Somewhere along the line over the last few months, I got the back seat of my car back.
Those of you who have had children in the last fifteen years or so will appreciate that.
When I was a kid, back in the dark days of the 1970s, when my family wanted to go somewhere we’d just get in the car. The grownups would sit up front, and the kids would sit in the back. We had a succession of odd cars when I was a kid – several 1963 Novas in the full spectrum of bruise-like colors, for example, and at least one dark blue VW hatchback with an improbably white interior – but the one thing they all had in common was that whenever we would go on a trip my brother and I would just rattle around in the back seat like a stray thought in a cat’s mind.
You can’t do that anymore.
These days you have to have carseats for small children. Carseats that were designed by NASA to withstand shuttle launches and are about that complicated. Carseats with five-point NASCAR-approved harnesses in them. Carseats that take up pretty much all of the real estate between the driver and the trunk.
It’s a wonder my brother and I survived at all without them.
Now, I appreciate the safety aspects of the new carseats, really I do. I spent five years with a rescue squad way back when, and despite performing exactly zero acts of heroism in that time I did come away from it with a clear sense of just how much damage you can do to yourself inside of a car wreck.
That and an inexhaustible supply of off-color jokes, none of which I can remember now.
So when Tabitha was born I dutifully set up the carseat in the back of each of our cars, and when Lauren came along I added one for her. And having done so, the back seat became the exclusive province of the children. Adult passengers were simply not worth the trouble of taking out the carseats, especially the infant ones that you have to anchor to the car with rigging modeled on that supporting a frigate’s sails.
Eventually the girls graduated to booster seats, which were a whole lot easier to take out and put back in, so I got some flexibility there. And then Tabitha outgrew the booster seat, which meant that the driver’s side of the back seat looked pretty normal once you got past the layers of books and Ritz cracker crumbs.
Somewhere in the chaos of the last few months Lauren has outgrown her booster seat too. It has been relegated to a spot in the garage where we could get to it if we wanted, but likely won’t. And when I travel on my own, as I do every Tuesday and Thursday morning to Not So Far Away Campus, I look back there and see – well, the back seat.
It seems so forlorn.
Fortunately I still have that protective layer of books and Ritz cracker crumbs to keep me grounded, and on both sides of the car too.