Car Cleaning: A Sentimental Journey

Hauling window cleaner and a vacuum out to my car, I prepared for one of my least favorite chores: cleaning my car. It’s not that I don’t enjoy cleaning (I actually do), I just dread the mundaneness of the task. Stuffing empty water bottles, receipts, and wrappers into a trash bag, I sorted through what could stay and go.

Reaching down for papers tucked beside the car console, I found the story of the last few years of my life recorded on the maps and pages of directions to journeys and destinations. I flipped through the pages, remembering. There were directions to the forgettable places I couldn’t even remember any more. The places that filled the gaps between the small journeys and the big destinations.

There were directions to my best friend’s wedding when a friend and I drove 24 hours in one weekend to get to and from a wedding where I was a bridesmaid. We listened to music on repeat in the car so many times that I could have learned at least half a dozen new songs by heart. During the road trip to the wedding, my friend and I chatted, watched as the leaves changed colors as we drove into the Allegheny Mountains, and listened to the silence as the car lights pierced the darkness on the way back to college after the wedding.

Directions to a friend’s house over 400 miles away, another wedding where I almost couldn’t find the wedding rehearsal location (I was a bridesmaid), directions to job interviews, directions to and from college to home, they were all there. Those directions were leading me to and from my life. Call me a pack rat but for some reason I kept those maps. Or, maybe, I kept them because I’m directionally challenged and always get lost at least once whenever I go somewhere. Either way, I had some incredible times on the road to the places where I’ve been in the last several years. There has been joy, sorrow, hope, long chats, love, and grace in all of the places I have gone.

Drink stained maps and crumpled directions have lead me to places where I have hugged dearly missed friends and walked down the aisle ahead of brides. Memories from weekend study trip adventures and faces of friends came to mind as I looked through the papers.

How beautiful the journey has been even when it has been marked by long hours and late nights. When I think about it, how wonderful is it that I have been able to journey so many places and step out of my car at each destination, greeted by people who love me, know me, and will have heart-to-heart chats with me until the wee hours of the morning? It’s pretty wonderful, and I’m glad I found those directions to remind me of it. Even I know one thing, my life has been anything but mundane over the last few years. So maybe cleaning my car marks a new part of my journey–one marked my fewer grand adventures and fewer late nights. Maybe this is an in-between place to remember how blessed I am to have people I love all over the country. And now, it’s time for a new direction and new maps and new adventures. I look forward to accumulating maps and tea stained directions to flip through again someday when I mundanely clean my car, not looking for beauty but finding it anyway.


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