Mom gets a bit of her own medicine


For the last six years, we Clinches have been driving the wheels off our cherished Suburban.

When we first acquired the vehicle, I cautioned the children against spills. I prohibited food consumption and gave lectures on vacuuming with mandatory return demonstrations.

“This is not your bedroom,” I stated for the masses with my pointer finger up for emphasis. You can’t change your clothes in here and spread your garb and … oh my gosh! Are those dirty socks on the new upholstery?”

I vacuumed that rig no less than once a week; polished spots and cursed bugs for having the audacity to meet with their demise on my unblemished windshield.

The first time juice was spilled, I scrubbed with a frenzy. When dirty napkins made their way into the cubbies, I pulled them out and spritzed the area with antibacterial spray. I kept carwipes at the ready, and spent red-light time dusting the dash.

Time had a way of diminishing my undaunted neatness. It wasn’t long before french fries found their way into the crevices, the spritzing with the antibacterial spray got old, and I all but gave up on trying to keep pebbles out of the floor boards.

Some bamboozler would always write, “Wash me” on the back, and thanks to my husband’s caffeine habit, we had more than one coffee stain lurking about. Sure, I’d clean it up for guest travelers now and then and lecture anyone who would listen to me, but the splendid Suburban began to take on the look of an over-used

family sedan.

The windows were opaque with tic-tac-toe drawn in the steam, the handles were sticky, and if one were ever to discover anything remotely valuable inside my glove box— it would have been an accident.

I was doomed to cruise through town in a vehicle littered with electronic devices, athletic garb, and a cooler full of sports drinks. Papers were strewn about, and the cup holders were used for little trashcans.

When we drove the old Suburban into a local dealership a couple of weeks ago, she was nothing but a dirty shadow of her former self .

I did have the forethought to make our younger boys give her somewhat of a cleaning. “Hey, I found my old football shirt!” one of them exclaimed. “Has Vernon been missing his iPod cord?” asked another. They pulled socks out of seat pockets, candy out of crevices and discovered no less than six army men .

Our people haven’t played with army men for two years.

Although I must admit that car attachments don’t run deep, Iwas a bit sad. “What’ll you give us for her?” I asked the salesman as I swallowed hard with emotion.

“Whoa,” he said as he gazed inside, “this thing could really use a detail.”

“Ya think?”

My sadness lasted about as long as it took me to pokemy head into a new car. Although she isn’t brand new, she’s new enough for me. She’s bright, she’s shiny and, may I say, she corners like a dream.

“Change your shirt before you climb in here,” I told Charlie after football practice. “Kick the gravel off your shoes,” I instructed his friend.

I’ve limited beverage consumption to water and put my husband into a traveling coffee mug for all of eternity.

I gave lectures worthy of the militia, posted a signup sheet in the garage for vacuuming days and, according to my children, have become neat to the point of obsession.

I suppose I had no idea how fanatical I’d become until just yesterday when I used our son’s dirty pickup to haul some large wares across town.

He was waiting in the garage for me when I arrived home with a bottle of Windex in one hand and a shammy in the other. “Is that a spot on my windshield?” he asked with faux disgust as he began to mock his mother.

“Tellme you weren’t drinking a Diet Coke in there,” he then said as he peered inside. “You were drinking a Diet Coke in there, weren’t you? Well, I’ll be. Did you spill it? I’ll bet you spilled it. Is that gravel on my floor? Didn’t we talk about the gravel? I know we talked about the gravel. I think we’ll be doubling your vacuuming days, little missy.”

Wonder what he’ll think when he realizes that I’ve written “Wash Me” in his dirt.

Lori Clinch is the mother of four sons and the author of the book “Are We There Yet?” You can reach her at