Twelve years ago, Labor Day weekend, pregnant with twins, and parents to a three year-old, we crossed over to where every younger person who still thinks they are cool dreads to go. We bought a mini-van.
We were no longer cool.
We were so uncool, in fact, that we kept this van until this past week when we picked up a new crossover vehicle that acts like a van but looks like an SUV. It’s too late to be cool but at least we are not an eyesore anymore driving through the hood in that ugly, old thing.
Why on earth did we keep it so long? And why am I feeling sad that I let it go?
The thinking went like this: Maybe if we kept it long enough, the kids will mature to the point where we won’t have to buy a second mini-van. Maybe they’ll be able to sit next to each other without fighting and maybe they’ll become neater and treat the next car better. (So far, fighting is avoided because we can keep them apart in the new three-row car and food is forbidden at least until the new car smell fades)
But here’s the kicker. In that van, is twelve years of memories.
I brought my twins home from the hospital in that van. I endangered my life many, many times walking through the car as my husband drove on the highway to replace a pacifier, blow a nose or deliver a much needed snack or bottle. I changed stinky diapers and toilet-trained little travelers in the rear hatch staging area.
In that van is ten years of trips to Vermont in the summer. Stuffing that car to the gills so that every child contraption like porta-cribs and portable high chairs could make our trip easier. Mile markers like catching first-fish and getting sunburned. Learning about snakes and farm animals and years of picking so many blueberries we’d have to invent recipes to use them all up before they rotted.
Each kid’s emergency room trips were chauffeured in that van. The most dramatic happened in Vermont and that van saw us there. Little pumpkin girl fell out of bed and bit through her lip. A faint scar still lives just under her lower lip line but how proud she is to be the only girl of three kids and the only one to have a trophy scar.
In that van are countless hours of travel to see Grandmas and Grandpas, Aunts and Uncles and loads of cousins. Hours of car games that included learning the alphabet by finding road signs that started with each letter. So many trips and so many showers of love reflected in the gifts we brought home for our children in that car. The Christmases, Hannukahs and birthdays, not to mention the baby shower before the twins were even born.
In that van went stains on the carpet that represent some of the funniest stories we tell as a family. Ice tea, soda, and ketchup pale in comparison to the stubborn blueberry stains that grace the floor of the back seat, impossible to scrub out. One of our travelers was car sick, often. Call us what you will, but for a while, we thought she kept on getting a stomach flu at the most unfortunate times. Lo and behold, the kid got car sick. A lot. And the worst was the blueberry scenario. It was Vermont and a load of blueberries were consumed by this cherubic, strawberry-blonde toddler. All was fine until we were on the road for thirty minutes and she began hemorrageing from her mouth. Or so I thought. I flung my seat belt off and got to the back of the van faster than a cartoon character on steroids and saw it was not blood but blueberries. Yea, it’s gross but that’s one for the record books.
That van saw infant car seats be replaced by car seats and then boosters. It saw my eldest grow tall enough to ride in the passenger seat. It heard many a threat of privileges that would be taken away if compliance was not reached. It smelled many stages of childhood into teen hood that bare no further repeating. It witnessed fights and the evolution of electronics as they slowly took over our lives. It drove on the weekend after 9/11 when even cars were being nice to each other on the road as the people who drove them opened their hearts to what really mattered in life. It’s been fueled by gasoline that used to be called ‘unleaded’ but is now ‘regular’ and that ranged in price from $1 a gallon to $7 or $8 a gallon during Katrina. It answered every prayer I said about taking us safely from one place to another.
I can’t believe that on the morning we were trading in the van, I sat in it and thanked her for twelve years of safety and service, but I did. And then I let her go.
I am relishing ‘new car smell’, enjoying a very smooth ride and feeling relieved that my teenager can feel cool instead of embarrassed when we drive up to the school.
Can’t get too attached this time. This one goes back in 39 months. It’ll be the vehicle for dropping the first-born son off at college. That’s all the separation I’ll be able to bear.
PS. If you are missing my blog posts, they’ve slowed down because I am writing almost weekly for Huffington Post. Check it out: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/laura-berman-fortgang/