When I was a newly minted parent, living in downtown Minneapolis, I balked at minivan ownership. I thought that it was much more hip to drive our old Tercel that didn’t have heat. During the winter, which is all year long in Minnesota, we used to dress Leo as if we were going on an arctic mission to get to his daycare. Many mornings we had ice on the inside windshield and we could see our breath as we drove to work.
Nothing says hip like frostbite.
Today I consider my minivan my mobile home. It has seen me through four kids’ activities, sports, road trips, and general family upkeep and maintenance. It’s part living room, garden shed, confessional, dressing area, study hall, storage unit and kitchen. Everyone talks about the importance of eating meal togethers; well, in our family much of that necessary togetherness takes place in the minivan.
I was expecting to own one, ONLY ONE, minivan. I planned to drive it until the last day of my pre-college parenting duties and park it next to the empty nest. Like cinderella’s carriage, it would turn into a biodegradable pumpkin overnight, or a Volvo C30 hatchback.
The minivan had other plans. On a return trip from Houston after celebrating my twin nieces’ third birthday the minivan sputtered at a stoplight on the feeder road. It had been showing signs of decline before the trip, but surely with a little duct tape and WD40 it would drive me across the finish line.
I’m fifty, I understand wear and tear.
We did what all non-mechanical people do – opened the hood and jiggled tubes and cables. Our low-tech placebo seemed to resolve the issue, until the next stoplight, when we saw smoke. I’ll skip over the hours of sitting on the side of I-10 while mulling over our options with the helpful people at AAA.
If you believe in divine intervention, the powers-that-be wanted us to have another minivan. We learned from the kind voice on the other end of our AAA lifeline that we were less than a half mile from the Honda dealership in Katy and, better yet, the first mile of towing was free.
Matthew, our two daughters, and I all smushed into the cab of the tow truck and the burly talkative mechanic brought us and our broken minivan to the dealership. It only took minutes to get the scrap-heap terminal diagnosis.
Three hours had passed since the beginning of the end of our minivan. It was now six-thirty in the evening and we needed to get back to Austin to our dogs and Sunday night homework.
Matthew and I had a quick huddle. We told the salesman that we would trade in the old van and buy another if he could do it in an hour – seriously. No bullshit, just sell us a minivan and let us get on down the road.
We were minivan refugees and didn’t care what they threw at us. We were going to be tougher.
My husband is a math genius so he quickly won the wonky financial back-room shell game. He’s barnacle stubborn and actually likes reading the fine print. I gave the girls permission to do gymnastics in the long hall of the waiting area and agreed to their request to drink the coffee in the hospitality station. We did our best to be polite and respectful but we really needed to get home.
We said please.
We were shown the only three minivans on the lot that met our specifications. The first was metallic navy blue, the second was white with same color interior and looked like a giant wheeled marshmallow, and the third was the most hideous shade of bodily fluid brown. Ninety minutes later we were driving our metallic navy blue minivan into the night toward Austin.
It wasn’t an hour but pretty darn close.
The photo was taken in Galveston, years back, in our first minivan. My son is running after us as his friend, Quinlin, races me to the beach.