In This Mom’s Car
Ice scraper (1): Or two, depending on how you count. It’s in two pieces now, snapped in half during the most recent bout of foul weather. Now there’s the brush half and the scraper half and the one I can find is never the one I need.
Car seat (1): Not the most expensive model, but not the cheapest either. It’s nice, but not fancy, especially not now with its Pollock-esque décor of multicolored spit-up, hardened droplets of milk, and saliva-softened cheese crackers ground into the plush. But it’s safe; that’s the most important thing. It protects my child in a five-point hug while I move us from here to there and home again.
Stuffed elephant (1): It’s pink so he knows that it’s okay to love things that are soft and pink. Not everything has to be hard or firm or brown or blue. And when he doubts that, when he says it’s for girls, I’ll show him the pictures of his father holding him was a newborn. He loved you when you were soft and pink, I’ll say. Look. See for yourself.
Stroller (1): He prefers to walk, just not in the direction I’m trying to go. So sometimes it’s necessary to push him instead. When he’s tucked inside it, quiet and calm, I like to think it’s because he recognizes the speed of my walk, the rhythm of my gait from when he was tucked inside of me.
Diapers (2): Because running out of diapers is worse than running out of gas. I’d rather be stranded without food, without water, without phone or heat or hope of rescue. Because leaving the house without diapers is a mistake you only make once. Now there are two diapers, rolled as snugly as possible, crammed into my glove compartment next to my registration and under a pile of wadded napkins.
Window shades (4): Not on the windows, as you might expect. We’ve tried three different kinds, but can’t seem to get them to stay put. No, these are collapsed on the floor, puddles of tinted cling film and cheap suction cups. They’re no small source of guilt for me, the mom who isn’t protecting her baby’s precious skin.
Granola bars (5): Emergency breakfast for those mornings when he wants to be held so close it’s impossible to get a spoon to my mouth. Those days, I eat on the road on the way to library or the grocery store or music class. It’s a good trade, though, full arms for an empty stomach.
Socks (2): Two, but not a matching pair. In truth, we gave up “matching” a long time ago when it came to socks. Now we just pull two from the drawer and he wears them together, happily. The old women in line at the grocery store think it’s cute, and I smile and nod as if it is a fashion choice and not the result of total sock-matching exhaustion. But these two are such wildly different sizes, the same child could not wear both of them. I hold one in each hand, balanced on an outstretched palm: baby, toddler. How could my son have ever been so small? I think of my husband’s socks, which sometimes appear without explanation in my clean laundry. How could my son possibly ever get so big?
Cheerios (9): And those are just the ones I can see. There are others, no doubt, lurking between the seats, under the floor mats, caught in the sticky interior of the cup holder. The thing is, I can’t remember ever giving him Cheerios in the car. What is it about toddlers that allow them to spontaneously generate mess? My son, the alchemist, can already transform radio waves, sunlight, and clean air into cereal. Who knows what magic is next for him?
Illustrations by Christine Juneau