by Meredith O’Brien
I identified perhaps a tad too much last week with the season premieres of Modern Family and The Middle as they related tales of saying goodbye to the old car you used to drive when your kids were little and trying to keep one step ahead of the chaos of all things school-related.
Pangs of nostalgia were what I felt as I watched the Dunphys from Modern Family prepare their old station wagon -- which they’d kept in their garage for years after buying a replacement vehicle – for sale. As the mom, Claire, went through their wood paneled car, she found item after item that reminded her of the time when her children were wee ones, clutching her oldest daughter Haley’s security blanket (“Blankety”) and an old glass jar “filled” with “sunshine” that her youngest child Luke had brought back from the beach so he could always remember that day with his family. So sweet. Makes your heart ache.
Even though the memories contained in that vehicle weren’t all sunshine and soft baby blankets – the dad, Phil, reminded his wife that Luke threw up on Blankety when he was a toddler and couldn’t get to “Buckety” in time (apparently Luke puked a lot during car rides when he was younger and had a designated vomit bucket) – Claire had twinges of sadness about “that whole part of our life driving away.” “Come on, a minute ago, they were babies, now they’re driving,” Claire said tearfully when she was standing in her house and gazing at the baby pictures on the wall.
While watching all of that I couldn’t help but think of how mournfully members of my own family reacted when we sold our tan minivan and replaced it with an SUV. We’d had that minivan since I was pregnant with my now-9-year-old son. My twins were 2 when one of them christened it “the funny van.” Inside that mom mobile was the detritus of our young family’s days: Boxes of restaurant-issued crayons (broken, melted), stray Legos, maps from trips to Cape Cod, a brochure from a New Hampshire amusement park for young children called Story Land which they’ve now outgrown, sea shells and battered board books. *cue the tissues*
However when I saw what the Heck family was going through during The Middle’s “Back to School” episode, there was no nostalgia and no tears, quite possibly because I’m smack, dab in the middle of the madness that is having three kids in school (grades four, six and six, to be precise) like the mom on the show. Trying to keep on top of my three kids’ school stuff makes me absolutely insane because it oftentimes feels as though I’m spitting into the wind, regardless of how organized I attempt to be. Not that that harsh reality ever stops me from trying to get a handle on all of it.