Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Better Version of Me

Bar Mitzvahzilla is in the summer football strength training program for the high school he'll be attending in the fall. We're carpooling with a neighbor whose son is also in the training and this neighbor and I have marvelled in the past at all the things we have in common. We drive the same car. We live in the same neighborhood. We're both from Chicago. Both of our sons were preemies but are fine now. There are other little things.

So the other day was my first time to drive her son home from training. He got in the car, pushed over some of the garbage Daughter had scattered all over the backseat and I say, jovially, I think, "This car is just like your mom's. Just dirtier."

Then Bar Mitzvahzilla looks over at me with a smug look on his face. He says, "Yeah mom, except for her GPS and DVD player."

I look at my empty dash, where the GPS should be and the roof where the DVD player should be and say, "Oh."

"And her car is spotlessly clean." The absolute joy of having a teenager! First he destroys the car by spilling every known object and food in it, and then he insults me for having a messy car. And the joy of needling me!

I look at him.

The neighbor kid, a polite person, unlike my son, pipes up from the back, "My dad can't stand for either of our cars to have a speck of dirt on them so he gets my mom's car cleaned every week."

It's then that I realize that my neighbor is actually living the better version of my life. Her car, while the same model, is highly upgraded and clean. Her husband, a neatnik, keeps it clean. She has a high-powered executive job and I am, um, whatever this is. She has a weekly cleaning lady. I have to trade Bar Mitzvahzilla time on his Xbox to get the toilets cleaned. Final proof: during the break between summer sessions, their family is going to Vancouver, which is in Canada; we're going to Flagstaff. If you don't know where that is, look at a map of the State of Arizona. It's where I-40 and I-17 intersect. Not quite as glamorous.

I drive back into our neighborhood, dejected. As we turn the corners to swing around to their house - a basement model of my one-story with about 500 more square feet - all the garbage in the back of my car shifts and crunches with each turn. There's dead silence except for the movement of the garbage.

I drop him off, make a U-turn and my kids and I make our filthy way home.

Did you ever feel that your life might be mirroring someone else's, but not necessarily in a good way? Do you ever feel like certain components of your life are evidence that your whole life is a wreck - like me and my wreck of a backseat? Ever raised a snotty teenager?


  1. My car is a total pit, too, and while I seem to be married to the same guy your friend is married to (he hates even looking at my side of the garage), he hasn't moved to the next step of weekly cleaning. How did she train him to do that?

  2. Sure, she has a cleaner, more tricked out car and 500 more square feet, but is she happy? 'Cause a cleaning lady will only take you so far, sister...

  3. Your questions cracked me up. Did you ever feel that your life might be mirroring someone else's, but not necessarily in a good way? Do you ever feel like certain components of your life are evidence that your whole life is a wreck - like me and my wreck of a backseat? Ever raised a snotty teenager?
    Yes, I have felt that my life mirrors another's and she definitely got the better deal. As far as material success, etc. is concerned. Since I don't live in her skin, I can't say for sure on ALL of it.
    Yes on the comments. Jeez. Yes. And I've got two snotty teens and another in the wings. Somedays I wish....well, never mind. That would be really wrong for me to put in writing. Plus it could be used in evidence against me some day.

  4. Ahhh... our cars used to be SPOTLESS. Before Children. The mess drives my husband (and myself) nuts too, but I can't clean it out while the kids are climbing all around me and he works too much. So... we drive around with Legoland, a mobile library, chocolate milk dried and crusty in the carpet and the occasional rogue french fry that makes me think back and remember we haven't had french fries in the van for at least two weeks. Eww.

  5. I've thought before that someone is a lot like me and then realized they are actually the more talented version of me. Oh well, maybe they won't notice...

    I just love when my kids/their friends point out our house (or car) isn't as clean as the friends'.

  6. I have two dogs. That's my excuse and it's Arizona summer desert time is the one for the dust in the house. Your stories never fail to cause an outloud laughter from my insides. Too much. Wonderful as always.

  7. My car is a shit pit. Crushed goldfish crackers, swim goggles, baby wipes, McDonald's toys, melted lip balm, half full juice boxes. We could totally hang together.

  8. Try not to get stuck on this, Linda. Sometimes you have to wonder if the people who try hard to make life look really good on the outside (perfectly clean car) have some challenges on the inside that you just don't know about. Who knows what their private burdens are... Maybe they're in too much debt because they bought a fancier car and bigger house. Maybe the mom wishes she could stay home but has to keep her executive job to pay the bills.

    I know, this is so hard. I'm always comparing myself to others, and sometimes just have to say STOP! It doesn't do any good.

  9. Who has the time to get both family cars cleaned every week?!? I'd rather be the family who spend their weekends having fun, not obsessing over a clean car. As others have said here already, what matters most is what is on the inside of your life, the happiness, and not what is on the outside, the tricked out car and shiny polished exterior.

  10. I really prefer NOT to go here. There has to be someone out there living a glamourous version of my life. I hate her! I don't even know her, but I hate her!!!!

  11. Don't get me started on the mess again. I've written enough (despondently) on that score, especially in a tiny space.

    Don't get me started on the one-and-only-one car either. The one both boys trash, and never quite seem able to clean - inside our out. No matter how many times the berry-belching birds do their doody-duty overhead.

    Don't get me started on the better mirror version of anything. Really. I mean really. Not the least of which is the TALLER, revenue-generating version of myself, who isn't looking for a planet with lower gravity, shorter neighbors, and the all-important money growing on trees.

  12. Lisa, I love that even your side of the garage is dirtier! That is funny! I never thought of the disaster potential of messing up my side of the garage too! Hmmm...

    Maria, Well, she is really nice (more to hate I guess!) but I can't be sure! Here's what I'm telling myself: through the trauma of having me as a parent, my kids have very colorful personalities. Is that a good way to put it? :)

  13. Lisa, I guess I should realize that maybe, just maybe, someone feels that way about me. (wait, I just died laughing). But, yeah, don't say anything that could be used to incriminate yourself in a court of law!

    Jennifer, I agree. Totally a kid thing. They destroy the car, drop everything on the planet, moan and wail if I "make a new rule" about no eating in the car, and then they complain because the floormats are stained. Uh, guess what guys? You did it! My seat's clean.

  14. Aww ... but Flagstaff is beautiful! I just found you through Maureen and I'm so glad I did. We're practically neighbors ... I live in The OC. And EVERYONE here has a bigger house than I do ...!
    : )

  15. Ah but you are an amazing writer with this fabulous blog and great blog friends:)

  16. ever raised a snotty teenager?
    um, currently.
    so...I am doing jumping jacks by the pool in nowheresville kansas when my daughter says
    "You jiggle when you do jumping jacks!"
    So, she decides to call me 'jiggles'
    I decide to call her zits.
    you can't blame the mouth when it comes from you.
    And their life may look perfect but I bet her husband is a real pain in the @ss.
    Just sayin'.

  17. Oh my gosh. My care is dirtier than you could imagine. It is disgusting. It is so bad that I refuse to drive it anywhere.

    Oh, and I DO know where Flagstaff is. It's as good as going to Logan in my state. Hee hee. We don't even to vacations in my house, we do staycations.

  18. I bet I have enough Cheerios in my car to feed our local squirrel population. And I'm going to remember the trade-gaming-time-for-toilet-cleaning trick. I feel sure it will come in handy one day very soon. =>

  19. My car is almost always clean, I sacrifice time writing/reading to clean and do laundry. My husband is a mess and it drives me crazy! I tend to be the one who my friends think is super mom - working full-time, volunteering at school, etc. (and I know how incredibly obnoxious this seems :))

    I can say that all the above comments are true for me. Spending time obsessing instead of having fun? Check. Challenges on the inside? Like maybe a compulsive need for order? No doubt. The ridiculous chase for perfection that is really just running in place? Absolutely.

    Do you feel better yet? LOL