Not quite van land
I’ve spent the last nine months wrestling with . . . stuff. Car seats. Strollers. Overflowing diaper bags. Heavy diaper boxes. Packages of wipes, towers of baby food jars, laundry — so much laundry — dragged down the hall.
And now, with my spirited son reaching the 23-pound mark, I’m wrestling with him. Florida alligator-style. Oliver tries to claw his way out of my arms constantly, so I must cling to him as he fends me off. (Pretty sure he does like me? Hard to say.)
The struggle really comes not inside the home, but as we’re leaving it: when I have one or all of those things to drag to the car. So . . . every day, basically.
My trusty vehicle — a no-nonsense sedan — has served me quite well over the last decade. It arrived in 2003 as trustworthy transportation for my daily college commute. Before then, I was rolling in an early-’90s Toyota Corolla that eventually faded from vibrant red to vintage pink. And I totally insisted on cow print seat covers.
Sometimes I am a mystery . . . even to myself. When my parents, sister and I trekked up to a Baltimore dealership, a salesman friend of my dad’s took us around the lot. Though we arrived with a plan, it never hurts to look at options.
“Think carefully,” Dad said, reminding me that I’d likely have this Toyota — yay, reliable Toyotas! — for the long haul. “Someday you could be driving your baby around in this.”
At 18, the idea of having a child was . . . murky at best. Heck, even as I stared — paralyzed, quite frankly — at a positive pregnancy test, it was crazy. But sure enough, 12 years later, I peek at my son in that backseat every morning.
And then? Then I feel like the roof is caving in on me.
Sunday was a prime example. By the time my husband and I loaded Oliver, his diaper bag, a stroller, the big Boppy cart cover, at least five bags of groceries, a can of paint and various other bits and baubles from the home improvement store into my car, I had to suck in my stomach. There was barely room for air.
As we struggled to shove a case of bottled water into the already-packed trunk, the words just flew from my mouth.
“You know,” I said, “this is when a minivan would be nice.”
Just like that, darkness fell around me: a tiny tornado of adulthood I should have seen coming, friends . . . but I missed the wailing sirens. A minivan. My mom drove — and still drives — a minivan. Lots of families have minivans. They’re comfortable, convenient . . . and actually luxurious. Before we even announced my pregnancy in 2014, my mother-in-law had purchased one herself. (“For hauling my quilting supplies,” she said, but c’mon: I saw that grandbaby glint in her eye.)
When I got into a car accident several years back, Mom loaned me her van during the repairs. And that old boy? Still plenty of power left in him. I was impressed.
But vans, however practical, have a . . . stigma. They’re a tangible mark of transition, a crossing-over: from young and free to (delightfully, though tiredly) encumbered. Plus? They’re expensive. Though I’m not quite ready to buy a one-way ticket to Mama’s Van Land, I’m imagining what life without a compact car — especially without my sweet cassette tape player — might look like.
A lot less huffing and puffing. And I’ll be shocked at the new technology, I’m sure.
It’ll be a little like being dropped in from . . . well, from 2003.
Hold on a second: just need to grab my Hanson CDs.