My friend Jan hopped in my car after I moved some stray schoolbooks from her seat and asked, "What are you going to do when your minivan dies?" Luckily, it only has 93,000 miles on it, so I hope I have a few more good years left with it. Yes, that's right, I like, no LOVE, my minivan!
Eight years ago when we bought it, we had little children and a van seemed the obvious way to go. Life was so physically draining at that stage that we didn't care what our vehicle looked like as long as the kids fell asleep in back and it started reliably. When you're lugging a diaper bag and stroller in your car, the ease of a van trumps any vanity concerns. The allure of the minivan, with its tempting separate bucket seats in the second row (No Sibling Touching Me!), and sleek backseat climate controls was hard to resist. Finally our old car broke down, then we broke down and bought A Minivan. My transformation to Suburban Mom was complete.
Lost in suburbia, we were surrounded by minivans. In fact, people in our demographic who didn't succumb to the minivan's charms were a little suspect. We'd smile to ourselves as we watched a parent contort him- or herself to strap a pair of toddlers into the back seat of a sporty Altima sedan. "We know that's not fun, why don't you just come over to our side?" we'd coo. "Look, look at the abundance of cupholders! And the hands-free sliding doors! C'mon, you know you want one!" The minivan's practicality was so seductive. Friends would ask to look at the cargo space, but I knew what they really wanted. They really wanted to see how easily the third row Magic seat disappeared into the floor. And I'd show them. It was very enticing.
Well, my toddler is now old enough to possess his own driver's permit. At least once a month someone asks me when I am going to trade in my minivan. "Not until it dies," is my usual reply. While it might have been difficult to strap a toddler into the back of a sporty sedan, it is darn near impossible for my son to fold his 6'2" frame into one. And there would be no room left over for his equally tall friends and their assorted gear. The cupholders that once held sippycups now accommodate water bottles and Wawa drinks. The Magic seat is usually in the upright position so I can drive a full complement of teens to practice or the mall or a movie. No one complains about sitting in the back.
Well, what about a nice sporty SUV then? "Wouldn't you rather drive something with more style or a better image?" my husband asks. Perhaps, but who would I be fooling? So I no longer have to schlep a change of clothes, containers of Cheerios, and an assortment of plastic toys everywhere, but I still have mom duties. Even though these days I can listen to Green Day and wear high heeled boots, I still have to drive to the orthodontist and tennis practice. I can go into the office or meet friends for lunch, but I still have to stop for groceries on the way home. I know who I am and I know what I am. What I drive isn't go to change that.
On the occasions when I happen to drive my husband's little convertible, I know the story. People no longer think, "Hey, who's that blonde?" like they would have when I was 25. It's more like, "Oh there goes Ryan's mom. Guess the van's in the shop."
My car does not define me. It just gets me where I need to go, to do the things that truly define me. It allows me to drive my work colleagues to a meeting in comfort. I can haul donations for a non-profit I work with. I take my family on road trips with room enough for souvenirs. And yes, I can cart plenty of tennis gear and snacks for my kids and their teammates.
Some day, sooner than I would wish, I'll be able to trade in the van for a cute little two-seater, and then pick up a friend without fear that a stray tennis ball will roll around her feet in the car. It will be fun to drive away with the wind in our hair and our own music on the radio, but a part of me will always remember fondly when I needed extra cargo space and an abundance of cup holders.