of these things, placing them carefully on a pre-cleaned concrete step next to the parked car. Wow...what a bunch of stuff. Don't think about it. Keep going.

Second step: clean off the car seats. I have a 5-point harness seat still for Rose and a booster seat for Peter. Although the official rule is no eating anything but Cheerios and Puffs in the car, somehow we manage to eat our fair share of on-the-run french fries, candy, toast, milk...snacks. I do appreciate the leather on the seats more than I thought I would when we purchased the van a bit over 2 years ago. (Did I tell all y'all about my experience on HWY 2 when my van died on the way to pick up the big kids from school--and the babies were with me???) Ugh...look at all the CRUD in the cracks. Don't think about it. Keep going.

Third step: dust/wipe dash, doors and controls. Not long after we bought the van, Joe used some weird cleaner on the dash. It took off the finish from about 1/4 of the surface, leaving a dull section that continues to haunt him. "I wrecked the car," he stated flatly to me afterward, making me think that he actually DID wreck it somehow. Nope--he just ruined some of the prettiness. "Better than cat urine," I think I said after I saw it. He was not amused. Now, I just clean the dash instead of attempting to buff it to a shine. In a halfway shiny state, it's a harsh reminder to the poor dude of his failed attempt at buffing it himself. He hasn't cleaned it since. That's OK, because like I said before, I like cleaning it myself. Even if it's not perfect anymore. Don't think about it. Keep going.

Fourth step: wash windows inside, along with the "holders" below them. This is the most entertaining job, since I discover all kinds of "secret" designs and messages on the glass. During rides to school on mornings that produce lots of fog on the windows, Edward, Benen and Peter (individually) compose various statements and drawings for their eyes only, afterward watching as the fog dissipates and leaves the window seemingly untouched. Up close, however, a keen eye can see these clandestine artistic pleasures. And they are pleasurable to see. There are too many receptacles in our van, though. Despite my being a BIG fan of receptacles (ask my sisters), the job of washing all these is tedious and takes dexterity I no longer have in abundance. Plus, it's GROSS. Don't think about it. Keep going.

Fifth step: vacuum. I like this part the best of all. I think my fondness stems from a general enjoyment of cleaning floors. It's the most noticeable, appreciated--and therefore most satisfying--job in the house and pretty much anywhere else. But there are other benefits. I get to see if any particular kid is eating things I don't know about. I can easily blame any kid for his own mess. I find lost earrings, pencils, notes, etc. that have been missing since the last vacuum, making me the hero--sometimes. However, there are occasions when I have come across rotten bits of food (reference to second step) that are in several states of decay/mold. Don't think about it. Keep going.

Sixth step: once-over. This is my last chance to look at everything I just cleaned and decide if it's "good enough" or not. By this time, I'm totally wiped out from stretching and leaning in directions my body isn't used to going. All I want to do is rest. Don't think about it. Keep going.

Seventh step: reload. The last step, this one is the BEST. Restocking the car means I am in command of the items going into it. This gives me tremendous power, which I like. Sounds minor, but for me, it is calming and gives me a secure feeling. Is that bad? Don't think about it. Keep going.

It's 6:00 pm, and it took me 1 1/2 hours to clean the van. DONE. What an accomplishment! What satisfaction! What's for dinner? Uh-oh...

Don't think about it.


  1. MARA. You are such a wonderful writer. Share this gift more often! With me, especially! :D

  2. I LOVE this! And I'm totally with ya on the vacuum comment. I'm gonna be repeating your refrain (Don't think about. Keep going.) for days.