Monica Bielanko
That's What She Said
Just A Junk Drawer Dream
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Little Blue Charger

Sometimes I write from a coffee shop that's nestled in the center of the town I drive Violet to every day so she can trade boogers, spit and God knows what else with the pre-schooler set at the local YMCA. I drop her off and try to make a quick escape before she misses me - or doesn't - I'm not sure which is worse, and drive around the corner to the coffee shop.

It's standard local coffee shop fare. Raised stage in the corner for the open mic night I have yet to attend and probably never will, seeing how I'm mom to two toddlers right now. A slew of baked goods that would inspire guilt until nightfall were I to avail myself of their gooey goodness lurk near the cash register flaunting their lusciousness and comfy couches, chairs and tables are scattered around the one large room in no real discernible pattern.

A couple weeks ago, when pulling out my computer from the bag I always carry it in, I found an electric blue toy car. Hot Wheels. A '69 Dodge Charger, I think it is. Henry, that scamp, must have stashed it there while ticking items off his very important list of Things To Do which include but aren't limited to taking all my shoes out of the closet, trying to eat the lotion on my nightstand, making a lunge for my glasses that sit next to the lotion and trying to make the dog wear them, attempting to plug in the fan that sits in my room then stick his fingers through the flimsy grill that separates him from possible stitches and, of course, the oldest of toddler pastimes - jumping on the bed. At some point he must have been monkeying with the bag - it hangs on my closet door - and slipped in one of his toy cars. A calling card. Hank The Tank Was Here.

Finding toys in strange places is, as any parent knows, nothing new. I routinely find cheap, plastic somethings in my clothing drawers, bed, shoes, couch cushions, the refrigerator and, of course, the toilet. But there was something about being out and about on my own, in a place my children have never been, and discovering something that belongs to them, something I'm used to seeing in the context of our home.

Like spotting an ex-boyfriend from behind at a movie theater, my heart did a flip-flop. My Henry. I turned the car over in my hand, running my index finger along a pencil eraser-sized black wheel so it spun in circles. Vrooom.

Unexpectedly discovering my son's toy car in my bag was almost like discovering a love letter from a secret admirer. I clutched it a moment longer and then set the toy on the table next to my coffee where I could see it as I typed. It made me happy. I've set it there ever since.

I also took the Charger to New York City last weekend where I went to investigate this Blogher that all the cool kids seem to talk about every year. I put it on my nightstand at the boutique hotel I had purposefully rented away from the epicenter of Internet Insanity and, again, the sight of the tiny toy made my heart swell like the Grinch's upon hearing the Whos sing even after his crazed Christmas Eve rampage.

It is better than a picture, this little trinket my son once gripped in his chubby starfish hands before tucking it away in Mom's bag with no idea about how much it would come to mean to me. At home it's just another of too many toys I have to put away every day or risk sleeplessness until I assemble order, dammit! But away from our home, taken out of context, the car transforms into a blue badge of motherhood, a physical manifestation of the mischievously delicious boy who waits for me at home.

My husband, a retired rock'n'roller who spent more than a decade traveling the world with his band before hanging up his guitar for good, once spent several minutes explaining to me how the sight of our daughter's teensy-weensy sock unexpectedly falling from his duffel bag and onto the floor of a hotel room in Spain once nearly brought him to his knees. Now, I completely understand what he was trying to say. I couldn't at the time because I hadn't yet been away from my children, had only daydreamed longingly of solo vacations where little hands and voices weren't constantly demanding my attention.

But last week, while in New York City and feeling not the freedom I had daydreamed of but strangely empty, I saw the familiar car parked on a strange hotel nightstand and was filled with a love and joy so intense that it threatened to choke me. I cannot fathom living in a world where I don't step on cheap, plastic dinosaurs in the dark of night, find soggy crackers in my shoes, discover my toothbrush in the toilet or pull a tiny blue Dodge Charger from my computer bag. It's coming faster than I want it to, that world, and so I remind myself of that when I'm fishing that toothbrush out of the john, Windexing smudges from the window again, scraping off food gunk shellacked into the frustratingly tiny grooves in the high chair (how did he get food under there?) or picking up toys for the millionty-fifth time in an hour.

One day all this will be gone. My house will be exactly as I spend several futile hours a week trying to make it look now; clean, everything in its right place, no crayon markings on walls, no fingerprints on expensive television screens to lament and no toys to pick up... And although everything will be in its right place it will never, NEVER, feel as right as it does now.

Reader Comments (28)

Wow. Beautifully written and felt. I've never really intended to have kids, but posts like this make me wonder what I might miss if I don't.

August 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJordan

Exactly. THIS post should win an award. You captured the bittersweet mama-longing perfectly. The whole "days are long but the years are short" thing that slaps you in the face while you watch as your fragile-as-a-baby-bird newborn morphs into an actual child in what feels like overnight.

August 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKaty E.

That is how I feel right now too with my daughter about to leave for her second year of college. We have become the best of friends and although I am so proud of her and excited for her future my home feels so right right now! I don't want her to go!!

August 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKacy

Oh this is just lovely!!!

August 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterChrissy

Beautiful, BEAUTIFUL. Just...ahhhhh! So heartfelt and warm and poignant at the same time.

August 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPretzel Thief

This seriously made me cry. Like Katy above said it is so beautifully written and it should win an award, I just love this. And yes, time does go way too fast.

August 8, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermama

I'm sure that every mom can relate to this post! It is amazing how our babies completely change our lives. How suddenly things that were at one time so insignificant, somehow mean so much more just because it is a part of them. Lovely post!

August 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterFlawed Mommy

I think this may be my favorite thing you've ever written; it's beautiful.

August 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth B

Love this post as well, wise words. Makes me go want to step on some protruding sharp toy in order to squeeze his cheeks while he sleeps :)

August 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMartha

Love this. I have two plastic army guys sitting on my desk at work. I found them in the inside pocket of my lunch sack when my youngest was 4.

August 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCassie

I've been a lurker on your site for a few years, and this post is bringing me out of hiding because I think it's the most beautiful thing you've ever written.

August 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAllie

I agree, the best you've ever done. Captured me, as a mom, beautifully. Well done, Monica.

August 9, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterrachel

Yes! Beautiful writing (bringing another regular reader/lurker out of the woodwork).

August 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLine

Love, love, love!!! I have yet to be away from my child (who is 8) for anything more than hours. Something I yearn with guilt, and yet happily manage to avoid.

August 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMariY

Good writing!

August 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMTSH

Thank you for putting into words what I feel when I observe all of the little things that my daughter brings to our world. I laughed out loud at your description of the finger smudges on the TV and windows. There are moments when I see those and think that maybe I should clean them up, especially when we have guests coming over. Mostly, I don't do much about them because they will show up again and, like you, they are the thing that I will miss the most when she gets older and more self sufficient. Priceless.

August 9, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterstella

as everyone was said, it's beautiful written Monica...

August 9, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteranajo


August 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlexandra

This was absolutely beautiful. I am a travel for work mom and you got this 100% right. Especially loved this line: But last week, while in New York City and feeling not the freedom I had daydreamed of but strangely empty.

As always, thanks Monica.

August 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKathleen

I've been reading and loving your blog for a while and am not really the commenting type, but I just had to tell you that I SO FEEL YOU on this one. I found tiny handprints on the fridge today and got all miserable over the fact that one day they won't be there. Thanks for an honest blog from a mom who isn't afraid to show that she's human.

August 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMiranda

...just wait until you find a little, handwritten note from one of the littles! Love the Charger Charm.

August 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

I too echo in agreement that it's one of my most favorite posts you've ever written. My son is 17 now. We used to play games for hours on the floor when he was younger but now we both love making homemade smoothies, making grilled avocado and cheese sandwiches, and watching a good movie or reality show. Each year you have to let something go...but you also get new and exciting things in return. You are raising your best friend.

*You may like a simple, short story I wrote long ago. (It ended up being published in one of the Chicken Soup books....) It's a tradition you could do too. Here's the link to read it. It's used on Amazon now for the book. (The Magic Jar Years)

August 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCassie M.

This kind of toy car can be considered as vintage one. It was not easy to find this kind of toy in the market.

August 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAtlas Handling

It truly does go in a flash and you are left with that blue car tucked in the crevices of your bag as you watch your 19 year-old boy drive away to college.

Something that seems truly real about you and Serge is this exact sort of post with its realizations. I love the line where you say the car is better than a picture because it was in his wee hand. Spot on.

August 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHeatherC

yes. beautiful.

August 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGeri

This was beautiful! I love how you compare discovering the car with finding a love letter from a secret admirer! I also really enjoyed reading the last paragraph where you mention how someday everything will not feel as right as it does right now! LOVE IT! :)

August 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda

This was so beautiful. My daughter left me a little stone that she painted at daycare, she painted it red with black dots so it was a lady bug. She came to my office a couple of days later and left it in my desk drawer. All secret like. I went to work and opened my drawer and saw it and my heart about exploded.

August 11, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterkds

You are such an amazing writer Monica.

August 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMod Mom Beyond IndieDom

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