Using My College Diploma as a Paint Rag

I clearly remember the day when I realized I might get more use out of my college diploma if it were a wet wipe.

My son was almost three, and his big sisters were seven and five. We were living in the basement of our house while the main level was being remodeled. I checked to make sure all three kids were engrossed in Rugrats and then jumped into the shower.

When I turned the water off, I heard Roger, the man who was working on the house, yelling at me from the top of the stairs. “You gotta come up here now!” he hollered.

I pulled on a pair of jogging shorts and an ratty old Jimmy Buffett t-shirt with the words “I’m the woman to blame.” My hair was still dripping from the shower as I raced up the stairs to see what was wrong with Roger.

“You gotta come quick,” he yelled from the garage. I ran outside to find him and my kid  standing next to my new red Ford Expedition. A can of white spray paint lay on the ground, and there was a line of spray paint all the way down the side of the vehicle. The gas cap cover was open, and the entire inside of the little compartment was painted white.

“I pulled into the driveway, and he was holding the can,” Roger said. “I asked him, ‘Did you do that,’ and he said, ‘No, my mama did it.'”

I turned to my son. “You painted my car and then lied to Roger about it?” I asked.

“No. I didn’t do it. Roger did it,” the kid brazenly lied.

I was pretty sure he hadn’t been sniffing paint thinner, but obviously there was some kind of lapse in his mental capacities.  “Dude, I am going to deal with you later. And you are in so much trouble, you have no idea what is about to happen to you,” I said, picking him up and buckling him into his car seat in the Expedition.

While Roger watched my son to make sure he didn’t get out of the car and finish the paint job, I ran downstairs, threw on a pair of flip flops, and herded the girls upstairs and into the car. Lyla paused to throw a fit because he’d also taken the spray paint to her PowerWheels jeep.

I drove like a bat out of hell to Shorty’s, a car wash and detailing shop a couple of miles from the house. I put the car in park, threatened the kids that they would die and Santa would never again come to our house if they got out of their carseats, and ran inside begging for someone to come quick.

A young teenage guy followed me out to the car. He whistled when he saw the paint. “Geez, lady, what happened?”

“My kid painted the car.” The teenager started laughing. He walked back into the shop and came out with a couple jugs of Goof-Off and some rags. He started at the front end of the car, and I started at the back. An hour and over $100 later, the car was back to normal except for the inside of the gas compartment. I left the paint there as a souvenir.

My son still remembers painting the car. And he still remembers his punishment for painting the car.

I remember walking back into the house, looking at my college diploma hanging on the wall, and thinking that on that day, a couple of old paint rags and a can of Goof-Off had been more useful.

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