At the Car Wash

There was a time in my life (several, actually) when money was really tight. So tight that sometimes the only way to purchase groceries was with a credit card. So tight that the Gnome and I foraged wild cherries and asparagus in the nearby city park and dug day lily tubers from our back yard to sauté for supper.

Then came the day I lost a five dollar bill. I panicked. I cried. I called everywhere I’d been that day. I searched high and low—the depths of my handbag, my pockets, under the floor mats of the car, across the parking lot. That five dollars was a lifeline; the idea of it having disappeared in a poof like a magician’s cheap trick made me physically ill. I’m glad to say I finally found it—tucked in a hard-to-see spot between my car’s front seat and the door post.

So, a drive-through car wash, though it cost less than a dollar in those days, was a rare luxury. As I sat quietly watching the soapy froth dance on the windshield and those big, blue brushes caress the car’s skin, I felt as if I were receiving a massage. Not that I’d ever experienced a professional massage, but it seemed like how a massage might feel. I reveled in it.

I drove through a car wash the other day. No magic this time, just a plain old car wash. But every time I think about those car washes of leaner times, my lips spontaneously curve into a Madonna-like smile and I sense my shoulders relaxing.

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