Car washing brings back good memories

Published 12:19am Sunday, June 15, 2014

Who knew a bucket of soapy water and a water hose could peel back decades of memories?

A few weeks ago as I washed my wife Julie’s car, then my own, on a Sunday afternoon, the years dropped away quickly, then came crashing down again, all in the matter of a few minutes.

It all started simple enough.

Both of our cars had become a bit filthy on the outside with dust and grime.

Out came the bucket, water hose, the soap and a rag.

In no time, Julie brought our daughter Anna outside to “help Daddy” wash the car. Anna seems to have inherited some kind of tidiness gene as she loves wiping and cleaning things. With a bit more training, we’re hoping she may become as effective as those vacuuming robots. I’m joking of course; her cleaning routines are her own doing, not anything we’re coaching her into doing.

So it was cute and a bit fitting as Anna grabbed a tiny towel and began soaping up the lowest reaches of a fender.

In minutes, she was soaked from head to toe, but having the time of her young life.

The last 16 months have changed my perspective on many things, including my tolerance for letting our cars get really dirty before I just can’t take it any longer.

I was hurriedly working to get both cars finished when I realized just how much fun Anna was having. She was in no hurry. In fact, she was leisurely enjoying watching the soap bubbles float along the driveway.

She was having a ball experiencing something new and spending time with her parents. The moment — and the sheer joy on her face — had me feeling young again.

It was then that I realized just how old I was; it was my turn now to be Dad.

Years ago, my own father taught me how to wash a car. He taught me to start at the top of the vehicle and work my way down, how to keep an eye out and keep the car wet to avoid the soap drying, etc.

Dad has taught me many, many things, but we bonded the most, perhaps, working on cars together.

In one of the Cooper family photo albums is a square photo of me in a diaper sitting under the hood of my Dad’s truck.

Apparently one of my favorite things to do was to hang out with Dad, watch him work and learn from his life experiences.

My mother proudly tells how I had memorized some parts of the car’s engine compartment and happily recited for anyone within earshot.

That same sense of pride came over me as I watched Anna grinning from ear to ear clutching a wet, soapy rag rubbing it to and fro.

In time, I’ll pass along many of the lessons my father taught me through the years, but I’m sure I’ll forget a few here and there.

Anna’s fortunate, though. My Dad is still young enough and in good enough health to enjoy his newest granddaughter and correct me when I forget a step in a lesson.

My thanks to all of the Dads out there and, in particular, my own.

Happy Father’s Day.


Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or