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Cash for Clunkers

September 30, 2009

I’m not sure exactly where Col got the idea of peddling his collection of cars and trucks for money. I mean Dan does like to remind the kids about children their age who are already toiling in the fields, babysitting a cadre of younger siblings, contributing, rather than simply draining everyone’s food, money, time and energy. “Contribute” still proves to be a relative term around here, like when Rose stubbornly sweeps the walls with her small broom and you can almost hear the piped in toddler screech of “I did it myyyy way.” Or when Col was 3 and I begged our friend Carsten to let Col help him build us a chicken coop. Col helped for two hours and when Carsten finished I asked how it went and he replied, “Oh, much faster once Col stopped helping.”

These cars and trucks Col wanted to put on the market were the same babies that just yesterday were so beloved Col had to untangle them from his blankets where they were scurrying around like sharp-cornered bedbugs. But that’s how it is with four year olds; ideas burst like sudden mountain storms and too bad if your umbrella is under the couch with the lego guy’s head. If I sprinkle some gentle reasoning into the discussion like honey, you were playing with those cars yesterday and having such a fun time, Col smells a power struggle simmering and can’t wait to take a huge gulp.

(Speaking of power struggles, just today Col was asking me about the marmosets in the Colorado mountains. I’m not exactly certain what a marmoset is but I am quite sure there is not a single one in Colorado. Except of course the very small ones that Col saw on a rock this summer. This line of arguing feels a bit like chatting with fundamentalists about sexual orientation. You know they’re wrong, but it’s still best to give a non-committal smile and change the subject).

cash 4 clunkers 001

It was a breathtaking Colorado afternoon, or at least it was on the south side of our house. On the north, which faces the street and the potential commerce of passers-by, it was already shaded and November-ish. First, some issues arose over where Rose could sit. “How about over there,” Col suggested, pointing to a spot about 300 miles away on the crumbling, oil-coated asphalt. True, Rose was being slightly annoying, the way she couldn’t seem to sit without leaning into Col like they were taking a sharp curve on a motorcycle together. And for the 8554th time I felt bad that these two have to eke it out together in this weird sibling matrimony just because of some fun frolics and random chance. You know, just because of this one egg and that sperm and then that other egg and that other sperm and now Rose has to spend a cold afternoon watching her brother sell crappy cars in front of our house.

Note the prices are all variation of the letters in Col's name

Note the prices are all variation of the letters in Col's name

Foot traffic was slow that afternoon and after a full 2 minutes of sitting and waiting Col got desperate. Seeing that Rose was virtually useless hanging around popping chokecherries into her lovely mouth, Col barked “can’t she go get some people to come by?” Poor Col. I could relate, feeling a little like a prostitute for readers on this blog, having considered asking my mom to assume fake identities and post reams of glowing comments. I explained to Col that no one wants to buy anything from a grumpy salesman. Not that a single person had walked by except the mailman who just shrugged from behind his ipod when Col shouted sort of aggressively “you wanna buy a car?”

cash 4 clunkers 002

Finally I slipped Rose 50 cents and in a whispery pantomime instructed her to go buy a car from old sad sack. But 2 year olds don’t really understand subtlety or secrets. I thought my standing by Rose’s side at the table coaching her loudly on the transaction might ruin it for Col, but he triumphantly pocketed those two quarters as if he earned them honestly.

That first purchase set off a spree, in the very modest sense of the word, of luck for Col. A group of leggy teenagers loitered for awhile, fingering the jeeps and tow trucks until one finally said “I wish I could man, but I just don’t have the funds.” I should have told James Dean Jr. that lint from his pocket would have been acceptable currency at this point, but Col was already hurling his seriously clever sales pitch “you wanna buy a car?” at our neighbor who pulled up in his truck.

Our neighbor, bless his young, cool-guy heart, inquired on the price of an armored money truck. I should have coached Col better on this part because he spat back, “oh, ten dollars.” I was shaking my head furiously behind Col’s back, mouthing “one quarter,” flashing my pointer finger as in “one, just one,” and wondering vaguely when mothers stop trying to spin their son’s lives into success.

cash 4 clunkers 005

Apparently not when they’re 4, because after our generous neighbor laid down 75 cents on a truck, I appealed to our downstairs neighbors, Sage and Sharon to drop some change at Col’s booth. Then, another man stopped by and in a weird twist paid Col a dollar for a button from Rose’s collection, which wasn’t technically for sale. This made me feel terribly guilty like that Halloween when I was 8 and knocked on this bewildered guy’s door who after fumbling around his apartment, pushed a dollar into my small hand.

cash 4 clunkers 004

We called it a day after a sibling scuffle ensued over the gleaming coins and that one dollar bill, which I seriously considered pocketing for the 6-pack I always seem to feel I deserve right as that potent Southwestern sun is high-tailing it over the oakbrush hills.

14 Comments leave one →
  1. Alison Scarpella permalink
    September 30, 2009 2:50 pm

    This is meant to be a glowing comment, minus the prostituting…is that a word?

    Your blogs are excellent and many are my sentiments, only expressed much, much better!

    Nice work!

  2. Barb permalink
    September 30, 2009 6:15 pm

    re monkeys: def per wiki: Marmosets are the 25 New World monkey species of the genera Callithrix, Cebuella, Callibella, and Mico. def per moi: incredibly cute little monkeys (hmmm… like yours….). Really, you don’t get to the zoo often enough (the real zoo). I don’t know how to insert a pic here, but here’s a link to a cute one (maybe you can fit into next blog for other inquiring minds who want to know).

    of further note: Most marmosets are about 20 centimetres (7.9 in) long. Relative to other monkeys, they show some apparently primitive features: they have claws rather than nails, and tactile hairs on their wrists. They lack wisdom teeth, and their brain layout seems to be relatively primitive.

    re sibling matrimony: trust me, they will get over it if you do (glibly said by the mom who just sent one of two to college several states away…)

    re sales 1) You get a six-pack for a buck?

    re sales 2) If the blue pickup truck and the set of sea-green buttons are still for sale, please hold for me. 50Cents for the truck. 50cents for the button set.

  3. September 30, 2009 9:25 pm

    it’s too darn bad we weren’t over in durango, hazel would have TOTALLY bought that cute blue car with the eyes. she just (accidentally) broke her piggy bank and the money is just burning a hole in her little pocket…

  4. rayjoy permalink*
    September 30, 2009 9:42 pm

    Rachel here.

    Barb, now that I see what marmosets really look like, I’m pretty sure they do hang out on rocks in the high country here. And no one dollar doesn’t even buy one beer in a six pack, but it’s a start.

    Kristi, that blue car didn’t sell. We’ll hold it for Hazel if she has LOOC to spend on it.

  5. Julie permalink
    September 30, 2009 10:27 pm

    This was a keeper. Keep on writing. Someday you can turn your blog into a book; seriously.

  6. Craig permalink
    October 1, 2009 2:01 am

    Thanks for the link to your new blog. Your words and wisdom truly translate beautifully in the new, for you, format. I wish Dan all the best on his beastly endeavors during rifle season.

  7. Peggy permalink
    October 1, 2009 9:24 am

    Love this one Rachel! Once again you have put into words VERY eloquently, and cleverly!, exactly what I go through many a day here in NJ. Riley is ALWAYS leaning into her brother when they sit next to eachother – then he scoots over, and she scoots right back – to get even closer. This is especially annoying for me when I’m trying to give Charlie a time out and Riley decides to go sit right next to (or basically on top of) him.

    We tried to have a lemonade stand last summer – it was hysterical. People didn’t have any money, so Charlie gave THEM money along with their lemonade. It was so cute.

    Another great post – I look forward to these every day….I peek a few times just to see if there’s anything new, and when there is it’s like getting “real” mail in your mailbox – like a letter or a postcard, instead of yet another catalog….

  8. Amy permalink
    October 2, 2009 12:54 am

    Wow, I love this story and it brought back vivid memories of my first garage sale attempts hawking paperclips and these puffy things my friend showed me how to make out of yarn. Cars and buttons are way more cool though, they might be on to something.

  9. ellen permalink
    October 2, 2009 9:50 am

    How lucky Col and Rose are to have a Mamma who listens to them with an appreciative writer’s ear, noticing all the nuances. Many of us are unconsciously waiting for the next stage of maturity and for some ” contribution” to the family good.

  10. janie permalink
    October 2, 2009 3:48 pm

    eating up your lovely writing, wishing I could give 2 year old Jordi some cash to buy some of those clunkers.

  11. October 2, 2009 11:27 pm

    How clever Rachel!….Your writing…….and cash for clunkers!

  12. Johnette permalink
    October 3, 2009 8:45 pm

    Priceless!!! That’s a story for the ages.

  13. Holly permalink
    October 8, 2009 5:52 pm

    “…chatting with fundamentalists about sexual orientation. You know they’re wrong…”

    Ha! I myself need more practice in the smile and change the subject tactic. I seem to be unable not to argue.

    As always, you eloquently tell the story of kids and life as a mom.

  14. kim permalink
    October 19, 2009 10:14 pm

    Oh Nooz! You let your 2yo play with buttons!! Lol!

    What are the plans for the coins? Will Dan be able to persuade Col to contribute them toward the grocery bill?

    I’m totally joking and Great blog <3

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