The Gleeful Gourmand: Hell Freezes Over In Our Garage

Monday, May 23, 2011

Hell Freezes Over In Our Garage

Even before I had kids, there weren’t a whole lot of things I said “never” to. I’m a firm believer that saying “never” simply sets one up for failure – especially when it comes to food. For instance, there are some foods I dislike, but I have tried each and every one of them, sometimes multiple times just to make sure of my opinion (salmon still grosses me out, cottage cheese makes me shudder at the mere thought, and I cannot abide by olives).

There was one particular thing I did say “never” to, however.

“I will never, NEVER get a minivan,” I’d boldly proclaim whenever the subject came up. “I will find a way to make it work, but a minivan will NEVER be in my garage.”

I didn’t scoff at other people who had them; Lord knows I could see the benefits, and had even driven a couple on occasion and found them practical and useful. But I still didn’t want to own one. And then this past December we went for an ultrasound to see what we thought was going to be one baby. Turns out, there were two babies. I was utterly speechless, while my husband simply sat there and laughed nervously. When I finally found my voice, the very first thing I said was, “Oh no, we have to get a minivan.” The enormity of the situation, this life-altering news was completely summed up in that one sentence. Our lives were turned upside-down, and that “never” that I thought was the one I could get away with was a sudden reality.

I’ve owned a few different cars over the years. My very first was a 1981 Nissan Sentra hatchback, with the 5th gear broken. It whined in protest anytime it approached 50 mph, so it was really only good to go to school, and maybe to the mall. My second was what I felt was my “real” first car, a used Toyota Corolla. I researched it thoroughly, and settled on red. When I finally bought my own car with my own money, it was a brand-new Toyota Corolla, also in red. It was a great car, and served me well for many years. But after I had my son, I found that getting his baby carrier in and out of the Corolla was really difficult. Not only was it a tight squeeze, but my height was also a problem – I was constantly banging my head, and my back practically screamed as I moved him back and forth. It was time for a new car. Right around that time, ads started running for the Nissan Rogue. I’ll never forget that I actually saw the ad on the show “Heroes,” in what is now widely regarded as one of the most blatant ad placements ever (“Daddy! You got the Nissan Rogue?! Can I drive it to school??”).

I didn’t care. My eyes were ablaze. I wanted that car. I researched it, of course, and drove a couple of other cars, but I knew what I wanted. And I got it – in red. It was everything I dreamed it would be. Plenty of space for kiddies, sporty, and fun for me. It was MY car. I loved that car so much.

In my heart of hearts, I knew that with three kids, the minivan was going to be practical, easy to use (hello sliding doors!), and was a true necessity. Several of my friends had Honda Odysseys, and they all loved it. They promised me that I would love it too. But I’ll tell you the truth, when we finally purchased it this past weekend, I felt deeply unhappy. As I drove my Rogue for the very last time to the dealership, I blasted a final song, The Civil Wars’ “Barton Hollow.” I felt the words were fitting:

“I’m a dead man walking here. That’s the least of all my fears.”

I even said out loud to myself, “It’s just a thing.” But what it felt like was something much different. It felt like part of my identity was being stripped away. I had always owned a red car. This one, thanks to a hideous color Honda calls “red,” was polished metallic. And let’s be honest, thanks to the media and other outlets, the moment you purchase a minivan, you are lumped as a woman into a label: Soccer Mom. Even if you don’t have a kid who plays soccer, it doesn’t matter. It’s a stigma, and you are a driving billboard for it. It doesn’t matter who you are as a woman, your likes or dislikes, etc. If you have kids, a minivan, and are vaguely interested in organized sports, you are now a Soccer Mom. There is very little else about you to the outside world that matters. You are one of the nameless thousands that shuttles rugrats and have no personality. And that was exactly my fear. That my identity as a woman with a real personality was suddenly being stripped away. It seemed utterly unfair: My husband got to keep his awesome Acura MDX, but my beloved car had to go.

Here’s the reality now that I actually own the Honda Odyssey. I really, really like it. It’s a great car. It’s unbelievably comfortable, it handles like a dream, and they made some really smart choices. Its dashboard is actually fashioned after their luxury line, Acura, so I kind of feel like I am driving Buck’s car. Until it comes to parking, at no point do I feel like I’m driving a boat. There are more cupholders than I can shake a stick at, and the storage is incredible. There are so many little extras that are really neat, and also really helpful. The truth is, it’s going to be a great vehicle for our expanding family for years to come. And Buck has already promised that when the kids are grown enough, I can get whatever car I want, so hello Aston Martin (yeah right)!

I think in the end, all those “nevers” are really what you make of them. The reality, versus what you’ve built up in your mind rarely coincide. Maybe to the outside world I look just like thousands of other moms driving around Richmond. But the reality of my life and what I make of it is up to me. In the meantime, I’m going to count my cupholders (er, blessings) that I can actually afford to drive a nice car like this. I’m going to love every inch of the extra lumbar support, space, and beautiful interior (until the twins come along, and that goes to pot). And I’m going to crank the stereo up, rock out, probably go to some soccer games, and enjoy the hell out of it.


Kirsten Oliphant said...

I understand the stigma fear, but being a soccer mom is in your heart, just like how the guy on the Bachelor last night wore a mask so people could see his heart. Okay, maybe not. I hope you can start to really love it, though! I'm for sure loving mine!

Kirsten Oliphant said...

PS- how are you enjoying your van now? And you are so incredibly tall!!! I am SO much shorter than our minivan. Or is your van short? I don't know. Whatever. I'm a midget.

Jenna said...

I really love the van now. I'm sort of smitten with it, in fact. And it's SO practical. That always wins me over. And, um, yes, I suppose I'm fairly tall for a woman. I'm 5'8". But, er, we've been friends now for about 12 years, and you're just now realizing I'm tall??

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