Friday, January 27, 2012

Ode to Our Odyssey

Don't worry, I am not going to physically write an ode, I just like the alliteration
Mini-van Confessions 
Season 1 / Episode 2
We walk almost everywhere, in fact, I don't even like to drive*, but most of all, I've always prided myself on being unique.  One day, a couple of years back, we were in a hurry.  I needed to swing by the grocery store so instead of walking to school to get the kids, I drove. We got back home to hurriedly jump into the van, only to remember that I had driven it to school to "save time."
Frustrated, I sighed aloud, "How did we walk right past our own minivan and miss it?"
To which my very logical, slightly snarky, and then 6 year old son replied, "Ummm... maybe because we have the same car as everyone else in Suburbia?!?" 
So how did I get to this point? of following the masses, of accepting my destiny, of embracing the Odyssey?  Just like
moving to Suburbia, the love for my Odyssey was a journey, not something innate.  Most days I roll my eyes at the cliche of it all, but I've gotten over the embarrassment, I'm secure in myself, and I'll finally admit:  I love my minivan. For some reason, I think the history of my cars is important background.  I'm not someone who trades a car in easily; it isn't a short-term commitment.  I've been known to drive cars until they have no possible hope of repair.

1979 Ford Pinto (obviously named Paco) - 3 door hatchback - rarely got above 50 mph without shaking (dad said it leveled out again around 65 but I was afraid to try), strong smell of gas, needed to hold the door closed while rounding corners, only an AM radio, and but one windshield wiper (if there were 2, they would get locked up with each other like an old type-writer).  Yes, as always, that is my dad working on it, before I drive off to college.  As a plus, I became very familiar with the "free top off policy" from Jiffy Lube.  I think the Pinto went through more oil than gas.  It had 3 (non-dangerous) engine fires** before giving up on it. 

1987 Toyota Corolla SR5 - Stick-shift 3 door hatchback with a sun-roof; named 2-Tone Luke because it had a red front end and a navy back end.  My only real accident was in that car; I slid on black ice, ran into the back of a semi, and chopped off the cute little lights that popped up.  Eventually, the axle broke and my good friend/mechanic said that it needed to be put down.

1997 Honda Civic - Stick-shift 3 door-hatchback with a moon roof; purple sparkly eggplant ("affectionately" called Barney by my DH who had to drive it to school after the babies were born), no power steering, and my first new car.  I loved that car.  I finally sold it after nearly 200,000 miles for a couple grand to a kid who wanted to "trick it out" and race it.  It was totally un-drivable and had to be towed away.

That is it.  Those are my cars, all small, all hatchbacks.  I had been strongly anti-mini-van (seems sacrilege to admit now).  We were only having 2 kids and I valued compact and fuel efficient.  I admittedly also found them predictable, un-chic, and WAY too matronly.  I stood firm and proceeded to load my kids into my husband's car, at the time a white, severely hail-damaged, 4-door Civic that needed the heat permanently on full-blast to keep the engine from over-heating.  Since I didn't drive often or far (especially in the summer), this wasn't a "problem".

~~~~~~I remember the day distinctly (insert wavy lines and pretend to go back in time)~~~~~~

My best friend from college came over for a visit, and she pulled up to the curb in a RED KIA MINIVAN.  I couldn't stop laughing (at her).  I couldn't believe that she had buckled and that she had become, "that mom".  Next was she going to be in tapered jeans with a pleated front?!  I could be wrong, someday I'll have to check the archives, but I believe in one of our columns, we actually openly mocked people who drove red minivans.  If it wasn't published, it was definitely something we said in private (oh the Naivety and Ignorance of Youth).

We decided to carpool to the zoo, and in a matter of minutes, we had easily loaded 4 kids (all under 3), 2 double strollers, ourselves, snacks, and it didn't involve any sort of Tetris maneuvers.  We chit-chatted as the kids were lulled by Dragon Tales in the back seat.  On the way out of the zoo, the doors slid right open (no worries about them bashing into the car next to us), everyone climbed in, some fell asleep, it was GLORIOUS. 
When my DH got home, I made a nice dinner, turned to him, and said, "My love, you were so right.  We NEED a minivan."
That very evening we went searching.  I felt sick at the price tag and thought we would be paying this thing off until our kids were in college (not true, it has been long since paid off and still runs like new).  We forwent the sunroof, DVD player, and leather, but we procured really low financing. I have never once regretted that 2004 Odyssey purchase a day in my life.  It isn't as much an emotional response as a practical one.  We've lugged sheets of drywall, mattresses, couches, Christmas Trees, and mega Costco sprees.  We've taken comfortable road-trips and rushed runs to the ER. 

The pictures are all courtesy of my mom
Admittedly, there is a bit of the emotional response too; I do love to car-pool.  Beyond the fuel & time savings, it is about the camaraderie and  the friendships that are developed.  Memories like the other day, of Friday nights picking-up after a co-ed birthday party.  My daughter and a bunch of her friends, my son and a bunch of his friends and the 6 of them fit comfortably and sang the latest pop at the top of their lungs, the whole 35 minute car ride home.  The van is over-pouring with happy kids just having finished jumping their hearts out at x-treme trampoline... 

...and I am one Happy Mom who doesn't really care that I am officially Driving a Minivan and part of the Stereotypical Middle-Class Suburban Life.  

In fact, I like it.

*On our Voyage Odyssey last summer, my foot never touched the gas pedal.  I am looking forward to the day when I am old enough to finally give up my license.  It isn't that I am a bad driver, only one accident (unless you count the times that I hit the garage while backing in, but since we have an exactly two car garage and we only have a couple of inches margin, I find it excusable).  I just don't like the responsibility of it all.

**I've been asked what a "non-dangerous engine fire is".  Basically, Paco did not go up in flames while on the interstate. I would try to start The Pinto and smoke and fire would come from under the hood.  I would quickly turn off the ignition, step out of the car, Public Safety would put out the fire, and all was good.  I did end up getting a small fire extinguisher and kept it in the car just in case.  I clearly did not have helicopter parents.

~The SR5 and the Civic were both really fast (especially after the Pinto) and I almost accidentally lost my license WAY before my time and had to take a full day "driving safety" course with a test at the end just to be able to drive myself home.

~~Oh, and Shannon, thank you.  I had forgotten how funny this was.  I am so anti-advertisment but even I appreciate them if they are this creative.  If you haven't seen this commercial, take a minute to indulge.


  1. FYI - Promising to post on Friday mornings isn't fun. Thankfully, I'm a liberated woman who doesn't mind saying she is wrong and changing her mind. With January not even over, I am bailing on posting every Friday. I will write when I feel like it and not when I don't. So there!

  2. My dream car is a Dodge Sprinter.. the kind that Fed Ex truck man drives... I hear you can get them with an aisle down the middle so your kids don't have to touch. That sounds glorious to me. But for now, our minivan is paid off which makes it my dream car :)

  3. Yes, we mocked the red mini-van. Deep down I think that is why I chose it. If you are going to go minivan you might as well go all the way. If I had enough money for the airbrush flames, I would have done that too. Now, I'm just waiting for one of my kids to make the honor roll do my van can be complete. A minivan in college would have been the coolest!

  4. Oh how our dreams have changed!

    Sarah, I can only imagine that the minivan has gotten alittle tight by this point :0)

    And Carrie - I will be forever grateful to you for many things, not the least of which is that life-changing first ride in the red minivan. <3