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The Sedimentary Layers of My Minivan

Image source: Thinkstock
Image source: Thinkstock

There are two types of moms in the world: moms with clean cars and moms with messy cars.

I will admit, I sort of hate the moms with clean cars, who I suspect practice some type of magic you learn only at Junior League meetings. Their cars stay neat and tidy with monogrammed totes and strategic trash bags. They remove their fast food cups as soon as they’re empty. When they open their car door, crushed juice boxes don’t fall out. These moms are organized. They run the PTA. Those bitches have Pinterest.

Then there’s my van.

To clarify, I never wanted a minivan. I kicked and screamed my way into it, and relented only because the need for a new car that could fit the whole brood was imminent, and the most cost-efficient thing was the dreaded van. Over time, I’ve grown — well, not to love it, but to at least accept it. Mostly because it holds a lot of stuff.

For about a week, I fantasized about keeping that van clean. I failed. Sorry, van. You belong to me now. You haul not only children, but mounds of stuff — some of which we need, some of which we don’t. The stuff falls into three distinct categories: trash, necessary items, and things the kids think are necessary items.

The trash always manages to take up more of the car than our human bodies do. With the *upgraded* minivan, I now have not two, but a glorious four cup holders, with a fold-down table thing between them. Three of these cup holders, at any given time, are full of empty iced tea cups. The rest of my van’s front seat is littered with the refuse of drive-thru lines and afternoon snacks; I dare anyone to ferry children around and maintain a trash-free passenger side. Luckily, most of the trash stays here, other than the stray juicebox tossed by a 3-year-old.

Then there’s the stuff we really need.

We really need those six baby carriers of various kinds. Yes, those ones mounded up behind the front seats. Mixed between them are the children’s shoes, because my kids view these as a tool of parental oppression, and do whatever they can to immediately relieve themselves of them once in the vehicle. Usually there’s also a pair of fireman boots, some lone socks (also a tool of oppression), and a cute hat I thought the kids might actually wear. I was wrong.

I’m pretty sure there’s also a diaper bag in there somewhere. It’s buried, along with my purse.

The van also stores some of my clothes — usually a sweater or two — and the boys’ complete set of winter garb. I mean, I can’t put the coats on them in their carseats, so what’s the point of hauling it all inside? So the trunk-ish space houses three coats, a vest or two, several sets of gloves and mittens, plus three to ten adorable winter hats my kids always shuck off forcefully. Silver lining — if we drive into a snowbank and get stuck, we’re set on warmth.

We’re also set on food, because traveling with kids means traveling with snacks. I keep a dozen or so juice boxes, raisins, seaweed munchies, and other assorted kid-snacks stashed somewhere in the van. There’s also the perishable snack-bag sitting on the front seat. It’s full of apples and carrots and other stuff. You never know which day will be one of those growth-spurt, eat-everything-all-the-time days. I like to prepare.

This preparation instinct might explain why we keep a bucket of shovels and buckets at ready, and bug nets and fish nets cluttering the backseat. Whatever the nature outing, we’re armed and ready. In the summer, lifejackets and extra bathing suits will replace the winter coats. There will also be pool toys — chiefly enormous noodles, water pistols, and goggles no one ever actually uses underwater.

But this isn’t “ready” enough, according to my kids…

They also need books, because you can’t ride in a car without reading material. And sticks, because you may not have realized that the world is suffering from a critical stick shortage, and sticks should be hoarded. The kids insist they need the costumes they wear to Target, the stray fishing pole, the action figures, and the balls, and the lost library books. They just absolutely need to carry junk from the house to the car every time we go somewhere, only to immediately and unceremoniously drop it on the floor.

And most importantly, way, way in the back, is the potty. The potty saves the kids from peeing on car trips. The potty also saves me from peeing on car trips, but only when there’s no bathroom for miles and it’s the frog potty or arrest for indecent exposure.

So yes, sometimes when I open the automatic doors, stray hats tumble out. It takes a shop vac to get up all the fries, and I often have to excavate my purse from beneath baby wraps. I should probably get a trash bag. I should probably get organized. But I probably won’t.

Sorry, van. You belong to me now.

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