My minivan is never clean and fresh, but it smells particularly putrid on Wednesday afternoons when I drive six fifth-graders from Bible Club to their various homes. An attractive younger mom has volunteered to teach the boys for several years now. Mrs. Sally does it either out of the kindness of her heart or a guilty conscience. Based on what I know of her, I’m betting it’s the former.
Mrs. Sally doesn’t have a ten-year-old, but she is blessed with a tremendous faith that is amply rewarded each Wednesday. I can tell because she lets the boys play in the nearby creek before their Bible lesson. Most parents would insist that the boys listen to the Word and then search for crawdads. In my experience, even the most assertive mother requires divine intervention to get thirteen boys out of a creek and in a circle to listen to a Bible lesson without resorting to tears, threats or cussing.
When Bible Club is over, Mrs. Sally (with help from the Holy Spirit) has each boy collect his belongings and gather at the end of the driveway to wait for their carpools, which they do with a normal amount of jostling and yelling, which seemed to shock Mrs. Sally at first. God has since fitted her with holy earplugs and the ability to step out of the way of a particularly vicious shove.
Finn and his friends get in the van, accompanied by the smell of wet sneakers, armpits that have never seen a streak of Right Guard, shirts that have escaped the laundry, and a thousand other noxious odors. This is when I apply my minty Pout lip gloss that masks the smells for the twenty-five minutes it takes to get everyone home. It also allegedly plumps up my lips, but no one in the van has ever remarked on this phenomenon.
Inexplicably, as soon as all my riders have crammed themselves into the van, they start talking in faux English accents. The minivan strains to make it up the steep hill towards the first house, and the accompanying chatter goes something like this:
“Henry, old chap, could you get your backpack out from under my butt?”
“I daresay it’s that your gluteus maximus is atop my backpack, Bo. Remove your gluteus maximus at once.”
“Mrs. Glamore, dear lady, might we hear some tunes from your iPod? Perhaps some Green Day?”
“Gross! I mean, that seems like a rather nasty choice to me. I would much prefer to listen to the latest by Hinder, if you please.”
“The driver has no Hinder. I asked last Wednesday when you were ill.”
I have no idea where the accents came from, but it’s jolly good listening.
Once we reach the top of the hill and make a left, however, all thoughts of Britain are gone. Everyone in the van, including me, is consumed by one thought: pink thong panties.
The pink thong panties lie discarded near the gutter by Henry’s driveway. They’ve been there for weeks. As I turn into the driveway, all the boys lean to the left, seeking a glimpse of magenta cotton.
I try various strategies to divert their attention.
“Back in your seats, guys,” I yelled the first time I was aware of the presence of the panties, “before the van tips over and we’re all smushed! Even weight distribution is vitally important for a safe ride!” It’s not, really. My motherly instinct kicked in, wanting to prevent them from seeing the wadded up panties, although we all knew they were there. It didn’t work.
I still felt that I had a duty to try something– anything– to prevent them from seeing girlie underwear lying discarded by the street, so the next week I sped up as we got to the driveway, executed a sharp right turn, and bounced up the asphalt, scraping a trench into the road with the bike hitch and giving everyone whiplash. After all that, they still saw the panties when I made a somewhat more careful exit out the driveway.
The next week I discovered that screaming as if I had been shot did not draw the boys’ attention away from the shrubbery and underwear and onto me as I had intended. Their sharp eyes spotted the thong, which had been exposed to the elements for over a month, although it was not as bright a pink, and was starting to be covered by falling leaves.
“There! I see them! It’s the thong panties! Hey, Mrs. Glamore, when you come back down the driveway, can you drive really, really slow? Please?”
“Pink panties! Pink panties!”
“Someone should get out and grab them and we can make Henry wear them on his head!”
“No, put them on over your pants and walk around like a girlie man!”
“A girlie man with a bikini on!”
“It’s not a bikini, it’s a thong.”
“There’s no difference, it’s all underwear.”
I glanced over at Finn as the last comment came from the back seat and heard him mutter to himself, “Actually, there’s a lot of difference between a bikini and a thong.”
That was it for me. The next morning after Jazzercise, I went to Henry’s with a shovel and a grocery bag. I scooped up the thong, deposited it in the bag, and dumped the whole thing in the trash.
I daresay we’ll have to content ourselves with some funny accents and Green Day from here on out, eh, chaps?