Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Apple Dapple Purse

My mother kept a disgusting purse.  As a kid, I was always wary of digging through it, even if the situation was dire (i.e., I was scrounging for lunch money as the school bus barreled down the street).  Mixed in with the oxidized pennies and expired coupons would be a few cough drops sans wrappers, bobby pins, crumpled tissues, melted gum, inkless pens, loose buttons, and a half-roll of peppermint Lifesavers (never a whole roll—for much of my childhood I believed that half-rolls were the only way Lifesavers came).  And after counting out as much change as I could scrape up, I’d dash to the busstop, picking black gunk out from under my fingernails as I ran.

I always swore I would never let my purse get as nasty as my mother’s.  And for years I kept that promise.  I made it through my twenties with a purse that was uncluttered, more or less.  Maybe the occasional gum wrapper or paper clip would make its way into the depths, but it never stayed long.  I prided myself on my clean purse—you wouldn’t have to paw through a bunch of miscellaneous crap to find a few nickels in my handbag.  No sir-ee.

And then I had kids.

I dug through my purse for my keys the other day, and came up with a handful of Apple Jacks.  Not even whole, fresh Apple Jacks (which, I assure you, would have been bad enough).  No, these were smashed, stale, generic Apple Jacks.  Apple Dapples, I think they’re called. 

“What the….”  I looked into my purse, half-expecting to find a cockroach or two gorging themselves on whatever other vittles were within.  I fished out a plastic bowl, a faulty lid to said bowl, a lint-covered pacifier, a dried-out baby wipe, and a matchbox car (I swear those things multiply.  Don’t buy even one for your son or daughter.  Not unless you want to end up with an entire fleet, every make, model and color of every car every dreamed up).  I had to face the horrible truth:  After years of vigilance, of dutifully cleaning out my bag almost daily, I had finally succumbed to the Mom Purse Affliction.  I don’t know how or when it happened, but there it was, a disgustingly messy purse, complete with the mysterious black gunk to lodged itself under my fingernails. 

I cannot tell you how thankful I was that my husband was not around to witness this—despite my insistence that I have a relatively tidy purse, he refuses to go in there for anything, insisting just as strongly that it is a portable landfill.  And now he’d be right.  My purse will never be the same.

This is also true about my car.  Before children, my car was beautiful, immaculate, pristine.  Once in awhile an offending bug would grace the windshield, a bird would unceremoniously poop on the roof, a few CD cases would be stashed in the center console.  It even retained its New Car Smell, despite being several years old. 

Now, however…good Gawd.  The outside is never clean—washing it myself is a bigger production than a Broadway rendition of High School Musical.  I have break out the portacrib and toys for my five-month-old, drag out the wading pool for my two-year-old, make sure every conceivable item either one could possibly need in the next hour is in the garage so I don’t have to run inside for it—diapers, wipes, drinks, snacks, burp cloths, pacifiers, towels.  It turns into an all-morning affair, and that’s if everyone is in a good mood.  There have been many times that I’ve been tempted, in a heavy downpour, to simply douse my car in Palmolive and let Mother Nature make herself useful.

The inside of my car is another story.  A sad, painful story.  If you set a raccoon loose in my car, it would be sustained for days.  Unless it found the stash of edibles stuffed inside the center buckle of my son’s car seat.  Then it would be weeks before the little critter had an empty tummy.  Just a word of advice to anyone who doesn’t ever want to see another orange crumb of goldfish cracker ground into the floormats of her car—buy the parmesan ones.  Much easier to get out.  And always get vanilla flavored anything instead of chocolate.  And always have baby wipes at the ready when disembarking.  I’ve been amazed at what those handy little things will clean in a pinch—juice, chocolate, lollipop residue, every conceivable body fluid.  That’s what the commercials should emphasize—cleaning a little baby bottom is probably number seven on the top ten uses for wipes.

God forbid I ever get say, robbed at a stop sign or some such scenario.  I can just imagine the robber standing outside the driver’s side window demanding money. 

“Hold on,” I’ll say, as I dig through the wasteland of books, shoes, toys, and assorted baby accoutrement for my purse, only to have to paw through goldfish, tissues, pacifiers and crayons for my wallet.  And only then to find that I have no cash at all, and I left my credit card in my son’s pocket, having stuck it there after letting him swipe it through the machine at the grocery store because that was the only way to keep him from destroying the Tic Tac display in the checkout line.  And my son will inevitably be sleeping, since being strapped in his car seat is the only time he sits still long enough to take a nap.  And I’ll turn back to the robber and ask if he’ll settle for a handful of smashed Apple Dapples.  Although by then he will have already given up and decided to mess with someone who doesn’t have kids.  They’re easy to spot.  They’re the ones with tidy purses and clean cars.


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