Wednesday, May 28, 2014

No more Minivan Mama

Standing in a cold spring rain, I took one last look inside my old, white minivan. The papers had been signed, the deal was complete. All that was left was to check under the seats and in the back one last time for any "personal effects." That's what the salesman called them, those bits of life's shrapnel scattered here and there. A new era had dawned and, for the first time in eight years, I was no longer a minivan Mama.

I pocketed the Tic Tacs from the center console and dislodged yet another baseball from underneath the passenger seat. Eight years is a long time to hang onto a car these days, especially one as beat up and, frankly, ugly as our van. There was a huge dent in one side from a careless driver, one of the plastic pieces had popped off a seat bottom, and the pervasive scent of Baseball Boy Funk you could never quite Febreeze out. I remembered the first time we saw it, the trepidation I felt as we pulled into the car lot in Oklahoma City. A minivan? Seriously? I couldn't see myself as that kind of Mom. I drove sports cars and cute little SUVs, like the one we'd piloted into the lot. It held the batbag and stroller just fine, thank you. It did not, however, hold seven people and their luggage for a 16-hour drive to Ohio, a trek we were slated to make in mere weeks for a family wedding. The salesman cajoled me with the Stow-n-Go, the dual temperature controls, the extra outlets in the back. I could see my future playing out before my eyes, the reality of being the mother of two very active little boys meshing with the convenience of this white monstrosity. "If we can get a DVD player installed," I heard myself saying, "I'm fine with it." Because let's face it- I was done listening to The Flake's stories about how when HE had to ride from Los Angeles to Kansas every summer all HE had were two MAD magazines and a stick to occupy himself. Screw that noise and pass me another Disney movie. As I doled out more Goldfish to an ever impatient six year old and his near-the-brink baby brother while the paperwork was "processed", I realized the truth: I was a minivan mom. Truth be told, I was before I even stepped foot on the lot. I just didn't know it yet.

We made the 16-hour drive to Ohio, our family, grandparents, and an uncle all comfortably marveling over the space, the ease, the fact that you could hook the XBox up to the DVD player and play Madden 05 while crusing along I-70 at 75mph. Technology! It didn't take long for me to embrace the minivan culture. Zoo excursions with the playgroup became carpool affairs. Ice cream trips after ballgames meant three or four friends giggling in the backseat. Stowed seats made room for clunky wagons, and there was no more wrestling oversized strollers into the trunk. The minivan life? It wasn't so bad.

It became the go-to for Girls' Night and getaway weekends, six friends piled in for a night on the town, joking about watching bad porn on the DVD player. We flipped down the seats for tailgates, loading cooler after cooler, canopies, chairs, and a mini-grill. We discovered that you could easily pack a 6-person tent, canopy, three gravity chairs, three bag chairs, grill, four coolers, and suitcases for three women going on a five day Camp-and-Concert excursion in northern Minnesota. The van hauled Christmas trees and birthday bikes. It was loaded up with flats of flowers and bags of mulch as we set about the nebulous task of giving our home what the realtor called "curb appeal". It was loaded down with our most prized possessions, the ones we didn't want the moving company to handle, when we made a 300 mile move to Kansas City. It was the first thing we unloaded at our new home. It has driven a thousand miles to and from ballparks. It has housed bat bags and shoulder pads, pool floats and snow sleds. A hundred on-the-go meals have been eaten in it's seats, from Dallas to Minneapolis. It didn't like to start in cold weather... ever. It's gas mileage was suspect. Did I mention that it kinda smelled? But it was ours... through thick and through thin, it was ours.

But now it isn't. As I checked the glovebox one last time, it's replacement smoothly slid into the parking space beside me. It is as new as the van was once upon a time, no owners until now. It's leather seats hold no Cheez-it dust or sunflower seeds, it's floormats are not only pristine- they're all there. It doesn't have a DVD player, but it has in dash navigation, traffic, and weather, satellite radio, a five disc changer, and the ability to sync to my phone with Bluetooth. It SMELLS GOOD. It gets 50 miles to the gallon yet looks like a sportscar. It is sleek, it is new, and it is HOT. It doesn't even require a key to start, just push a button. It only seats five, four if you want to be REALLY comfortable, but that's okay. My boys are no longer little bitty with big needs. One will be learning to drive in a few short months as it is. We don't travel in packs any longer, and for entertainment the boys have phones and tablets and chapter books at their disposal. The minivan time has passed. It is time for it... and me... to accept that and move on.

Yet as excited as I am for our new purchase (it really is beautiful, by far the finest car we've ever owned), I'm sad. It's hard to leave behind this piece of my life, covered with it's sports stickers, honor roll paraphernalia,  and memories of vacations past. Saying goodbye to the van means saying goodbye to that piece of my life, acknowledging that time has moved on and we have outgrown it's benefits. There are no more carseats left to buckle, no more bulky strollers or chunky wagons to maneuver. I am not the mother of babies any longer... but the mother of young men. Young men have a habit of growing up, moving on, and there's not a whole lot I can do about that but smile through the tears and embrace it.

With an air of finality I shut the van's door one last time and hand the keys to the salesman. It isn't mine anymore. I pull my "Support Pirates" magnet off the back and give it a final pat on the bumper. I hope they fix the door and give it a good cleaning before putting it on the lot. Maybe THEY can get the boy-smell out. I hope it finds it's way to another family, one needing more room for carseats and soccer bags and clunky wagons and bulky strollers, and I hope they cover the back with honor roll proclamations and sports stickers. I hope they find a way to cajole it into starting on cold winter days. I hope all of this as I slowly back out of the parking space, stealing one last look at our past before heading out onto the highway and out into the life that lies ahead.... and really, pretty excited about the gas mileage we're going to get while getting there.  

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