Dog Hair and Spilled Ketchup Between the Seats


This morning I washed, vacuumed and Windexed my van. It’s an ’05, and has some wear and tear, but at the moment, it’s looking pretty good. I enjoy my car like this, but my kids don’t.

They know it means the dog will have to ride in the very back of the van. At least for a few days. Then, the efforts of removing his dog hair will have faded enough from my memory to give in to their pleas and I’ll allow him to ride on the bench seat with them.

The dog hair doesn’t add itself to the van gradually, it’s an all or nothing deal. Just one short car ride with the kids to school and back, and my car looks like the dog has lived in there all day, every day, for a year.  As if his immense shedding were not enough, his hair also intricately weaves itself into the kids’ clothing.  At school drop-off, while some moms are giving their kids a quick spit wash to rid them of their morning cereal milk mustaches, I’m giving my kids a quick once-over with the lint brush.

When my car is clean, I can almost guarantee no one will see it. However, when it’s at the peak of its dog hair-filled, food-spilled, toy-strewn glory, the cosmos will work its magic to invite people in.

Just last week, I met Juliette, a good friend from high school I hadn’t seen in years, out for dinner. My car happened to be at its peak messy state, and I didn’t have time to clean it before dinner. “It will be fine,” I thought, “I’m meeting her at the restaurant, she will never see my car.”

Sure enough, when Juliette and I left the restaurant it was dark and I happened to have parked in a lot that was closer to the restaurant, so guess who drove whom to their car.

That never would have happened if my car was clean, its like I’m invisible to the pranksters of the cosmos. But if they see a busy, frazzled mom whose kids just spilled their happy meals all over the dog-hair covered floor, its like I’m a bright, red blinking light on the radar.

I have a vague recollection of my van in its pre-dog, pre-fast food days. My twin girls were babies, and I drove out to visit my friend, Micha, who has three kids that are older than the twins (soon she’d add a fourth and I’d add a third to complete our families).

At the end of our visit, Micha walked out to the van with me to help put the twins in their car seats for the ride home. When she looked in the van, she smiled and said, “I see your kids don’t eat in the car yet.”

Over the years, spurts of ketchup that fly out of those little packets have found safe places between the back bench seat and wall of the van just out of reach, tiny bits of goldfish crackers constantly re-materialize, and when one of the kids spilled an entire Sprite as I rounded a sharp corner, my first thought was, “Score! Its clear.”

Fantasies of a clean car still give me a dreamy smile. But those busy nights driving home from the kids’ activities, grabbing a quick dinner, singing to the radio, and the dog hanging out on the back bench seat, all add up to some really good times. I guess that explains why I spend an entire morning cleaning my car, only to welcome back the dog hair and more spilled ketchup between the seats.


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