Dear Diary

June 13, 2015

Today, I did what only the bravest of parents dare to do. I cleaned the minivan. As a result, I will most likely have nightmares. Perhaps I will drown in a tub of Cheerios and Goldfish. Maybe the mysterious stain I worked so hard to scrub out will come to life and rub me out of existence, elbows first. Or peradventure I will be lost in an endless forest of my daughter’s sweaters and kindergarten artwork.

I had put this task off for a long time, which made it all the more harrowing. Part of my procrastination had to do with the fact that even the most thorough cleaning could only provide a temporary respite. Order would eventually yield to entropy.

But nevertheless, on a hot June day, I found myself with a Shop-Vac ready to do battle with cracker crumbs, sticky wrappers, crayon fragments, and who knows what else.  I threw open all the doors, emptied the trunk, disengaged car seats, and committed like Daniel Day-Lewis.

For a few seconds I became the last milkshake-drinking president of a left-footed gang from New York. Until I heard footsteps.

It was Alice. She had come to help.

Normally, I really do like spending time with my daughter. But I was on a mission and a five-year-old kid does not correlate with an increase in efficiency. Stickers, yes. Efficiency, no.

But since she was so eager, I relented. Well, sort of. First I tested her enthusiasm. She really wanted to vacuum, so I gave her some pre-vacuuming tasks. Carry in your 18 sweaters. Take in your tupperware containers of currently-evolving ranch dressing. Scrub down the seats with some of your brother’s wipes. No, the unused ones.

If she were competing in a Little Miss Minivan competition she would have survived the “Transportation of Wares” portion without much distinction. However, she rocked the “Wiping Down Surfaces” section, getting bonus points for her enthusiasm over the luster of the freshly-scrubbed interior door handles. Her comment actually inspired me to take a crack at the layer of dust that had blanketed the dashboard.

When she finally got to the “Vacuuming” portion, she was a house of fire. She maneuvered skillfully from front seat to back. She switched from the “scraper” to the “tube” with ease. Cheerios hiding in their bunkers were sucked up in bunches.There were a few work stoppages. She ran in the house to get us a drink of cold water. I showed her the buttons on the driver’s seat, and she delighted in moving it back and forth, forth and back. She chided me for throwing away her prized painting—two purple flowers on a white background.

Eventually, she finished the mission by hopping in the trunk and vacuuming up pine needles from Christmas. To clarify, the rest of the car had been vacuumed since then, just not the trunk.

I was stunned by the fact that she may have actually helped with efficiency. I probably wouldn’t have taken a break to play with the driver’s seat, but while she was vacuuming the trunk, I was wrestling with the car seats. While she wiped bench seats, I vacuumed out the toughest of crevices.

When we were all done, we were both beaming. I told her how much I appreciated her help. Then something came over me. Maybe it was the ranch dressing fumes.

“I think I’ll remember this moment,” I told her.  “Someday when you get older, you may not always want to do chores with your dad.” Not sure why I needed to be such a downer. I sometimes suffer from early onset nostalgia.

We talked about the possibility that she might be different than the average teenager. She seemed optimistic, but wasn’t making guarantees either.

“Maybe you should write this down in your diary,” she said, “so you won’t forget.”

Somewhere in our much more pristine Toyota Sienna, a few snacks are still hiding out. A raisin here. A piece of kettlecorn there. Stuck. Immovable. Like a moment lodged in a daddy’s blog.

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One Response to “Dear Diary”

  1. Mom Says:

    So glad you took the time to record this experience for posterity! Alice is such a determined helper. That you took the time to let and encourage her to help will foster this helpfulness even as she gets older. Good job, Ronn and Alice!!


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