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Mrs. Strangelove

How I learned to stop worrying and love my minivan.

Editor's Note: Garine Isassi is a freelance writer, living in suburban Maryland. Since Patch's arrival in the DC area, she has been writing the popular weekly for NorthPotomac.Patch.com. In her perceptive, witty voice, she explores the meaning of life as a woman, a wife, and a mother in the suburbs, while being way too close to it to be objective.

In my 20's, I lived in a hip town. I sang in a band. I had a job, took care of my business, and I was cute. For lack of more subtle words, mommy used to ROCK, man!

I drove around in my first ever “new” car. It was a two seater blue Del Sol convertible. It was the the pride of my young adult life – the first major purchase I ever made with my own money. For awhile, I felt extra hip with my hair flowing in the wind and my handsome fiance in the seat next to me.

I loved that car. It took me to work for years and to band gigs, with my guitar case strapped into the front seat next to me. It drove me and my new hubby away from our wedding, with white ribbons and veil lace trailing behind us. It was my personal symbol of love and freedom.

After it was paid off and I discovered that I was pregnant with my first baby, my husband and I had our first discussion about how to cart around kids. This was the conversation where he first tried to convince me to trade in the convertible and get a minivan.

“No way!” was my knee jerk response.

“But we need a good car!” he pleaded, “my car is old, but yours is a two seater. You can't drive kids around in a two seater. Let's sell it and get a minivan.”

“Shoot me, first!” I insisted.

Before I was tempted to call a divorce lawyer, though, he agreed to sell his old car and we'd get a sedan of some kind.

I was going to be a cool, hip mom, and the baby was going to sit next to me in my little roadster (of course, rear facing and with the airbag turned off). That idea lasted about 30 seconds. I could only drive my beloved car for personal getaways or date night.

Meanwhile, life continued and we had two more kids, got a dog and moved between states. The growing hordes, who all, at one point or another, were full of sand, mud, toys, and food, created havoc inside the sedan. By the time of the third baby's arrival, we didn't all fit inside the car. And the reality of an infant carrier crammed between a two year old and 4 year old in the back seat resulted in a series of crying fits, tantrums and bouts of sibling rivalry. I was beginning to see how a van, with separated seats and standing room in the back, might be helpful.

I got pulled over one time for speeding with all three kids back there, shoulder to shoulder in the bench seat, making their fusses. As the officer walked up to the window, he could probably hear the muffled sounds of the high-pitched battle. He peered into the car, scanning the mayhem, with wide eyes. After a slight cringe, he tried to tell me I was going 10 miles over the speed limit, but we couldn't even hear each other over the din. I got off with a warning and a sympathetic pat on the forearm. I could swear he crossed himself as he walked away.

By this time, I had not driven my beloved blue car in over a year. Money was tight and there was no space to store it. We had to sell it. I gave in and agreed to the minivan. It was like a knife through my heart. I didn't even want to be involved in the search. I hid in my room like a french aristocrat waiting for the guillotine while my husband went out and bought a used silver honda odyssey minivan.

It was the official last nail in the coffin of my youth. I suddenly noticed all of the wrinkles around my eyes and felt that I should just go ahead and buy some “mom jeans” and a pastel sweatshirt with some large, tacky orange flowers appliquéd on it. I was no longer hip and cool, so I might as well just hand myself over to the worn stereotype of the suburban mom.

We sold the Del Sol to a co-worker for his daughter who was going to college. I wallowed in 40 days of mourning, refusing to partake in the initial set up of car seat positioning and once-around-the-block rides for the kids.

Once I finally had to get behind the wheel of my monstrosity of mediocrity, I decided the only course of action was to make minivan "momdom" look good. I didn't wear the appliqué sweatshirt. I wore my old Martin Guitar T. I rolled down the windows and blasted Green Day and Foo Fighters out of the upgraded speakers. I whipped around town in it like it was a sports car. So help me, I was not going down for the count.

We took out one of the passenger bucket seats and I was able to pile all three kids with their just-used plastic sleds through the side door and have them shed their snow suites inside. They'd walk around the roomy cave of the van like they were in a padded dressing room, settling down before the hour drive home. I could do the same thing at the beach in the summer, cranking the air conditioner while the kids wiggled out of bathing suits and into dry clothes. I bought a couch for our playroom from a garage sale and was able to slide it easily into the back without any hassle.

Little by little, I was seduced to the dark side. This wasn't so bad. This was actually useful.

Now, the kids are older, we can pack a whole girl scout troop in there. We can load it up with outdoor chairs, water bottles and soccer balls for the youngest one's soccer games. We are a self-contained party on Friday nights, a mobile vacation over spring break, a household moving truck.

The van is dented in places and scratched in others.

Well, so am I. 

It has grown on me. It's officially old, now, with over a 100,000 miles on it. It has become an my trusty steed – faithful, durable, friendly. When we had the chance to buy another car and my husband came in saying we could finally replace the van, I told him to sell that old sedan. I loved my minivan.

Don't worry, though, this is just another stage of life. All things must end. One day, I'll have adult children and the need to get another car. At that point, God willing, I can get myself a full-fledged convertible, which I will drive around like a sports car and blast rock music out the open top. On that day, you won't see the soccer balls, girl scout vests and suitcases. Believe me, you will see nothin' but tail lights.

Julie Tittle October 12, 2011 at 01:48 AM
Garine, I understand! The day that I had to turn my little red Ford Probe over to my husband to drive while I hauled our first 3 kids in the mini van was pure anguish! Now with 4 kids, I've just gotten our 3rd minivan (brand new and totally pimped out!) and it feels like a luxury car to me! My husband now drives our old minivan, so maybe the universe has a sense of humor!
Robin Ferrier October 12, 2011 at 01:05 PM
No way. No how. I may be a mom. I may want to cart around a Brownie troop of little girls someday. That will all happen in an SUV, not a minivan. All these people tried to convince me I'd give in to the minivan and its convenience once I had my daughter. I didn't. I haven't. I won't. I'm just not made for a minivan.
Garine Isassi October 12, 2011 at 03:00 PM
Ah, Robin . . . good luck with that.

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