Someone spilled milk in my minivan. Even after a prolonged interrogation of the usual suspects, I cannot figure out exactly when it happened. My sons stuck together like glue, a united front in the face of the person most likely to send them to finishing school as just punishment.
Yet the first 85-degree day of the season could not hide the crime that had been committed. Passengers without a lengthy history of curdled milk in their couch, carpet and comforter suspected a dead body secretly stowed in Jack’s hockey bag.
As a person with an acute sense of smell, I was once appointed the unsavory job of detecting where an animal died within a friend’s walls. But the Great Milk Caper of 2015 was now proving debilitating.
Using vinegar, baking soda and super-charged fans, I battled valiantly. I drove on the expressway with the doors wide open for emergency ventilation. I deployed an entire case of Febreze. In a last ditch effort, I even prayed to the patron saint of smelly minivans, St. Christina.
The odor worsened.
My default in a crisis is to look for the lesson. If I could just understand the bigger meaning of this all, wouldn’t St. Christina instantly wash away the sins of my car’s happy-meal-milk past?
I considered how delaying consequences makes things worse. Important moral, right? I would teach it to my kids soon. Like tomorrow. Or next week.
The minivan still reeked.
I mulled over how respecting one’s belongings and not eating in the car were signs of an honorable person. I needed to set that kind of example.
Yet after being unable to scrape the dried-on bird poop from the front windshield and then tossing pizza slices to the kids on the way from a piano recital to a baseball game, I realized:
I AM FOOLING NO ONE.
The smell obviously remained.
Every time I jumped into the driver’s side, I wanted to cry. Over spilled milk.
I might not be the brightest bulb in the marquee, but the not-even-slightly-subtle message finally took hold.
The ability to let things go is a shortcoming of mine. I had been haranguing my kids for weeks over a smelly car. I bickered with my husband recently over something that happened years ago. I stewed over something dumb that was said to me that I could have just as easily said myself.
I had been crying over spilled milk.
I drove to McDonald’s this week, and instead of lecturing the boys about being more careful and not spilling a drop or crumb, I shut up.
And ordered apple juice.