I have a love-hate relationship with my minivan.
It’s mostly love. Ninety percent love. OK, eighty-five percent. I remember being in my 20s and scoffing at the 30- and 40-somethings around me who had embraced the minivan stage of life, and thinking, “I will NEVER be that person. There is no way I will ever drive a minivan. Ever” And yet, here I am, rocking my 2011 Honda Odyssey. Black, because that makes it look sexy. Power doors, so they can magically open with the light touch of a button on my key fob, fascinating and delighting my children time and time again.
My two work BFFs and I used to have matching Honda minivans, parked side-by-side in our parking lot at work, announcing to the world our position in life without a word. My one friend coined the term “Uterus on Wheels” (UOW) when referring to her minivan, which is the most sad yet accurate description I have heard yet. She traded her UOW for a sporty little BMW. Mid-life crisis if you ask me, and unwise at this time when storage and function simply must take precedence over vanity.
I was recently at my local Honda dealership for a service appointment, and while I was there one of the salesmen was trying to talk me into buying a new car.
“What are you driving now?” he asked.
“A Honda Odyssey” I replied.
“You got kids? Married?” he inquired, and this is where I gave him the side-eye. I mean, does he know a lot of single gals without a partner and a gaggle of kids who drive around in minivans for giggles?
My husband was devastated when we first took the plunge into minivan-land. We were both 32 at the time, with a two-year-old and another on the way. The day we picked it up and drove off the lot, he appeared humbled and ashamed, his manhood challenged. Would he be strong enough to drive a UOW? Could he withstand this assault on his testosterone levels? He started calling it the “family mobile” and I told my two-year old our new van was a “cool car”. He repeated the phrase “cool car” in his cute little toddler voice which always intoned upward at the end of every phrase, so that each time he said it, it sounded like a question. “Cool car? Cool car?” Allllll the way home, we rode in our cool car, our toddler repeating his mantra from the back seat as if to convince us both that if you say it enough, it must be true.
But my new van WAS cool, especially with my pregnant belly and a toddler in arms. I no longer had to bend over and strain my back as I once did in my four-door sedan to buckle my little one into his car seat. Loading up the trunk after my weekly grocery haul was a breeze, and we had room for all the toddler and baby gear on our road trips to see family.
My kids are bigger now, but the UOW is still working overtime. My husband has since bought a Toyota Tacoma for him to drive, likely an effort to recover his manhood. He looks really cool in it, but guess what? It still doesn’t haul as much stuff as my UOW. Anytime he has to haul a big load, the UOW gets it done. Road trips are always a job for the UOW, which easily accommodates all of the suitcases, coolers, bikes, toys, and people that we need to bring with us. The man-mobile just can’t manage quite as much. There may be a metaphor in there.
All that said, my UOW is not without its faults. Her turning radius–not so good. I had an angry man in a little compact sedan flip me off the other week when I underestimated the breadth of my turn while coming out of a school parking lot onto a narrow side street, causing him to have to hit the brakes. Never mind that he was barreling down a side street adjacent to a school about 30 miles over the speed limit.
Parking can be a challenge. It’s kind of like trying to wiggle into a pair of skinny jeans one size too small. On a good day if you come at it from the right angle, it’s possible. But it’s uncomfortable, and sometimes once you get in, you can’t get out. Then you have to open the door a tiny crack, suck in, and scootch out, praying the person beside you won’t leave an angry note on your windshield. And parallel parking? Fuggeddaboutit. Just don’t.
She’s looking a little beat up these days, my UOW. She is bearing the scars of life with a young family. In this way, I feel like we understand each other. She has some exterior scratches, and the other day she had an unfortunate encounter with a deer. She tries to be pretty, but it’s really an uphill battle for her, what with the constant stream of Goldfish crackers getting ground into her upholstery and the dead bugs freckling her front-side. Her windows hide secret messages and pictures that can only be seen from the inside when the glass fogs up. We could probably survive at least two days after an apocalypse in there between the snack remnants that have fallen between the seat cracks and the half-empty water bottles camping out in all of the cup-holders. No one cares about washing the UOW consistently, though sometimes she is the recipient of a homespun car wash in the driveway, with kids in bathing suits who only manage to get her streaky-clean at best, and even with that her upper third goes completely untouched. I don’t think the UOW cares, nor do I, since we both know it is just a matter of time before the rain comes to wash away the soapy streaks. She is the embodiment of functionality. And I love her, streaks and all.
The other day, my husband said we probably won’t need our UOW much longer, now that the kids are getting older. He proposed getting a bigger truck for him, and downsizing my car. “But, what about all the high-school friends I will have to shuttle to and fro? And the family road trips? What about college move-in days??” He’s clearly not thinking this through all the way to the end.
We’re not ready for a vehicular hysterectomy quite yet, in my opinion.
So in the meantime, I shall drive my uterus proudly through town, racking up the miles and the memories, angering hurried men in compact sedans and inciting jeers from 20-year-olds who look upon my streaky, bug-speckled van and say, “I will never drive a minivan.”
Originally published on the author’s blog