How I learned to stop crying over spilled milk

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.

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