My son isn’t coming home from college for the summer so we decided to take a trip to see him and bring home anything he wouldn’t need for the next few months. He lives in an apartment on campus and will have to move out in a few weeks once the spring quarter is over. Since he has a car this year, we didn’t move him in like we did when he was a freshman and lived in the dorms. This was our first time seeing his apartment. The building is pretty new and looks like any other apartment complex except there are signs in the elevator teaching them how to deal with a pesky roommate, signs in the hallway about what to do if your friend is super drunk, and a billboard outside the laundry room reminding them about the dangers of chlamydia. My son is kind of messy but I hadn’t really worried about him this year because the apartment was expensive but worth it. The laundry is free and they have a housekeeper come in regularly. How bad could it be? I walked into his 4th floor apartment that he shares with 3 other guys and stopped in my tracks. The units are set up like this. There are 4 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms with a small kitchen and living area. The front door leads right into the kitchen. At this point I had only seen the kitchen, which left me stunned in disbelief. I thought for sure I would get pink eye. At the very least I had the creeps. The place was gross. Period. I had a look of horror on my face that I was afraid might become permanent if I stayed in there too long. I turned to look at my husband with my eyes wide and my mouth dropped open. I was speechless. He just shook his head. The sink was full of dirty dishes. The counters permeated with dried food and unidentifiable stains. The dish towel was stained and crusty and the dish sponge looked like a petri dish, black and torn in half. I didn’t even open the fridge since I can’t remember when my last tetanus shot was. There were 3 trash cans and a cardboard box making a wall between the kitchen and hallway overflowing with trash. No trash bags. No paper towels, napkins, hand soap or common knowledge about virus prevention. It was disgusting. We climbed over Mt. Trashmore to get to the bedrooms. I stopped at the bathroom because I had to go. I quickly decided that I could hold it, possibly forever, thankful that I had c-sections. The bathroom was worse than the kitchen. Once again there was an overflowing trash can . There was also a black grocery store hand basket in there full of trash. What? Every bottle of shampoo, lotion, toothpaste, shaving cream, Pringles tin used in the last 9 months was still there, empty. The bar of soap was dry with cracks in it. There were several balled up towels, a few single socks, a wet suit, a belt, 1 shoe, a pencil, a pair of spurs, and 7 rolls of toilet paper on the floor along with so much hair I thought it was a sleeping poodle. Typical for 2 Italian boys sharing a bathroom. Ew. Wait, how often does the housekeeper come? Every few nevers? My son told me that it was a man and he came in to clean every two weeks. Oh that makes sense. Have you seen him lately? Did he get lost and die in here? I could totally see that happening and it would explain the smell. Where is the case of Clorox wipes I sent to you? From there I turned around and climbed into his bedroom. At this point relieved that I could at least see the furniture. His bed was piled high with unfolded laundry that he said not to touch because he knows what is clean and what is dirty. Whatever. The floor was filled with papers, sunflower seeds that spilled, and other random things like a giant spatula, 8’ PVC pipes-6 of them, that when I accidentally stepped on them rolled me forward like a conveyor belt, and a broken pool umbrella. He had a black trash bag full of snacks under his bed that he pulled out and told his sisters to close their eyes and reach inside and grab something. Only my Little was brave enough to do it since she thinks her brother hung the moon and the stars. She reached in and pulled out a smashed package of Little Debbie’s Christmas tree cakes. I smacked it out of her hands since it was the end of May and I didn’t want her eating them. He called it his surprise snack bag since you never know what you will get out of it. Food poisoning. That is what you’ll get. I threw the entire bag out into the hallway. It’s last stop before the dumpster. The only clean thing I saw in that whole apartment was the vacuum. I turned it over to check the rollers fearing they had sucked up who knows what in it when I discovered that it was brand new and never been used. Figures. After four loads of laundry, washing both clean and dirty stuff because let’s face it, it all stunk, 2 giant bags of trash from his room and a lot of complaining by me, we were done. Our car was loaded with all of the stuff he wouldn’t need and honestly would never see again once I took it. He’ll forget about it. This isn’t my first rodeo, I’m a mom so I’m good at making stuff disappear and denying it later. We said our goodbyes and headed back down the coast for the dreaded drive back to SoCal. I needed a mani/pedi and therapy. It’s been 2 weeks since our trip to see him. Surely by now his room is a pit again.
My son has been home from college a few times this year but we hadn’t been up to see him at all. So when he sent me a picture of cows thinking his car is a Tic Tac, I thought we better take a trip to do a welfare check on him. We set out early on a Saturday morning to go see him and found out on our way that he needed to be at a rodeo about an hour and a half from campus that night. Since he said his clutch was giving him “a little trouble”, I told him he could take my car once we got there. We arrived later than we planned because we spent 3 extra hours crawling up the coast of California making our filthy lying Google maps estimate of a 5 ½ hour trip into 8 ½ hours. I have no love lost on the 405, I can tell you that. He was close to being late for the rodeo, so when we got there he kissed me on the cheek, threw his keys at me, yelled over his shoulder not to judge him, and sped off in my shiny new SUV. Judge him? I turned to find his car and took a minute to locate it. All I saw was a filthy little maybe white car that couldn’t possibly be his. I walked closer and yep it was his. That’s what he meant. Oh I judged him all right. I opened the door and not only does his car resemble a roller skate, they both smell the same on the inside. We bought him a tiny car since we know if it were any bigger he’d live in it and thought for sure he can’t mess it up too much since there’s nothing to it. I get it since he works on two different ranches and rides bulls and living in an apartment keeps his gear in there, but seriously? The entire car was full of mud with bugs on the grill from who knows how long that were now forever part of the paint. The picture of the cows was accurate. There were lick marks on all of the windows and the entire windshield. How in the heck did he even see out of it? My Middle and I decided to take it straight to a car wash, then head over to my son’s apartment to check it out after. I had to go back a few years to remember how to drive a stick and quickly realized that “a little trouble” with the clutch meant that 1st gear was gone all together. Not to be discouraged, we bumbled off in 2nd. We hit the nearest gas station with a car wash and filled up his tank, which is about the size of a Gatorade, and selected the deluxe car wash. When we came out of the car wash machine I got out to see how well it worked. It didn’t. I thought that maybe the car is so small that the machine only reached the top and the sides, which were only marginally cleaner, since the rollers never really touched the front or the back. I went in to ask the attendant if I could run it through again for free since it was still pretty gross. He didn’t believe me that a car could be too small to get cleaned, but since he didn’t even bother getting off of his high stool behind the counter to look at the car, I wasn’t backing down. Look Carl, I am stuck in a smelly car and can’t roll down the windows while it’s being washed. I just drove 8 ½ hours to get here, through LA mind you, and I am hungry and I have to pee. That was all irrelevant at this point but I think it helped my case. I could tell that he didn’t want to deal with me so he gave me another code to use for the car wash and swiveled away from me. It was all a waste of time and money since even the second run through the wash did absolutely nothing. We decided to take it to one of those self-wash places that was 2 miles away, which seems close but required a ride on the highway using only 2nd and 3rd gear. We got there finally and pulled into a stall. I put a dollar in the machine giving me one minute. I decided to spend that time first rinsing it down with water before adding foamy soap. I selected the high pressure water option and pulled the trigger. The pressure was so hard it knocked me off my feet into a puddle and I shot water about 30 feet in the air. What the heck? I got up and realized that I couldn’t wash this tiny car with this thing, it will blow it down the street! I told my Middle to get back in the car hoping that a little extra weight in it will stop the car from moving. At this point I only had about 40 seconds until I needed another dollar so I rushed around rinsing it down. I kept putting dollars in the machine running around the car cleaning as fast as I could until $15 later when the car was clean and I was sweaty and exhausted. My hair was at a new level of frizz, pushing my hair tie to the limit and my butt and leg were wet from falling on the ground. We puttered out of the car wash stall and over to the vacuums. We vacuumed for $5 worth and weren’t making any progress so I just threw away his floor mats, ordered new ones from Amazon right then and there and called it a day. You can’t win them all. Leaving the car wash, I drove the wrong way down a one-way street. I freaked out, stalled the car, pushed in the clutch to start it and tried ramming it into the non-existent 1st gear before I realized I needed to start out in 2nd. I didn’t think to turn the car around so I did all of this while jerking the car down the road the wrong way, begging Jesus to take the wheel, and passing a highway patrol car as we went. I just turned to him, gave a small finger wave and shrugged. I think he could tell by my hair what kind of day I was having and didn’t even mess with me. From there we went back to the hotel to shower and take a nap. I was done. I had just spent almost as much money on washing my son’s car as I did buying it in the first place and I didn’t have the energy or mental capacity to see what a disaster his apartment was. That adventure was saved for the next day.
There are 3 times in a mom’s life that her kids need her the most. When she’s on the toilet, on the phone, and the instant she turns on the vacuum. When my kids were little it was always something urgent like watching a dance that was made up on the spot or listening to a play by play dialogue of the show they just watched for the first time, again. It always starts with “Hey, Mom?” Followed by a question that could be very easily answered by dad but since he’s watching TV, or sleeping, or doing nothing at all, they don’t want to bother him. Of course not. They bust into the bathroom and ask, “Hey, Mom? Can you sign this?” Go ask Dad! Come on! He has opposable thumbs and has been signing his name since the third grade. I’m not sure that they understand “parent signature” includes him. Or when I’m on the phone and I finally get through to an actual human after navigating a thousand options and being on hold for 30 minutes, “Hey, Mom? Can you help me with my math homework?” Did you just walk past your dad to come in here? But my favorite is when I’m vacuuming and my kids, who have basically ignored my existence for the entire day, pick that exact moment to ask me a question. I can’t hear you! I swear if I have to turn the vacuum off for this it better be good. The only time the kids ask dad first is when it involves something cool they want to do that they know I will absolutely say no to. Like my son’s latest, “Hey, Dad? What do you think about me bull riding?” Uh, go ask your mom.