Photo Op


In the winter months, newspapers love running seasonal photos. You’ve all seen them after a snow: a caption beneath a picture of dogs romping in a park; or kids in puffed-up parkas, careening down a sled run; or the silhouette of a lone cross-country skier, commuting to work. (I know you’ve all spotted that last one; it’s an editorial fave.)

So nice, picturesque images of a winter wonderland.


Typical caption: Child cavorts in Saturday snowfall.


The photo above is from my archives. Hadley, a few years ago.


This one, however, is a recent snapshot of winter revelry.


Caption: Pigpen wallows in salt, sand and other road scum after recent snowfall.


Pigpen was so filthy, so completely caked in corrosive chemicals, I had to document it. That disgustingly dirty car, in its element.



Somehow the kids managed to carve a few letters out of this mobile art medium. But it wasn’t easy.


I should have taken it to the carwash but instead, I let yesterday’s sleetish-rain wash away Pigpen’s ghostly glow.

Just in time for tonight’s ice show… and another round of sand, salt and grit.

It’s a good winter to be Pigpen.

The story of Flash



Last Thursday Martin got a new car.

Not new, but new to him.

My car is now his car.

He inherited the Toyota Highlander — complete with 210,000 miles, a bent axle, a broken door handle, and an interior completely defiled by children.

“Here you go,” I said, jangling the keys.

“Thanks,” Martin said flatly.

“Now you promise to take good care of it, right?”

“Just give me the keys,” he said, grabbing them and trudging across the parking lot.

“I’ll follow you home, okay?” I shouted from my new car.

My new car.

We’d talked for ages about replacing the Highlander, and more recently, when it acquired some four-digit repair bills.

Not to mention it’s falling apart. One window is broken, and a rear door handle has been pulled clean off.

missing handle

To open door, knock on window…and hope a kid answers.


Then there’s the trunk-door hatch: it likes to brain people in the wintertime. When it’s freezing cold, the hatch’s hydraulic arms lose tension.  So you open the trunk, begin to load/unload, and — without warning — the door slams down, delivering a concussive blow.

And speaking of the trunk, there’s that trunk troll issue: we don’t have any extra seating, so we stick additional adult passengers in the trunk.

Have I made my case? New car needed. We were looking for something 3 to 4 years old, less than 40,000 miles, and no minivan. We test-drove a few models and narrowed the pool of contenders.

And then one day I snapped.

Not just like that. There were cumulative factors, several bad days that led to snappage. But one particular afternoon the kids were acting like maniacs, the horse lost another shoe, the dog rolled in deer poop, Brynn was screeching her head off, and I was helping Cayden look for his homework — which he dropped somewhere in the grass. I was looking down, walking in circles… like a crazy person. Or like someone concussed by the Highlander’s trunk door.

In that moment of chaos, I glanced at my sweatshirt. My new sweatshirt — already a favorite. It was riddled with moth holes.

A moth turned my sweatshirt into swiss cheese. Now that was the moment of snappage.

Suddenly, a 4-year-old car with 40,000 miles wasn’t good enough. I wanted nearly-new and no economy model. I wanted a nice car, out-of-budget, with unnecessary accessories. Redundant running lights, wood trim, remote keyless entry, air conditioned seats. I needed that. My butt needed to be cool when I drove.

Martin didn’t know what to say about my luxury-vehicle lust. It didn’t fit my frugal track record.

He thought it was a phase and would pass. He thought that, until I asked for a ride to pick up my new car. (Which is a 2012 GMC Acadia, if anyone’s still reading.)

At the dealership, the guy tried to explain all the accessories and functions until Martin interrupted. “Just show her the gas and brake. That’s all she needs.”

On the way home, Martin and I talked over the phone from our respective vehicles. (And there’s another state law that I’m no longer violating. No trunk troll, and I talk on a hands-free device. Apparently, that’s been a law for three years.)

“It’s so nice,” I crowed to Martin, as we looped the beltway. “Where are you?” I asked. I was driving so cautiously, I’d lost sight of him.

“I’m up ahead,” he replied. “Can’t you see the cloud of dirt and dust? That me, driving Pigpen.”

And that’s how we named the Highlander, after 8 years. Pigpen.

As for the new car, Martin wanted to name it right away. “How about Shiny? It’s so shiny!”

“No,” I said. “It won’t be shiny once I hit the gravel drive.”

But it will be flashy, even with a coat of dust.

For the time being, Flash is still pristine. Because I don’t let kids near it. In fact, I don’t drive it. I’d like to drive it, but since I’m chauffeuring kids, I drive Pigpen.


But when the next snap moment comes, I’ll be in a better frame of mind.

I’ll be sitting in Flash. With the seat coolers on.



Chitty, Pigpen and Flash. Not pictured, Big Rig


(PS: I don’t mention Little Zippy, but he was blog-worthy 4 years ago. Click here for that post. Little Zip is still roadworthy. I saw him last year; he still bears the deer dent.)