There is a whole lot more junk in my trunk lately.
And, no, this isn’t that type of post.
I mean, literally. A ton of junk in my trunk.
It all started one Friday almost two weeks ago. In a scheduling feat only I would engineer, I had three days to prep for an outdoor overnight with one daughter’s Girl Scout troop and clean the house and menu-plan and shop for a dinner party for fourteen upon my sleep-deprived return. So, of course, a health question that needed office-visit answering arose and the one opening my doctor had was smack dab in the middle of my harried day of reckoning.
Re-engineering the day to fit everything in, I hit the discount store first. The two-year old squawked when I put her in the shopping cart, but soon entertained herself by holding the various items I plucked off the shelves. I, of course, chose judiciously which ones she could hold without causing herself bodily harm or a ‘clean-up on aisle five’ effect. The dish detergent did give me pause, but as long as she didn’t undo the cap on the plastic bottle . . . I’d watch her closely. A few minutes later, she lost interest and hucked it over her shoulder into the larger part of the carriage anyway. That was the end of that.
Until the citrusy aroma of Ajax niggled at the back of my nose as we drove a few towns over to my appointment. I made a mental note to check the cap, thinking maybe it hadn’t survived the huck. But when we pulled into the doctor’s parking lot, early, and having already checked one task off my list, I was too busy patting myself on the back and herding the two-year old inside to check for a citrus spill. I was owning this harried day.
Turns out we were super early, since the doctor was running late. We managed to make a bathroom visit, grind bright orange cracker crumbs into the carpet, crinkle every sticker in the good behavior basket, do a diaper change, and make some friends while we waited. Luckily, the health issue seemed to be a non-issue so we headed back to the car.
Closed up for some time, the citrus smell was super concentrated in the car now. Popping open the trunk, I found a soupy mess under the sea of plastic shopping bags. Apparently my decision to buy the bottle with 20% more free was a moot point now. Using an old towel left in the trunk, I sopped up the slimy mess, which would turn sudsy every time I thought I’d swiped the last of it. As I stood in the cavernous open mouth of my trunk, scrunching up slippery plastic bags and reorganizing their contents, cars zoomed by behind me, pulling the minutes of my early lead on the day with them. And I still had to hit the grocery store for perishable items for the dinner.
Somehow, I made it to camp on time, but as we closed out dinner on the fire, our wood supply dwindled as well. Camp wasn’t too far from home so my husband met me at the main entrance to the park and loaded firewood into the trunk, mixing the earthy smell of logs with artificial citrus. The dirt and splinters didn’t bother me as much as they would have since the whole trunk needed a thorough cleaning already.
I felt like a real-life advertisement for removable trunk liners with raised lips to contain spills. Soap suds, even on a low-pile rug, would have been a nightmare. And neither my husband nor I would have loaded wood onto anything but the ruggedized surface. Yet, neither of us pulled it out to wash it off after its workout that Friday. The soap had dried, the splinters would still be waiting, and maybe we sensed there was more to come.
When another daughter’s Girl Scout troop painted pumpkins for Halloween, of course they hadn’t dried when it was time to load them into the trunk. The other leader gave me a large plastic bag to lay out on the bottom; I lay the ripped off half of a legal-size file folder over it, the pumpkin resting on top. I crawled out of the parking lot at a snail’s pace – and the pumpkin rolled over on the first turn. Flipping on the four-way flashers and righting the pumpkin, I edged up the hill, over the main road and turned onto the side street across the way. I made it but one more turn before it rolled again. This time, I hedged my bets, hoping it would stay put in its corner until we arrived home. My little Scout, meanwhile, was peering over the backseat the entire time, giving me a running commentary of its travels and the patches of pumpkin now showing through the paint. When we finally extracted the pumpkin from the trunk in our driveway, sure enough, the trunk was more purple than the pumpkin. She, of course, was more distraught about the pumpkin. A blob of purple paint on the corner of the file folder, her makeshift palette, remained so I instructed her to go inside, get a paintbrush, and set to fixing her pumpkin on the porch. I donned a headlamp, a handful of wet paper towel, and package of baby wipes and set to scrubbing down the inside of the trunk.
Turns out the spill of dish detergent at the outset of this trunk evolution was fortuitous when it came to scrubbing down purple paint. That wet paper towel activated it like a dream. And suds scrubbed out any dirt the wood chips had left behind. The rubber-stamped letters of Subaru raised in purple relief against the black backdrop as the absurdity of this phase in my life came to bear. Would I ever have imagined that I’d be standing in the pitch black of my driveway following the bobbing beam of a headlamp as I scrubbed poster paint out of the back of my car? While my nine-year-old finished her squash masterpiece by porch light? While my pajama-clad eleven-year-old peered out the window, drawn by the random shards of light sluiced across the dining room? While my thirteen-year-old busied the two-year-old, who started this all, upstairs? While my husband placed the packet of fundraising materials on the dining room table without realizing it was also covered in splatters of purple paint that got all over his hands and anything he touched within the next few minutes?
All because I thought I could fit it all in, in a short window of time; do it all at top speed and not make any mistakes. Or because life with four children in a family of six people is always lived at breakneck speed with absurd missteps and stuff you just can’t make up. If my eleven-year-old looked out the window in disbelief, I could just imagine what my neighbors thought if they saw the shifting beams of light through the trees.
The junk in the trunk wasn’t there long enough to become baggage, but old habits like over-scheduling and unrealistic expectations of what I can actually accomplish always travel with me. Luckily, so do smart purchases like the ruggedized trunk liner and a sense of humor. And the crazy few days leading up to the dinner party made me enjoy my glass of wine with friends even more. And the bemused look on my eleven-year-old’s face as she took in her crazed cyclops mother makes my heart sing. There are small moments of authenticity amidst the chaos – and never a dull moment.