When I was a kid, my family had one car, a Ford station wagon. My family also had seven children. So I remember riding in between my parents on the front bench seat (whatever, it wasn't like there was an airbag or anything, just the comforting safety of the AM/FM radio knobs), while three of my older siblings sat in the back, and three of my even older siblings rode in the trunk, careening around like loose tennis balls and making faces through the glass at the cars behind us.
I do remember eventually sitting in a little pleather-covered plastic booster seat with a lap belt; enough of my siblings had survived childhood by that point that a space opened up in the back seat. I of course wanted NOTHING MORE IN LIFE than to ride in the way back, in the trunk, and I think my parents did indulge me a couple times, at least until they traded the station wagon in for a Ford Escort in the late 80s and had watched enough news segments about how your child is probably dying of a car crash RIGHT NOW, AS YOU WATCH THIS, and thus became big sticklers for seat belts and safety.
These memories randomly struck me the other day, when the minivan needed to go in for some routine maintenance and I had to figure out the logistics of getting all three of my children and their carseats to the dealership in Jason's car.
(Which is a small sedan. Four doors, but cozy. A "sporty" [BLERK] four doors, if you know what I mean. A flashy-yet-sensible red compromise on the two-seater convertible he REALLY wanted, because didn't we deserve something fuuuuuunnnnn to drive in when we're not with the kiiiiidsssss and the minivaaaaaaannnn? I pointed out this EXACT SCENARIO as my argument against such a tiny car, plus dude. Duuuuude. You need to be able to drop off and/or pick up a child from places sometimes. Otherwise we will have countless offspring scattered and abandoned at schools and extracurrircular activites across the greater metropolitan area.)
Dropping the car off in the morning wasn't a problem; we were down one child thanks to camp and Jason's car has more than enough room for one carseat and one booster. But the car wasn't ready until camp was over and...hmm. Wait. Okay.
Ike's carseat is your typical convertible monstrous monstrosity, Ezra's still in a big high-back, harness booster, and Noah's big-kid booster is really stupidly wide because it has CUP HOLDERS. (Why why why with the cup holders? You know where else I have cup holders? IN MY CAR. And do you know who doesn't ever use cup holders? MAH KEEDS. THAT''S WHAT THE FLOOR IS DER FUR.)
I'm not entirely sure how I did it, and I make zero claims that I did it up to carseat/booster installation code standards, but I managed to mash all three seats into that backseat. It was great achievement. A great, neurotic and very sweaty achievement.
Then I added my children and everything went to hell.
Noah couldn't get the seatbelt buckled because the armrests from Ezra's seat were blocking his way. Ike quickly discovered that he could wrap his legs around the headrest of the front passenger seat. Ezra probably could do the same, except that the driver's seat was crowding him so tightly that he just held his knees to his chest and whined.
The dealership is only seven minutes away from our house, but in those seven minutes my children — who are used to being too far away from each other in the minivan to even make eye contact, much less touch/tickle/poke/prod/pull/punch/kick each other — began to basically thunderdome it out in the crowded back seat with much, much delight.
HE'S TOUCHING MEEEEE. HE'S GRABBING MEEEEEE. MOOOOMMMM MAKE IKE STOP MOOOMMMM EZRA HAS HIS FOOT IN MY SEAT BELT MOOOOOOOOMMMMMM NOAH'S BREATHING.
Longest, LOUDEST seven damn minutes of my entire life. And then it turned out that the car wasn't actually quite ready yet.
I almost took a picture of them, all squished together in that backseat, all up in each other's bizzznaassss, a jam-packed row of gleeful little nesting dolls who were totally enjoying driving each other crazzzzzy, but I didn't. Even though we were parked I'm pretty sure that photo could've been used as evidence of at least 14 different moving violations.
Jason finally got everything sorted out with the service shop and came back to ask who wanted to ride home with him in the minivan. And for the first time since leaving the house, there was total dead silence coming from the backseat.
"I want to stay in the red car."
"FINE THEN BUT YOU'RE DRIVING THIS CAR. I'LL BE IN THE VAN."
(Guess which answer was mine.)
So I drove home in the minivan, enjoying my seven minutes of silence and calm. At a red light, I pulled up next to them and looked in from the outside. Noah was talking and making big sweeping gestures with his hands. Ezra was laughing and banging his head against the sides of his seat as fast as he could. Ike was kicking the passenger seat with all his might. Jason was glancing back with a tired half-smile and trying to get Ike to stop. Watch the upholstery, maaaan.
Jason noticed me and pointed me out to the boys, who all started waving and smiling with great delight, because OMG I KNOW THAT MOM HEY HI HI OVER HERE!
I smiled and waved back. "Those are mine. Those are all mine," I thought. "My whole life is in that car." That's weird, almost morbid-sounding thought to have, but it wasn't. Not right then, anyway. The boys stopped waving and started making faces at me through the glass. I laughed and then gunned it as the light changed. I knew if I beat them home they'd all be fake-angry at me, especially if I retroactively declared that the winner got to tickle all the losers, so line up, monkeys.