I cried on my 30th birthday. I was sitting in a bar in downtown St. Louis at an impromptu party that my husband had organized, and suddenly I was crying. My friend, Jan, asked me what was wrong, and I said, “I’m 30 years old and I’m driving a minivan.”
Jan snickered and reminded me I wanted the minivan, believing it would be easier on my back to get my 2-year-old in and out of her car seat. That only made me feel worse – I chose to drive a minivan for a practical, “old lady” reason.
“Oh God,” I sniffled. “What’s next? Sensible shoes? Then Depends?” We laughed and the moment passed.
That was in 1997.
Now it’s 2016 and I’ve owned four minivans since that time: a Dodge Caravan, a Chevy Venture, a Kia Sedona and finally a 2004 Honda Odyssey—my favorite. Ever.
My goal when we first got the Odyssey was to drive it for several years after we paid it off, which we did. With 207,000 miles on it, it started to need more maintenance and repairs, and the last repair happened when I was out of town, which was a major inconvenience.
It was time to downsize
But my Odyssey served me well. It was extremely reliable. And kid friendly and comfortable. And best of all, it had lots of Mom-friendly real estate, which means lots of places to stash things and the perfect spot to put my large purse where it wouldn’t tip over and spill its contents all over the floor.
Criteria for a New Car
When I sat in the Honda dealership to choose my next used Honda, our salesman asked me what things were important to me in a vehicle. I knew I wanted a place to put my purse; safety; good gas mileage; room for family road trips; low mileage; a key fob with automatic door locks; comfort; all-wheel drive; a backup camera; deep cup holders for my coffee; and again, a place to put my purse. Our conversation went something like this:
Salesman: Does color matter?
Salesman: Do you want alloy wheels?
Me: What are alloy wheels?
Salesman: They’re nicer wheels. They come with the higher trim package.
Me: No, I curb my tires all the time. I’ll ruin them.
Salesman: Leather seats?
Me: I don’t care. But I like having an armrest, and I need luggage racks on top. If I’m giving up the space of my minivan, I need to be able to put luggage on top. I don’t travel light. So I want a trim package that comes with those things. And a place to put my purse.
Salesman: Purse. Gotcha. Okay, well, let’s take a look.
We purchased a 2014 Honda CRV. It had a place to put my purse. And everything else I wanted except the luggage rack, which Honda installed for me. You’d think it be good riddance to the Odyssey. It wasn’t.
The nostalgia hit me when I was cleaning out my minivan, getting it ready for sale. I was reaching under seats and into storage nooks, evoking emotions and extracting memories along with loose change and band-aide wrappers, piling it all onto my driveway for sorting.
This van used to smell like chlorine, because my oldest was a swimmer and I drove lots of carpools, meaning a wet towel was forever being left inside to bake and release its chemical scents into my cloth interior. Now she’s a swammer (retired swimmer).
It sometimes reeked of teenage boy sweat because my son plays basketball and seldom used the locker-room showers before climbing in to ask “What’s for dinner” or “Can we get Qdoba?’ Now he drives himself home from practice.
It used to smell like sour milk because a sippy cup would inevitably roll under the seat to start the process of making cottage cheese. Now my youngest won’t even drink milk.
It was covered in dog hair from our Golden Retriever and coffee stains decorate the carpet. Well, at least the dog still sheds and coffee still stains.
Here are some of the things I found as I cleaned out the Odyssey:
- A complete change of clothes in size 3T – pants, top, underwear, socks, shoes –My youngest now wears a size 8, but in the not so distant past, a mess that would require a complete change of clothes was a very real possibility.
- Multiple cloth rags, one tucked under each seat in case of a large spill. They reminded me of the time my daughter got carsick on the way to camp; and the time my son had rotavirus; and all the carloads of kids who would spill their slushies, ice creams and milkshakes onto the carpeting, complimenting my numerous coffee spill stains.
- Two first-aide kits for an emergencies that thankfully never came. One kit contained a baby enema and “night-night juice” (aka Benadryl) that I can neither affirm nor deny dosing out to my daughter and my niece on a lengthy road trip wrought with whining and fussing.
- The remote control to an entertainment system that quit working two years ago when a Barbie movie borrowed from a neighbor got permanently stuck inside.
- A handheld can opener and enough food, some packaged, some petrified, to sustain me on a Whole30 eating plan for at least three days.
- A princess blanket that I discouraged my husband from purchasing at Disney when my daughter was three because I didn’t think she’d use it. I was wrong, and we never made a road trip without it. It came in quite handy a few years ago when I was snowed in at a swim meet in Crawfordsville, Indiana and had to stay in a nasty hotel that shared a parking lot with a strip club. I was reluctant to use their bedding, so I busted out the princess blanket for my daughter and I.
- A handful of my late father’s police department business cards, proving he was a detective and giving me some help in a avoiding a few speeding tickets.
- Four road flares (again, the cop thing — no car is complete without government-issue road flares – these are at least 30 years old).
- A Chick-fil-A placemat and a box of melted crayons from Applebee’s.
- 10 reusable grocery bags from Aldi’s, Wholefoods, Dierbergs and Schnucks.
- Three lip glosses.
- 12 pony tail holders.
- A stack of bank deposit slips from a bank I left six years ago.
- $3.57 in change.
- And a partridge in a pear tree (Couldn’t resist).
I’m almost 50 years old. My oldest is 21 and just started law school. My middle child is 18, a senior in high school this year, most likely going away to college in 2017. My baby is 9 and hasn’t worn a size 3T for many moons.
As I said, it was time to downsize.
So, I cried at the start of my mini-van days and I almost cried at the end of them.
It’s a minivan full of memories, representing an entire era of my life that has come to a end. How a metal box on wheels can bring me to tears like an old movie that I just can’t stop watching is a little beyond me, but it fills me with hope for my CRV!