A blogger can rationalize not blogging — blaming it on a new job, a trip to Asia, a kid in college, lack of free time, or even nothing new to say. But when that blogger’s raison d’être ceases to exist –when that blogger has reached a milestone, it seems only right that she should put aside her Sunday New York Times and do some writing.
My name is Alison and I am no longer a minivan-driving mom.
My minivan, my muse for 18 years, and my albatross for the past five years or more, is on its way to auction. As we watched it being driven away, I felt a bittersweet pang. Someday, I might be on the road and see someone else cruising along in my old bumpersticker-laden rig. Will they understand the double-entendre of the Kegels sticker? Will they believe, like I do, that people should wag more and bark less?
The van has been replaced by a beautiful Honda CRV, whose character has yet to be revealed. I can tell you that, driving to my neighborhood beach with the sunroof open (even though it was raining) and Springsteen’s Jungleland blaring from the speakers, because I had pushed a button on the steering wheel and commanded Siri to play it, this car has possibilities.
In my book, you’ll find the eponymous Minivan story, which chronicled my initial horror at becoming a new stereotype and my eventual realization that, despite the half-eaten cheese sticks strewn everywhere, the car was a haven of creativity and the one place where my disparate selves came together. There’s also a story about drivers license photos marking the passage of time, especially for women. Now, I realize that major purchases, especially those that require financing, are another way of chronicling your life.
In the four hours we spent at the Honda dealership last Friday night, and the subsequent 10 p.m. trip to Shanghai Gardens for post- document signing sustenance, Jeff and I had ample time to to take a drive down memory lane. First, we recalled minivan highlights — his mostly featuring epic diaper changes on road trips. Then we counted the number of cars we’ve each owned. The CRV is only my sixth car and third Honda, in 40 years of driving. Jeff has a three-car lead on me. I’ve owned two homes to his one, but he once had a boat. In our 22 years of marriage, we’ve purchased one refrigerator, a hot water heater or two, at least three dishwashers, two or three washing machines, and a few dryers. The next time we are stuck in a waiting room, we could count the number of urban pests we’ve battled together. We have raccoons to thank for a few expensive electronic cat doors and enterprising rats to thank for a dishwasher and a washing machine replacement, plus the repair of a few wires in Jeff’s car.
This blog and my book have chronicled new motherhood, caring for tweens, teens, and aging parents, and caring for one’s aging self in our youth-obsessed world. Recently, I’ve written about the weirdness of my current stage of life — a nest nearly empty and its adult occupants, no longer fixated on bringing worms to the fledglings or picking nits from youthful heads, trying to figure out what’s next.
“Welcome to the SUV stage of life,” said my friend Richard, who is a few years ahead of me on the life milestone path. That path sits before me like a shiny yellow brick road leading to Oz, with no thought of flying monkeys.
We used to joke that you needed a Hepatitis shot before riding in the minivan. My clean car is a clean slate, and I’ve proclaimed some rules: No eating or drinking or leaving garbage in the van and Daughter #2 (a mostly fine driver) doesn’t get to pilot it for the first year. Though in less than 24 hours of ownership, Daughters #1 and #2 and I have already squabbled about who controls the sound system, this time things will be different, as long as I can figure out how Apple Play actually works. Jeff attributes every parenting challenge we’ve had to my musical acquiescence in the minivan when the kids were little, leading to bad habits and reinforcing their generational need for constant curated experiences (“OMG, Mom, how can you live without Spotify Premium?”). Not this time. My car, my music. Plus, apparently aux cords are the new cup holders. There’s an individual plug-in for almost every passenger.
Last week, I was driving to work, when a man in a truck pulled up alongside me, smiling and waving hello. Amazon notwithstanding, Seattle is a smallish town. I rolled down my window and asked if I knew him. “No, but my name is Steve,” he leered. Maybe in my early minivan-driving days I would have secretly been relieved that someone other than my husband could still find me attractive, despite my uncool car. This time, I was outraged in a #MeToo kind of way, and, to be honest, bewildered. Who comes on to a 50+ year-old woman in a funky old minivan? After reassuring me that I’ve still “got it,” one of my young female colleagues told me she had recently driven behind me and admired my bumperstickers. Oh.
Will I feel the need to assert my individuality by adorning the new, ubiquitous gray car with personalization? Only time will tell. We’re getting roof racks installed tomorrow and getting ready to take this baby on the road.
I can’t wait.
Hey, it’s been ten months since you’ve written this blog. How about a recipe?
Last weekend, as usual, I woke up earlier than everyone else and made breakfast. I was cleaning out the fridge and realized I had all of the ingredients for a frittata. Before kids and when they were little, I made frittatas all the time — a paen to easy brunch sophistication. They’d been pushed aside by weekend demands for pancakes and Dutch babies and more pedestrian egg dishes, and lately scones. In the spirit of reclaiming my pre-minivan self, here’s the template for the frittata I made.