The affair was over. While it had not been love at first sight, the relationship had developed over time and now 18 years of my life had passed. Over the years I had enjoyed its size and it had become an integral part of my life, but I needed to move on. We had a connection and it was a multi-tasking machine. This past week, however, I finally said goodbye to my minivan.
As I exited the driveway in a minivan for the last time, I asked my youngest son to snap a picture of me. I guess I was a little sentimental after all. This vehicle represented a sweet and chaotic family era that was now ending.
I drove alone through Seattle to pick up the replacement and recalled that I wasn’t overly excited about purchasing the minivan oh-so-many years ago. At the time I agreed with my husband that a minivan would be a practical purchase, but I really didn’t want one. Sure we had a house, a dog and I was expecting our second child. But, it was not a cool car. Although it was my signature on the purchase agreement, I was not a “minivan mom,” whatever that is. Minivans were driven by suburban women who smiled too much and cared more about matching fabric swatches than the fabric of society. This was like adopting the persona of an alien into my brain and eagerly paying big dollars for the privilege.
I remember driving with my husband onto the car lot in Minneapolis the day the van was ready for pick up and he cheerfully chirped, “Aren’t you excited about your new car?” Not wanting to seem childish, I weakly replied, “yes,” while thinking what a far cry my new Mercury-Villager would be from the Mustang I had driven along the California freeways of my youth.
I learned, however, to embrace the minivan lifestyle. In the early family stages the van worked perfectly for carting around pop-up play-pens and strollers. At its peak use, we needed four car seats; the cause and effect of four kids born within eight years. The handy fold-down seats served as a great diaper changing station and sheltered picnic spot. Later, it was the family workhorse as it became a sports equipment shed, a mobile food-sourcing station and office.
When I turned in the keys this week I was surprised that I had driven a minivan for so long and all that it represented in our family history. I was equally amazed that I no longer needed one. My kids are now much bigger than me, and two drive themselves places. We seldom need a car that seats six. We no longer go to the park or zoo on weekend outings and are rarely photographed together.
I pulled into the dealership both eager and apprehensive. Was I really ready for this new era? Yes. My new car is not tiny, but it is most certainly not a minivan. It can still carry the equipment and friends of my sons living at home. But, the mid-sized SUV suits my self-image: It looks sporty and is the silver color of my beloved Mustang.
As I left the lot, heading east toward the freeway, I became aware that I had a Cheshire Cat grin spreading across my face. I cranked up the radio, put my sunglasses on and enjoyed inhaling the “new car smell.” I was back in my element and for a brief time not the practical mother of four. I gave myself permission to thoroughly enjoy the moment and happily drove my car down the open road.
Carol Lewis Gullstad June 25, 2012
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