The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, February 12, 2010


Me vs. cars

“I’m willing to negotiate.”

I’d held out for so long, it almost felt good to cave. Almost.

My adversary stared at me from his position on the kitchen table, his exaggerated roof and custom rims no less intimidating for being 1/450th scale. The Matchbox 1968 Toyota Land Cruiser from the Adventure Collection. His mirrors glittered with power. He held all the cards, which was odd, since he was a toy truck, but let’s face it, this isn’t my first awkward surprise of parenthood.

The war had waged for over two years. I’d made the tactical error of assuming my shock and awe campaign, completed last spring with a giant woven basket from Pier One Imports, would secure victory. I had scooped up the entire army, every last one of them, under cover of daylight, into the basket and then to the detention holding area of the front hall closet.

“This is just a holding area,” I reassured them.

“We are citizens of this household!” one shouted. “We have a right to be here!” Then, something about having been welcomed here earlier with open arms, now suddenly they were being treated as criminals, blah, blah, blah. Halfway to the bathroom, I couldn’t hear them anymore. It seemed a finished business.

And yet they had prevailed! Little by little, I saw evidence of their escape. A souped-up Mazda in the bedroom, a Honda Accord in the kitchen, a Buick under the refrigerator. A tow truck poised for duty at the front door. And now here we were. In a meeting arranged by former President Bill Clinton, I was finally face to face with their leader – the Land Cruiser, my son’s favorite, and therefore, enjoying diplomatic immunity. Even though he was a toy. Don’t laugh – this is my house we’re talking about.

“Negotiate?” He laughed, a deep carburetor sound. “You have no leverage. We’ve already infiltrated the last neutral zone.”

“Not the bathroom cabinet!” I was aghast. The last sanctity of my private womanhood. My tampons, makeup, exfoliator and $35 conditioner - violated!

“Foolish woman. The bathroom was ours last winter. Your son –“

“I know, I know. Lightning McQueen.” Good old Disney and their Manifest Destiny approach to childhood. My son was no match for their marketers, and neither was I. He slept with Lightning McQueen, wore him on his chest, festooned the tiny holes of his Crocs with him, lovingly spoon fed him milk and cereal at breakfast.

“They’re thick as thieves.” The Land Cruiser wasn’t being smug. In fact, I could see, he pitied me. It was true I had no bargaining power. They were everywhere, unstoppable and menacing in their smallness and sharpness. Every time I opened a door there were more. Tractor trailers, pickup trucks, Cadillacs, Corvettes, Dune Buggy Volkswagens, even a Prius!

And for my son I had to force a smile, emit the notion that of course, we could all get along. It may have been my house but his cars had a right to be here. This is my life now. I had to shed many layers and grow new ones to get here. I don’t mind, that’s evolution. But sometimes I can’t stand the chaos of my surroundings. With every inch of sacrificed real estate goes a piece of me. Sometimes I silently scream my lungs out and pray someone will hear me. Then I fix lunch and read Llama Llama Red Pajama.

Later, I discovered the settlements on the front porch, a breach of both the original cease-fire and the Second Birthday Agreement. They had dared to establish communities outside the boundaries! This violation had perturbed not only me but the Tricycle Contingent and the Dumptruck Coalition, who had agreed to inhabit a small zone beyond the picnic table.

And so, as the seasons wore on, the insurgency grew. Our household was divided on the matter; I favored an accelerated defense strategy; my husband seemed satisfied with the current economic sanctions (no new purchases). This wasn’t a terrible idea – at least there wouldn’t be more of them.

Then I discovered their secret cloning program, hidden for months in the bottom of the toy chest – where, in my pathetic naïveté, I had assumed there lived only innocent stuffed animals. Now, even some of them were hostages. For all I knew, it was possible the cars were behind the vicious beheading of Pirate Elmo, but I had no real evidence. Land Cruiser and his followers were churning out an army whose sole purpose was domination.

I wasn’t going to win. I would have to cede more territory simply to maintain my position – or any position. If this kept up, soon I’d be living in the tool shed. And I don’t just mean psychologically.

“You will never be rid of us.” “Duh,” I replied. “The more you struggle, the farther peace and happiness recede from you.” So the Land Cruiser was a Buddhist.

I looked at the Land Cruiser and his family, strewn across my life like tossed confetti, like the blown petals of spent roses. Like, well, randomly scattered toys. They were pieces of me, all of them, the bitter bits and the tender ends.

My son is up from his nap. I take the Land Cruiser and deliver it to him, tousle-haired in his crib. One day he will be a man, taking risks and making decisions, trying to do or create something greater than himself.

For now, his wordless smile opens wide, and I feel something come alive, rise in me and settle: this uncanny strength, this crazy peace. The cars win.

For now. ∆

© 2010 The Carlisle Mosquito