Susan Dromey Heeter's Down to Earth: Keeping the car stocked with summer essentials


This summer has given me the opportunity to drive…a lot. I'm doing the mom thing of chaperoning children to camps, to movies, to beaches, to all summer activities of a July in New England.

And last week, I spotted another mom doing much the same — escorting children around, piloting the mom van, doing the drill. But when I saw her hand out several cold bottles of water to policemen directing traffic around a construction site in Dover, I was in awe. The faces on those officers on that Tuesday of 95 degree heat expressed raw gratitude. Their smiles were as bright as the sweltering sun.

What a beautiful moment in that horrendous heat; what a lovely mom. And it got me thinking — do I carry anything in my car that can enhance a life?

In a New Hampshire winter, I carry an extra blanket, an ice scraper, cross country boots, skis, and an extra jacket. I like to think I'm prepared for anything that may come up: There may be an opportunity to do a quick ski through woods before grocery shopping; that definitely enhances my own life. Alas, I may come across an accident and a blanket would be handy for another life. I may be in an accident and someone may need a jacket AND blanket to stay warm.

In the summer, it's much the same. I've always got a couple of camp chairs in the back, a beach bag packed with towels, sun block, a bag of almonds, extra suits for the kids and me. Essentially, my car is just an extra room on wheels — a closet, a kitchen, an office. And the beach emergency kit does come in handy.

Just last Friday, my youngest daughter and I took a detour to the beach on the way back from escorting my other child to her camp. "Let's go to the beach" I said — and we did, just like that. It does help to be the driver. I had towels, bathing suits and a chair and we stopped at Rye Beach. Ah, in the sweltering heat, it was bliss.

In fact, we had only one chair and after riding the waves, my daughter sat on my lap enveloped in her towel as we watched the sea, the surfers, the gulls. That moment alone made the preparation all worth the while.

I once saw a guy on Wallis Sand Beach in a full suit — not a bathing suit, a business suit. He should have taken a page from my book. Alas, perhaps upon reading this, he'll now carry trunks in his trunk.

When I asked my friend, Beth, what she carries in her car, she mentioned rosary beads and old lipsticks. Beth is, indeed, prepared. My husband always has his fishing gear with him — his waders, his lures, his flies. He's always looking for the perfect spot upon which to cast and quite often takes the long way home from work — like from Rochester to Conway. And he's always ready for a fishing opportunity.

I feign interest in the fishing photos but just can't get too excited. Alas, it's his Zen, a healthy hobby, a wonderful way to venture out into this beautiful New Hampshire. And his car is always prepared, his life always enhanced.On an internet search for "car essentials" I found things like jumper cables, flashlights, duct tape. After finishing this, I'm going to put them in my car, and include hot pink duct tape just for the heck of it — to bring some levity to the emergency situation should duct tape be necessary.

After 9/11, my husband and I thought it a good idea to keep some cash in the car should we find it necessary to make a quick exit — prepared with cold, hard currency. No, don't try to find my vehicle to score a quick couple of hundred bucks. That stash went awfully fast as whenever I thought of coffee, I remembered the twenties in the back seat. Needless to say, our emergency get-away loot went the way of Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts. Oops.

Finally, I will take a page from that wonderful mom's book and put a case of water in my car — not only is it not a bad idea to be prepared with fluids, but her generosity sparked in me an act I'd like to emulate. Then I'll put some lipsticks in my car, say my rosary and be like Beth — so not only can I give water, I can give prayers AND look good to those who work in the heat of summer o'13.

Stay cool and Down to Earth. Enjoy a blissfully prepared car and the drive of the remaining summer.

And may your life be enhanced by your own car essentials.

Susan Dromey Heeter's "Down to Earth" column appears monthly in the At Home section. Her other column, "Budget Vogue," appears monthly in the Lifestyles section of the New Hampshire Sunday News.


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