Tribute to a minivan: We who are about to drive salute you

When we were first married, we decided to sell S’s car and just keep one — my little Saturn. Why? Because we were young, in love, and I couldn’t drive a stick-shift to save my life.

Besides, we really didn’t need more than one car at that time. I was commuting downtown on the train and we lived in a crazy one-bedroom apartment so close to the tracks that the windows rattled and the floor shook every time a train thundered by. Great for commuting — rotten for living.

When I became pregnant with our first child, we moved farther away from the train lines. After M was born, juggling longer commutes with a day care schedule and only one car felt a bit like spinning plates while riding a unicycle the same time. But we still put off car shopping.

I think the breaking point came around the holidays. I’ll never forget bringing home our first (fake) Christmas tree. Baby M sat clipped into his rear-facing car seat, and S and I tried to cram the huge box into our little car’s trunk. The store was closing, it was getting darker and colder by the minute, and the darn thing would not fit, no matter how much we pushed on it. We finally decided to unpack all the fake tree parts and jam them into the car piece by piece. We filled the trunk quickly and then put the rest in the backseat, next to M who was falling asleep. It just barely fit. We drove home looking like we were floating on a sea of pine branches.

Shortly after that, we gave in and bought our second car — a minivan.

Our friends laughed at us. A minivan? How colossally suburban, how remarkably untrendy. Did we need an entire van for one child?

We didn’t care. It was magnificent. We no longer had to crunch and contort ourselves through the back door to fasten M into his car seat. If we wanted to sit in the back with him on long car trips, we could. With leg room. We routinely visited family who lived a day’s drive away from us, and stuffing all the baby gear into the Saturn had been a nightmare. Our first road trip with M and the minivan was a revelation. We might actually even enjoy traveling on the road again.

Being avid DIYers, we treated that van like a pick-up truck to haul supplies. Need paint? No sweat: shove it in the back. Drywall? No problem: drop the third seat and you’re good to go. Once we saw an outdoor fireplace at an estate sale and bought it on the spot, without worrying about the logistics of getting it and all five of us home. We popped one of the middle chair-like seats into the trunk, rearranged the kids’ car seats, shoved the fireplace in the side door, and took off. The minivan morphed into whatever shape we needed. It was so modular and amazing that when the aging Saturn needed replacing, we bought another minivan.

You read right: two minivans.  They even looked alike.

The Rookie (L) and Old Reliable (R)

At the time, we were eye-level deep in car seats and three kids and all the kids’ stuff. Since the original van was almost 10 years old, we realized that we would soon still have all the stuff minus the car seats but with bigger kids to haul around. So Minivan #2 with its flashy DVD player and automatic doors came home with us.

That was three years ago. The old van is now almost 13 years old and has about 150,000 miles on it. It’s lost a lot of its pep (like me) and looked a little dinged on the outside (also like me). It was going to need expensive maintenance soon if we’re to keep it, and yet no one preferred driving it over the new one.  It sat forlornly in the driveway for the past six months.

Our driving habits have changed drastically from 13 years ago. Now everyone works/goes to school within walking distance of the house. These micro-commutes have changed our lives to the point where I wondered if we really needed two cars.

Last week we sold it.

Both S and I knew it was the right thing to do (because no one had driven it in forever), but it was still weird letting go of it.  It was that minivan who helped me truck around my first baby and later my oldest child and twin babies.  It drove to school, to the doctor’s office, to grandma’s house, to stores, to play dates, to friends’ houses, and to Disneyworld (among other vacation spots) through snowstorms, driving rain, rush-hour and holiday traffic.  It never quit on us — not once — which made me love it even more.  I know it’s strange having all these memories tied up in that van, but I do.

And then there was one.  Again.

Now we only have the one van, and I think we’re going to try to keep it that way for a while. Right now, it works for us, but I know things will change again in the next few years. At the very least, M will be driving. Our commutes could change again (you never know). Trying to chaffeur three kids with their packed schedules to all of their events might prove impossible with only one car.  We’ll see what our needs will be.

This idea is either crazy or genius.  I’m a little nervous to see which outcome proves right.

About thethingaboutjoan

Mom of three who knits a little, bakes a lot, crafts a bit and blogs about it all.
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8 Responses to Tribute to a minivan: We who are about to drive salute you

  1. Katie B says:

    I am considering a new vehicle – I want a mini-van because I am more practical than trendy. Which make/model do/did you have?

    • We’ve got a Honda Odyssey. In fact, that’s the old make/model minivan we’ve ever had. The first one, Old Reliable, was so great, we bought a newer one when the Saturn was a goner. Just one gal’s opinion, but I think they’re great.

  2. alenaslife says:

    I was so sure I would never drive a minivan, but I now live in my Honda Odyssey. It’s perfect for me. (And I loved your comparison to a lot of mileage and little dinged up — aren’t we all?)

    • Love those Odysseys! Mine feels like a second home too, and it would require a BIG adjustment to haul everyone + the puppy + their stuff around in a different car. Even the weekly groceries to feed this crew take up the entire trunk.

      And I loved your comment: “Aren’t we all?” Cracked me up!

  3. amyp22 says:

    My husband traded my minivan for a sort of SUV this time last year. Oh how I miss the van as do the kids. There is no room for stuff or legs in the back. Hope your one van plan works well. Would love to be a one car family.

    • Do you think the car companies aim the whole minivan design at moms, thinking we’ll persuade the dads to come around? Wide automatic sliding doors made just so you can open the back doors and the trunk while pushing a shopping cart and yelling at your kids to watch for cars in the parking lot. Add a trunk that can actually hold eleventy-billion grocery bags + school stuff + a cello and I’m a goner. It’s like they’ve been watching my life for a long long time.

      I’m still a little nervous about this one-van plan. Seems so strange NOT to have a second car, even though we never drove it. I keep feeling like I should do some sort of “please-don’t-break-down-or-get-into-a-wreck” ritual every time I hop into it to take someone somewhere. Wonder if I’ll get over that…

  4. familyvibe says:

    I love your site and have been following it. I recently nominated you for the Very Inspiring Blog Award! Receive your reward at: Have wonderful day!

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