The third grade Rockies were a couple of innings into their second game. Christopher was on first, and at the crack of the bat, started streaking toward second. The pitcher threw the ball, and as usual, it bounced off the second baseman’s glove, boinging into Christopher’s nose as he slid. A fountain of blood spewed out.
From the third and topmost bleacher, a 40ish blond woman raced to the trunk of her car. In a flash, she sped onto the field, gripping something in her fist. Minutes later, she walked off, her son pressed tightly under one arm. With her free hand, she was carefully pressing a large bandage over Christopher’s streaming nose. “Just hope it’s not broken,” she smiled nervously as she led him to the car.
One mom leaned into me as she shook her head, “That woman is the definition of a Super Mom. You do know what she pulled out of her trunk, don’t you?” I shook my head. “It’s one of her trade secrets — though you can never tell the coach. It’s a kotex.”
Through Cub Scouts, back-to-school nights, and rec basketball, I got to know Wendy over the next few years. With her incredible organizational skills (and her Ivy League MBA) she could easily have been running a Fortune 500 company instead of four busy kids.
She was troop leader for each of the three girls and den leader for Christopher. She ran CCD, was room mom for one or the other of the kids each year, and had her own business designing and sewing fancy smocked dresses for little girls. She managed to get each kid to their sport of choice each season, healthy snack in tow, chauffeur them to the practices, the scout meetings, the church youth group events, all after getting up at 4:30 every morning to fit in her work out.
One day I asked her how she managed to orchestrate all the driving. “Well,” she said, “I do carpool when possible, but I use a white board like we had in business school — each kid has a different color. Then I map out the trips for the day. One day, just for kicks, I set the odometer at zero at the beginning of the day. By dinner, I had logged 72 miles, and I’d never been more than five miles from home.”
We soldiers of suburbia are completely reliant on the automobile. Moms without minivans and SUVs are a rare sight. You’d be hard pressed to find a suburban mom who hasn’t gotten into someone else’s silver Honda minivan outside nursery school only to notice in shock that it had magically been “cleaned” during drop off.
Our vans are little micro-universes of our homes, even neighborhoods. Since we’re in them so much and typically just far away enough from home, hospital, mall, or sporting goods store, we have to stock them for any imagined emergency, or worse, a longer-than-anticipated wait outside the drum lesson or baseball practice (see notepaper and book of short stories below.)
My minivan will never be clean enough to house another sober adult woman. Here’s what’s inside:
Top Glove Compartment. Last year’s Friend Finder (lists phone numbers/addresses of fourth grade classmates)
Last year’s high school student directory (11th grade classmates)
Lower Glove Compartment. 116 paper napkins from various fast food establishments.
Power adapter for Game Boy power cord.
7 packages of Lucky Super Soft Pocket Tissues.
Car registration and insurance card.
Small plastic garbage bag in case 10-year-old gets carsick.
Disposable camera with two pictures left.
Plastic bag with swatches from bedroom drapes, kitchen window seat cushion, living room chairs, dining room chairs, sofa now in garage
Power cord for husband’s cell phone, I think.
Compartment above Radio. Faux leather notepad holder/miniature file folder currently lacking notepad (to take into Target to get the right sized replacement notepad.) In one “folder” is a wrinkled five year old picture of freckled boy and world renowned Chuck E Cheese.
One package of Lucky Super Soft Pocket Tissues Sunglass/Backseat View Mirror Compartment:
Old pair of sunglasses with scratch across left lens.
Change drawer. 1 quarter, 9 dimes, 6 nickels, 28 pennies.
CD drawer. 34 used Lucky Super Soft Pocket Tissues, one crumpled church bulletin, one empty lollipop stick, one unappreciated cinnamon mint.
Upper Driver’s Door Compartment. Cell phone head piece, garage door opener, three sharpened pencils, two pens (one works for sure), nail file, hand cream I don’t like enough to use every day, cigaret lighter adaptive cell phone charger.
Lower Driver’s Door Compartment. 263 page coupon book sold as a PTA fund raiser that expires in 14 days.
Small collapsible umbrella.
Two water bottles, one full, one opened.
Small bottle hand sanitizer.
Car calendar for emergency planning.
Book of short stories.
Mid-sized spiral notebook.
Upper Passenger Door Compartment. Receipt for 2 bags of sand from Ace Hardware
One Lime Green Walkie Talkie.
Lower Passenger Door Compartment. Cover for collapsible umbrella and State Farm Road Atlas with New Jersey unattached
Cup holder/tray between Driver and Passenger Seats. Carwash coupon.
Thank you note to drop off in my neighbor’s mailbox
Area beneath Cup holder/tray between Driver and Passenger Seats:
One large box tissues
Expandable plastic folder containing alphabetized coupons and a few stuck in the front flap for alphabetizing during stoplights
Drawer under front Passenger Seat. One car manual that describes what those lighted hieroglyphics on the dashboard mean.
One book that describes suggested maintenance, I think.
Seat Pockets on the back of the Driver’s Seat. 3 Friendly’s full sized crayons, one broken Friendly’s crayon.
One small plastic bag in case 10-year-old gets carsick.
One plastic maze game.
One well worn paperback Book of School Jokes and Riddles with page 37 dog-eared for repeated amusement of van inhabitants (and repeated annoyance of teenaged brother).
Floor between first and second rows. Pilates mat covered with dog footprints.
Remnants from plastic bag formerly containing a Burger King Toy.
Four rock-hard, uneaten, yet-to-be-found-by-the-dog BK fries.
One penny-sized glob of undistinguishable goo — origin or cleaning solvent unknown
Compartment beneath the Floor between first and second rows. First aid kit.
Collapsible snow shovel.
Trunk. A piece of the car floor carpet still in its plastic cover.
Fix-A-Flat canister from 1996.
Six black fabric Wegman’s shopping bags.
Three green fabric Shop Rite shopping bags which I had to buy on Earth Day having left the above in the car and too far into the check out line to retrieve.
A crumpled paper Lord and Taylor shopping bag containing two posters to be framed, both creased.
A hand basket of items to be returned to the lake house: three placemats, one towel, two pillowcases, a lamp.
One canvas Trunk Organizer (because all of those compartments, cupholders, seat pockets, door wells aren’t enough). In it are: four folded rain ponchos, two sweatshirts, two pair of white sox, three golf hats, two water bottles, container of hand sanitizing wipes, one baseball, one lacrosse ball, two packages of lacrosse mouth guards, insect repellent, sun screen.
Two bags of sand to be returned to Ace Hardware
One pellet bee sting relief
Three extra plastic bags in case 10-year-old gets carsick
Presumably, a spare tire
One pink plastic wrapper containing a kotex
My husband’s car is spotless. In the trunk, a single set of golf clubs.
Oakley spent 20 years as a television producer. Her credits range from her first job as associate producer on Oprah Winfrey’s original talk show, to producer of Larry King’s first foray into national television syndication. She is the author of one book, “My Neighbor’s Wife,” the memoir of a woman whose husband was killed on 9/11.
Since the birth of her last child, she has turned her attention to volunteering/activism where she has served as the President of her community group, the co-founder of a grass-roots preservation organization, a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) advocating for a child in the foster care system, and has carried her weight in cupcakes to elementary school class parties. She is currently co-authoring a book called “The Smart Woman’s Guide to Survival in Suburbia” with neighbor, Joyce Greenberg Lott.