Oh minivan, how I love thee. I know what you are thinking, I’ve completely lost it. You should know I wrote my high school graduation speech about my 1986 Dodge2.2 Charger, so paying homage to my vehicles is nothing new for me.
I took the time to wash my beloved minivan yesterday, and I started to feel a little sentimental about my old pal Odessa the Odyssey. (I just came up with that name, what do you think?) I really took the time to vacuum out all the crumbs, sucker sticks, stickers from the doctor’s office, ponytail holders and stray M&Ms that have collected over the last several months. I scrubbed the floor mats and every other sticky surface with Clorox bleach wipes and then suds up the outside of the van, hosed it down and dried it carefully as to not leave any streaks. With every crispy, sticky and crunchy “discovery” I found myself feeling like a guy tinkering with his classic car remembering all the “good old days” and time spent with his vehicle.
Classic car the Odyssey is not, but it is part of my identity. I know many women who refuse to drive minivans for fear they will fall into the stereotype of a “soccer mom” or suburban housewife. Before I had kids, I saw many a woman with a hat, a pony tail and no makeup driving her minivan and I vowed I would never become “one of them.” I admit I had a bit of a hard time when we bought our van right before Maddie was born. After all, I was 8 months pregnant, turned 30 and became the owner of a minivan all within a week. I knew deep down that this was the most practical thing we could buy, but me, in a minivan? I even went so far as to pick out a black one thinking it made it slightly cooler. Once we bought it, I realized how snazzy it was. It came equipped with a DVD player, GPS, satellite radio and leather seats that also had seat warmers. I mean this thing was sweet…for a family truckster.
Once I had Maddie, I really began to appreciate how great this thing was when I would lug the carseat carrier to the car and all I had to do was hit a button on the remote and the door would open up. I didn’t have to hoist her up into an SUV or crouch down into a car with the 45 pound thing either. I realized that if I was out and she needed to eat, I could nurse her in the third row of the van, watch a DVD and no one would see me! I could even plug my pump in the back as long as I had an adapter so I could take the kids to Disney On Ice and give Colin a bottle inside Allstate Arena.
I knew that the van would not stay clean forever. There are usually fingerprints and smiley faces drawn on the outside of the car. There are a million toys sliding around the floor in the second row. There are often crushed up Goldfish, melted cereal bars and the above mentioned things I scrubbed out of the car yesterday, but that is why I got this thing, so I could transport my kids who happen to make a mess because they are kids.
Of course now I am often “that mom” with my hair pulled up in a messy pony tail, no makeup and wearing a t-shirt stained with spaghetti sauce driving around town. I certainly am not anywhere near Christy Brinkley in “National Lampoons Summer Vacation” driving her Ferrari. I do not turn any heads and I rarely feel sexy or powerful in my car the way we all know a cool car can make us feel. I suppose if I closed my eyes and tried real hard, I could muster up some inner Christy Brinkley, but closing your eyes while driving is completely unsafe and crashing your car is completely unsexy.
There have been times when I am driving my van and a tune from my college days comes on and I feel like I am thrown back to being 21, carefree and without a worry in the world except what party I was going to that night and what I was going to wear. Then I catch a glimpse of my car seats in the rearview mirror and I am thrown back into reality. Next thing you know Maddie asks if we can listen to “her songs” and I am forced to turn off Rusted Root “Send Me On My Way” and turn on a collection of Disney Princess songs.
But let’s cut to the chase, while I understand the power of cars and how they can make you feel, I have to be realistic. Yes, it would be nice to drive a car that makes me feel like a super model, but I am certainly NOT a super model so why pretend. I could buy a car that probably costs as much as my minivan that would make people think we are well off, but then I could never actually let my kids in the car for fear they would mess it up. I could drive a less “mom-like” vehicle, like an SUV or cross-over, but I’d rather give up my qualms about driving a minivan and enjoy the extra room, convenience and practicality.
When I stop and think about the stigma surrounding minivans I am reminded of a few things. First of all, before I drove a minivan, I drove a Honda Civic. It wasn’t like I gave up a Mustang or a BMW or some sort of fancy schmancy car. Second, I’ve never been particularly cool so why try pretending I’m cool now. Finally, let’s face it, cars are a status symbol and my status is a mom. Granted, when we purchased the minivan, I still worked, so I hadn’t completely crossed over to total momdom, but I knew before long I would have another kid and be at home and well, the minivan just seemed to fit. Now, there have been times where I feel like I am not accomplishing enough as a stay-at-home-mom, but then I remember what my dreams and aspirations were as a child. I pretended to wear a wedding gown. I played with dolls, dressing them up, feeding them and burping them. I wanted to get married and have babies. I wanted to be and knew I was destined to be a mommy. There was a point in my life when I was single that I actually feared that I would be the work-a-holic, well-off aunt who pulled up in her Jaguar up on Christmas with annoying and expensive toys for my nieces and nephews. Then went home to my lonely penthouse in the city and drank dirty martinis alone.
That’s not to say that I thought my entire purpose in life was to be a mom and wife and that everything else I did was worthless. But if I want people to see what I have accomplished in my life, pulling my minivan up to the valet is fitting. I love being a mom. I love my minivan.