My parents have a neighbor who washes his Cadillac Escalade at precisely 3pm every Saturday afternoon.
We joke about it…benignly, but still…because his car is never dirty. Ever. I’m of the opinion he just does it as an excuse to blast Curtis Mayfield in his garage for an uninterrupted hour.
And more power to him, I say.
I probably ought to wash the General more often than I do. Since he came into my possession in 2012, he’s probably been soaped down four times. Other washings have taken place through natural means, like thunderstorms and what have you.
Part of why I put it off is obvious–what’s the point? The old man lives outside; soaping him up is like giving my runner’s feet a pedicure. It’s only going to make a difference for about 24 hours.
The other reason is that washing him typically comes at a time when I’m about to leave somewhere that I’ve been for a while, and been reasonably comfortable. (Who but true friends would let me muddy up their driveway with 2000 miles’ worth of grit?) It’s a bittersweet chore.
But the upside is the reminder it brings of how long, and how far, we’ve been together. It’s an instant gratitude re-up, to go over his scratches and bruises with a washcloth, to make his windows shine and slough away the debris caught in his door frames.
Now that I don’t own many things, it’s become really a pleasure to take solicitous care of what I do have. It makes me think back to the days when I just collected shit, in an effort to make myself into some identifiable part of society. Clothes, pictures, products, even music…just stuff, in quantity enough to convince me that I had an identity, which could escort me into the world I wanted to inhabit.
It’s all different now. I only buy the stuff I need to help me do stuff…which is really different from buying stuff to help me be something. (There’s a lot of other shit I want, of course, but it doesn’t fit in my car.)
What’s more, when I go over his flaking, peeling, loosening parts with the Sham-Wow, it makes me acknowledge that one of these days, the old man–may he live a thousand years–will have to be laid to rest. And I will miss him, more than I miss Woody (or Woody II), or Lilith, who came before.
Keeping him clean may have no material point, but it has a very emotional point. Our time is limited; he’s worth taking care of. Not for him, as much as for me.
And you know how it is…we learn something for ourselves and we immediately project our former ignorance onto the world. So I’m asking, meditating fondly,
What would the world be like if we took scrupulous loving care of the things we own? How much less disposable would our values become? How much greater regard might we have for each other, paralleling this ethic toward our stuff? What if we took time to spit-shine the shoes we wear–polish the furniture we sit on–dare I mention even do something similar for the folks we’re married to?
Not for the sake of making them “better.” Just to honor the good they are to us.
Sorry for getting schmaltzy here. I’m leaving my folks’ house tomorrow morning and it’s making me a little sad.