I’ve just wished happy birthday to a couple of friends on Facebook (I’ll say happy birthday the old-fashioned way, with a card, as well, but my, haven’t things changed?) At the same time, I’m also sending best wishes for achieving a major milestone to my … car. My minivan just hit 150,000 miles last night, fittingly, in the service of my family, on the way to the train station to pick up Bill.
Some might consider me ridiculous for feeling so sentimental about a car, for goodness sake, but remember, I based my first (and only) book on a collection of Suburban Mom essays titled “Tales from the Minivan of Life.” My Dodge caravan is more than just a vehicle for schlepping groceries around or taking me to and from work; it is a trusted friend and witness to the milestones of my own family’s life.
I even wrote a column about this car, describing how I spent so much time in it I should equip it with a mini-fridge stocked with all sorts of guilty pleasures for mom, including the best cheese and chocolate. I described how, should I ever become marooned, I could survive for days on the stray French fries and other food matter trapped in seats and other dark places.
It is a 2005 model, so we brought it home in late 2004. Katie had just entered high school. It was yet another in a long line of minivans, but this one was special, coming at the brink of a whole new segment of life –– the roller-coaster high school years. I remember reading books by psychologists suggesting having the most difficult teen discussions in the car, a neutral zone conducive to frank discourse, a place where eye contact was not necessary –– nay, even dangerous –– but where time trapped in a metal canister could bolster honesty and openness.
This is the car that carried us back and forth from Princeton all those years we commuted across Route 1 to the private schools there; the car that toted Will to Town Center School when he was but a wee grasshopper way shorter than I and able to nestle in my lap for a book. This is the car that carted a passenger in every one of its seven seats as I volunteered for carpool duty for gaggles of giggling girls and roughhousing boys. This is the car that groaned and sagged only just a little bit as we packed every nook and cranny with purchases from Bed Bath and Beyond and drove to Baltimore for freshman move-in day at college and then for every college move-in day thereafter.
This is the car that drove countless miles to the airport to drop off Molly for her flights back and forth from California, and now, still does the same route without complaint now that Katie is living out there.
Friends, including my husband, have gently suggested that it is time to get a replacement. After all, with two of my three children out of the house, one in the real world and the other at college, why wouldn’t I get something younger, sleeker, dare I say –– sexier?
I have thought about it but silently, to myself, lest my old friend think I am being unfaithful. The Prius has been at the top of my list, mainly because of the savings of time and money I have calculated. Katie told me she wants a mini-Cooper some day, but as cute as they are, they are a bit small for my taste. Molly wanted a Volkswagen Golf, but she is fine with the Jetta, Katie’s hand-me-down car. Boys are different. Will has a whole list of possible sports cars he would love to drive some day, and Bill, well, he already has a sports car that I conveniently cannot drive because it is a stick shift, nor would I care to even if I could.
And let’s face it, there is still no better vehicle for carting around a carful of boys — teenage boys at that — for a midnight run to Taco Bell. I can’t see Bill volunteering his car for the inevitable sprinkling of meat and cheese and lettuce that ends up on the floor. Somehow, it is always my trusty vehicle that carts the nasty garbage over to the town dump on bulky waste days, and to the vet when the dogs are particularly overgrown and odoriferous.
They say that cars are being made so well these days, that 200,000 miles is the new 100,000, just as 50 is the new 40, and even younger if your mind and body are willing to go there. I heartily believe this and am perfectly willing to see how far I can take it. It’s almost a challenge now; the gauntlet is down on the ground.
I suppose that I view my silver set of wheels as an extension of myself — definitely showing some signs of mileage — a bump or two here, a dent or scratch there, a couple of minor hiccups on especially cold mornings — but ultimately, very much dependable, trustworthy, and yes, still zippy when the occasion calls for it.