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Owner of trash wagon tells all

GAYS MILLS - The annual tradition of spring-cleaning Emily’s car commenced this weekend in front of a trip to LaCrosse with my cousin.

I affectionately refer to my car as a “trash wagon.” It’s actually a term that I copped from my dad, who used to refer to my mom’s car as a trash wagon. Tom, for any faults he may have, is an extremely tidy car keeper.

Being the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, my brother is also a tidy car keeper, but not I. I’ve fallen from my mom’s apple tree apparently ‘cause the mess in my car is ridiculous at times.

As I’ve stated before in this very column, I am a clutter bug. I am not a slob per se. Like, my car isn’t a biohazard on wheels, but if I went in the ditch in the dead of winter, I’d have enough layers of clothing and blankets to stay warm and enough granola bars and half drank bottles of iced tea to survive for the duration. 

Having a kid has only made this worse. I used to see these memes shared by moms about what happens when you move the car seat and then you find fossilized crumbs of everything your kid ever ate. And I thought to myself, “well solving that problem is easy, just don’t give them snacks in the car!” Oh how naive I was!

I now know, that you basically cannot get a toddler to do anything without the promise of “nummy nahs” aka a snack of any form.

 If toddlers were evil criminals who were negotiating for ransom, an applesauce pouch or goldfish crackers would equate the one million dollars in unmarked bills.

However, Thatcher cannot be blamed entirely for his mom’s pigsty of a car. It was a habit I’ve had for far longer than his nearly two years on this planet.

I should back up to the part where I said my car isn’t a biohazard and say, it has been known to be a science experiment at times.

The most memorable was about six years ago, when my car developed this odd smell. It wasn’t necessarily unpleasant at first but eventually graduated to being downright stinky. I did an initial, superficial cleanout of my car, but didn’t find anything that could be the culprit.

I put off a more in-depth cleaning because I lived in downtown Madison usually parked on a narrow street with heavy traffic driving by that was typically at least three blocks from my apartment. But at last, on a fine April day, I got a spot right in front of my door. I took every single little thing out of my car. EVERYTHING! But the stench remained, so I finally got digging deeper up under the seats of my big, gold Crown Victoria sofa mobile and found a fantastic specimen of an ancient apple. It seemed to be held together by magic for it was nearly liquid inside. I flung it into the street where it exploded with an audible splat. Since then I’ve worked to keep better track of my fruit. And, I’ve also downgraded my cargo to mostly just clothes. I can often be heard saying “It’s not garbage! It’s just sweatshirts!”

This spring-cleaning though did reveal a little gem that reminded me of the apple incident. Actually two.

My chickens stood eagerly by my door as I tossed an ungodly number of thatcher socks into a Rubbermaid tub from the floorboard of the backseat. I actually had to throw a book at them a couple of times for jumping right in, but then I spied the prize they eyed.

It was an acorn squash. The chicken eyeball must be far more keen than my wimpy human eye for that puppy was way up under my seat. Its dark color blended in and I probably wouldn’t have found it until it got far more fragrant.

I reached under and grabbed the treasure and threw it down the driveway. The more vocal of the three roosters sounded the distinct alarm, reserved only for the most fantastic of treats and the flock came running, flapping and clucking down the hill after.

The other specimen? A fruitcake my aunt had given to Chasca for changing her tire at Christmas time. Still in the box, and true to the fruitcake stereotype, in perfect condition. I unwrapped it and threw it to the chickens as well and it fell with a thud, and they were not nearly as excited.

As with every spring, I will vow to keep my car clean! I will not drag endless coats, hats, sweatshirts and snacks into my trash wagon—at least, not for a little while.