The Meat and Potatoes of Life: Time again for a wagon with swagger

| January 17, 2014 | 0 Comments
Molinari

Molinari

Lisa Smith MolinariContributing Writer

If I have to spend one more day in this filthy, salt-crusted, paint-chipped, rusted, dog hair-filled, good-for-nothing tin can of a minivan, I’m gonna lose it!

This thought brings me to a near mom meltdown each morning during my daily school drop-offs.

I used to really love my minivan, but nowadays, I can’t stop dreaming of trading her in.

I remember the first time I drove her. It was 2006, and we were stationed in Norfolk, Va. Our old, stale, french fry and Goldfish cracker-filled, spit-up, scented, dented, scratched, rusted, three hub-capped, hunter green Plymouth Voyager was ready to give up the ghost.

Having three young kids and our first mortgage, we knew that buying used was the only way to go.

Other than an almost imperceptible dent in the hatch back door and a mere 8,000 miles on the odometer, our “new” Toyota Sienna was perfect, and even had a lingering bit of new car smell. We drove away feeling like we were riding in the upholstered lap of pure luxury.

But, like every new car we’ve had, it doesn’t take long for the novelty to wear off. Inevitably, Happy Meals get dropped, dogs are wet, kids get carsick, rocks crack windshields, grocery carts ding doors, and before we knew it, our minivan had become nothing more than a rolling ghetto.

In all fairness, our minivan has served us well, traveling with us on an overseas military tour in Germany and sheltering us from the baking sun during a two-year tour of duty in Florida.

Now, stationed in Newport, R.I., our minivan is really showing her age. After 130,000 miles, her glossy paint has faded to a dull dirty white, which is most often hazed with salt and grime.

Her alloy wheels are corroded and permanently stained with brake dust. Her hood is dented and pitted with spots of rust.

Much to my middle school daughter’s embarrassment, the sliding doors freeze shut at the slightest chill, requiring her to climb out the trunk in the morning car pool line. And worst of all, the interior is almost unbearable, with God knows what ground into the upholstery, carpeting, vents and faux Naugahyde grain. Seriously, it’s gross.

But with three teenagers in private schools and college tuition bills on the horizon, buying a new car right now is about as likely as me keeping my New Year’s resolution to stop eating seconds.

So, rather than focusing on the filth, I’ve got to concentrate on the positive.

VW_Bug_model_Sepia_WIn my youth, I drove a 1975 Volkswagen Beetle for 11 years. Despite her torn, horsehair-stuffed upholstery, useless windshield wipers and finicky alternator, we developed a symbiotic relationship. I could expertly hover in that sweet spot between the clutch and gas on a steep hill in first gear without using the break.

When her battery went dead, I could pop the clutch without assistance, jumping in to put her in gear after pushing her myself from the open driver’s side door. I could tune in the most obscure radio station, because I knew all the points on her radio-tape deck dial.

Despite her age, I was sad to see my old Beetle go when marriage and child rearing made her impractical. Now, when marriage and child rearing make my old minivan the only practical vehicle for our family, I need to channel that same symbiotic feeling.

I guess I have always liked the way she holds my coffee cup in her center console. I must admit, she has always kept all my favorite radio stations stored where I can reach them with the punch of a button.

I guess it is kind of nice to not worry when the dog jumps in, wet and dirty after a swim in the bay. And if we traded her in, I’d have to buy more school stickers for the back window, which would be a real pain, right?

Just like me, my old minivan might be showing her age, but I guess there’s still a little swagger left in my wagon.

(A 20-year military spouse and mother of three, Molinari has plenty of humor to share in her column, “The Meat and Potatoes of Life,” which appears in newspapers and at www.themeatandpotatoesoflife.com.)

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