Washing the car - FamilyEducation

Washing the car

August 11,2008
I will never be accused of being the guy with the clean car – inside or out. I have my parents to blame for this. Well, mostly. We simply weren’t the family that had the spotless cars (though my parents did tend to keep their cars relatively clean inside). Obviously, with kids, keeping cars clean is so difficult that it could be an Olympic sport (with corporate sponsors and all). So, once K-Man came along, it was pretty much a given that any hope I ever had of keeping my car clean was long gone.

Recently, my car has gotten so dirty (how dirty was it?)…that those random people who write, “wash me” in the grime were likely afraid to touch it for fear of contracting some kind of disease. It had gotten so dirty that birds stopped aiming for it (“Nah, that’s just too easy”). It had gotten so dirty that G finally said something needed to be done. (Now, in my defense, my car is outside all day, every day). Okay. No. That’s not much of a defense.)

So, instead of taking the car to the car wash, I decided to go old school and wash the thing in my driveway. It had been a long time since I had hand washed a car, but I used to love it. Hand washing cars is one of those memory triggers. Just like a song can remind you of life’s milestones, the second I pointed the hose at the Prius, I felt like I had hit a button in a time machine as was transported back to the LA suburb in which I grew up.

There I was, no longer in my driveway in the Bay Area, but back in LA. I instantly remembered washing my own car (a beat-up VW Scirocco in high school) and, better yet, helping my dad wash any of the cars that we had while I was growing up – from the VW Dasher to the Nissan Maxima station wagon (the absolute bane of my high-school days). And, who could forget the algae-green Plymouth Duster, the orange Volvo wagon or the powder blue family wagon? (G-d knows what kind of car THAT was. The “family truckster” might be the only way to describe it.) The flashback was so vivid it was almost scary.

I was snapped out of it by a little voice (a voice that, in my head, could have been my own): “Daddy, I wanna spray.” K-Man wanted to help wash the car. This was, after all, the very reason that I didn’t take the car to the car wash. I knew that he’d want to participate in the process. This is a kid who has single-handedly increased our water bill by a zillion percent. There was no doubt about the fact that when the hose was pulled into the driveway, K-Man would be close behind.

What a simple moment – washing the car. Never in my wildest dreams did I think it would affect me as much as it did. It was such a strange feeling to flash back and remember being 10 years old while simultaneously registering the moment of the first car wash with K-Man. But, I guess so much of parenting is like that, in a way. There are all kinds of moments when we remember a certain activity as a kid – at the same time we're experiencing them as parents. And, as K-Man gets older, I know that I’ll have more and more of these moments. (Most likely the biggest will come when he puts on a soccer uniform for the first time – if that’s what he wants to do.)

But this day was about washing a car with my kid. He didn’t totally grasp the concept of washing the entire car, but man, did he ever clean the one spot on the front hood. And, he didn’t completely understand that, after the car is dried, there’s no reason to soak it down again. But we’ll get there. I have a feeling this car wash was just the first of many to come.

At least I hope so. For the car’s sake. And mine.