Carpe Diem

February 7, 2011 by Katy Brown
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Switching from a minivan to a car is like moving from a farmhouse in the country to a one room apartment in New York City. As I recognize the first anniversary of owning a four-door crossover – neither car nor van, neither fish nor fowl – I am mindful of what I gave up to reclaim a slice of my former self.

It all started when I was six weeks pregnant with our second child.  Obviously, my sedan would no longer meet the growing needs of our family, so off we went in search of the van.  By the fourth tour of lots and showrooms, my afternoon “morning sickness” had hit with such a vengeance that I would’ve purchased anything containing a third row seat so I could lie down.  In fact, that’s exactly what happened.  After the eager salesperson pressed the automatic door opener and invited us to climb aboard, I crawled into the twin bed of a bench seat to ride out the nausea.

“Well, whaddya’ think?” the salesperson asked.  I uncovered my mouth and gestured for him to stop talking. “We’ll take it.”

I knew not the make or the model, how it drove or how it rode.

The morning after, however, is when I really felt sick.  Peering out the living room window, I looked at the brand new vehicle, parked so patiently in the driveway, waiting to be called for its first tour of duty.

The Minivan.  The Swagger Wagon.  The Grocery Getter.  The Family Truckster.  The Mom Mobile.

I began to grieve for my old car…sleek, sporty, and speedy. I longed for the cushioned heated seats, and the cool metal gearshift.  I missed the smell of cappuccino and Coco Chanel.   I had given up sparkling chrome and supple leather for suede-like upholstery and platinum-look hubcaps. I had canceled joyrides and the fast lane for playdates and the carpool lane.  It looked unfamiliar to me; it felt uncomfortable.   I felt as if I had traded in myself.

Before deciding to purchase a van, though, I did plenty of research and compiled a list of preferences.  It had to resemble my sedan in a few ways: black exterior, light interior, clean lines, important yet sophisticated.  The van must have passed the test, because when I dropped off my husband at the airport, I was ushered into a visiting politician’s motorcade. As I pulled away from the curb, I was motioned into procession with larger onyx-colored Suburbans and Expeditions, which I joined with a sense of confused pride.

But those “fleeting” moments didn’t last long.  While I admit that drop-down DVD players and back-up warning alarms are nifty, as is the ability to walk through rows of seats like a flight attendant (Pretzels? Apple juice?), it was still a van.

Forty-eight months passed, and when the payment book reached its last coupon, I started to crave change.  My husband kept instructing me to “respect the van” and its many uses, but I ignored him.  After several e-mail pleas and forwarded links to dealership websites, he surrendered and agreed to look around. Worn down by comparing and contrasting options, he signed on the dotted line to commit to a new 2010 crossover.  With seating for five and enough room for a golden retriever to hunch down, I drove off the lot feeling like Katy, not Mommy.

So, as I observe my first anniversary in the crossover, I pay my respects to the van, with its wide-open spaces and built-in entertainment.  I stop for a moment of silence, after opening and closing multiple doors (on my own), and after cramming bags of groceries behind the front (and rear) seats.  I pause to celebrate my decision to do things the hard way.

Because, baby, that’s how I roll.

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4 Responses to “Carpe Diem”

  1. TriciaNo Gravatar says:

    It’s funny how we feel defined by different things in our lives. Cars, jobs, roles, etc. But we do. I think we also get defined by the stages of life. You are moving out of baby-hood, and on to what…elementary-hood? I’m sure you will recall the years with the van with fondness. I remember what car I brought my baby home in…and think of it with a sentimental wistfulness. Wonder if it’s still helping a family somewhere?

    • Katy BrownNo Gravatar says:

      I was grateful to be able to buy a minivan and grateful to have two children to ride in it, but my gosh… that thing was a heap of trouble. Everything went wrong in the electrical system, and I couldn’t parallel park to save my soul. I traded it with big scrape marks on the side where I nailed the mailbox trying to turn into the driveway.

      I will say, though, the Ford Edge is SMALL. We almost didn’t get home from the beach! After luggage for four, two boogie boards, shopping bags, and everything else we picked up along the way, we couldn’t close the back hatch! That was Mike’s “I told you so” moment.

  2. CaraNo Gravatar says:

    We’ve borrowed my mom’s van on many occasions. One was a trip to Maine that would’ve been miserable in our tiny cars (a Focus and a Civic). We came straight back from Maine and went to a birthday party for some dear friends. All the dads were in the parking lot, admiring the roomy van with it’s fold down seats, double doors and roomy hatch. I had to laugh, thinking that only a few years ago they were admiring engines, paint jobs and horsepower. My, how priorities change.

  3. CicilyNo Gravatar says:

    I didn’t know about the motorcade ;)
    Cars…boy do I have a history, and yes, I could write a book!

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