Sometimes, you don’t realize how unacceptable something is until you actually step back and listen to yourself. My car is a disgusting pit of filth. I know this, and I justify it – I’m busy, it’s a total mommy car, you never know when those 27 empty PJ’s iced coffee cups might come in handy. Really, the clutter doesn’t bother me. I mean, it’s a dented teal green 1997 Honda Civic with more than 150,000 miles on it – and possibly more than 150,000 My Little Pony stickers all over it. It’s never going to look good, even if it were clean.

I’ve gotten into other people’s cars before, and they say, “Oh, I am so sorry about the mess.” And there’s, like, an umbrella on the seat or something. This is not the level of “mess” I’m talking about. And I’ve gotten into mommy cars before that maybe are a little bit messy – but still not like mine. I’m not talking crumbled Goldfish crackers or a few rogue french fries. I’m not even talking melted crayons and naked Barbies everywhere.

I actually heard myself say to my daughter this morning, “Oh, no, honey, watch out for the broken glass.”

Watch. Out. For. The. Broken. Glass.




And suddenly I heard what I was saying, and I thought, “What is wrong with me? How did I let it get like this?”

In my defense – as a mom, not as a keeper of a dirty car – the broken glass is on the front passenger side, and no one ever rides there. My daughter rides in the back, and no one else willingly gets in my car. But this morning, I had a tray of sandwiches for her day care’s Fourth of July party, and I opened the passenger side door to set them down on the seat so I’d have my hands free to strap her into her booster in the back seat. But when I opened the door, she tried to climb in to the car that way. So it’s not like the broken glass was anywhere near her. But I know – I know – that broken glass is not a good thing to have in one’s car. I know it could become airborne in a wreck, God forbid, and hurt either one of us.

Why is there broken glass there in the first place? Well. My friend Jim died in March. Sometime in … April? May? I went to get some mementoes out of his house. The last thing I need in my life is more useless sentimental clutter, so I tried to take only things I’d use: a coffee mug, a sweater, some books and a framed picture of the city of New Orleans. And yet the only thing I’ve even taken out of my car is the mug. (I drink coffee out of it almost every morning, which always makes me smile because Jim hated coffee.)

The sweater I will probably use at some point when it’s not 100 degrees outside. The books and the picture … there is no way to state this without sounding very Poor Poor Pitiful Me, but the other thing I found at Jim’s was a packet of my sister’s ashes. I didn’t know what the hell else to do with them, so I threw them in the bag with the books and the picture, and now I can’t deal with any of it. I mean, what do you do with that, with your sister’s ashes found at the home of your recently deceased best friend? If you’re me, you just leave it in your car. And the car got so hot that the glass in the picture frame broke, and I still couldn’t deal with it, and so now … now I am the kind of person who just casually has broken glass in her car.

But no more. As usual, it was my daughter who made me realize I have to get my act together.

“Why is there broken glass in your car, Mommy? That’s dangerous.”

“Yes, it is. You’re right.”

“Well, you should clean it up.”

“Right again. I will.”

“But when?”

“This weekend.”

No excuses anymore. I promised Ruby. I owe it to her to be able to both manage my grief and keep my car if not clean at least free of obvious hazards.

And it’s a long weekend, so I will have the time, I hope, to do both.

Here’s wishing you all a happy Fourth – along with the fervent wish that you spend it doing something more fun than cleaning out your car.