Ode to my mini-van

It all started innocently enough

Today, I traded in my silver Toyota mini-van with a dent in a rear panel and 40 bumper stickers all over the back of it for an “almost new” used Toyota Camry. The Camry is a sea green, blue color, “aloe green” they call it. It is not a “mommy-mobile” like the mini-van and now that my youngest is 7, we are all ready to say good-bye to the cheerios all over the car. But, like any kid, I struggle with the desire to let go of who I was and grow into the person I was meant to be.
I am an accountant by trade. I was a CPA for 20 years. I am a practical, organized person as a result of some success in my profession. My life has been mostly all work and no play and I definitely do not get attached to non-living things. Or at least the old me didn’t!
I bought the van in July 2005, just a couple of months after pivotal events in my marriage sent me to marriage counseling with my now ex-husband. I was stuck in the trees at the time and did not notice until today that there was probably a reason for a new car at that time in my life. I remember feeling good about myself that I could finally get over the aversion to a vehicle that spoke “mom” in every fiber of it’s being. I was a mom, after all, what was so bad about that? I had three beautiful children, the oldest was 8, youngest not yet 1. I felt proud that I could be practical and make a choice where I finally acknowledged the parent in myself, a side I denied for years despite the evidence. I negotiated the deal with the salesman, my husband at the time sitting on the sidelines. I felt like such a grown-up!
Little did I know all the twists and turns my life would take with my new silver beauty. She took us to doctors, playdates, grocery stores, work and vacations. She also got me to and from marriage counselors. Later she got me back and forth to my attorney, and then years of court appearances. She kept us warm in winter and cool in summer. When the kids needed to express themselves, she became a canvas for bumper stickers.
It all started innocently enough with a 2007 Boston Red Sox World Series Champion bumper sticker. My ex had moved out about six months prior. He would not have condoned any defacement of our vehicle for any reason, so when we saw the sticker and the kids wanted to share in the solidarity of being a part of Red Sox Nation, who was I to decline? And so it began.
Maybe 8 months or so later, one of our first single parent excursions was to Coco Key, an indoor water park on the North Shore. We had a blast, although I was scared to death of losing a child in the chaos (and at one point, thought that I had!). We celebrated my two boys’ October birthdays that weekend and stayed overnight for our first time “alone.” When they gave us a bumper sticker upon leaving, what else could we do with it? It memorialized our first “fun date” together and gave us all a lasting memory to tell our friends about over and over again when they pointed to the sticker. And then there were two . . . .
Admittedly, those first bumper stickers felt really good, not just because of the memories they brought back, but because I knew my husband, who had been gone for over a year now, would never have allowed it. It was petty and shallow, for sure, but I have to say it felt really good. Dare I admit that in some ways, it still does?
Well, I know now that bumper stickers are like rabbits, they procreate and procreate until someone has the good sense to say no more. My son, now a teenager, had to have his skateboarding stickers next, making a declarative statement about who he was. From skateboarding came stickers from his first “solo” trip to California, where we now reside, on a backpacking excursion with his two aunties and other family (Long Live Mono Lake!). He is the only one still in our family unit of 4 to have been to Yosemite, and that is clearly id’d now on the back of the van. He saw his first bear and caught his first squirrel (via fishing pole, another proud moment) on that trip. An experience of a lifetime for a 9 year old and one we were both proud of. And lo and behold, more stickers were spawned.
My daughter, now a teenager also, decided now that it was time to contribute her artistic talents to the canvas of the car, and the Ben and Jerry’s “if it’s not fun, why do it” came on board, with numerous others. As her need for self-expression grew, the feminist side of us both made itself manifest in an Eleanor Roosevelt favorite, “Speak your truth, even if your voice is shaking”. Our personal philosophies decorated the car with urgings to keep peace, to take care of the earth and to listen to and protect the children. Soon, there were no empty spaces for any more stickers, and when we declared our firm intentions to be Sox fans forever, we had to move to the rear side window. OMG!
In June 2011, after years of legal wranglings, my ex-husband and I reached an agreement through mediation that allowed my children and I to move from Massachusetts to the west coast, to California where I have parents, a sister, sister-in-law and brother-in-law. The long journey of the breakdown of a marriage was ending, finally, and little did I know it, so was the mini-van. My children and I moved in early August, and after too much heartache and headache, the mini-van finally followed on September 30, 2011. I cried like a baby when she got here, I was so happy to see her. I had no idea the comfort she had given to me over the years, no idea the net of safety and stability she had provided. She had been my security blanket in the midst of turmoil and growth. And I guess I loved that now old silver beauty.
At 87,000 plus miles, she had seen better days, but she was paid for and she served her purpose of transporting us to and from school, shopping, doctors and dentists and all that busyness that life entails. I had no plans to say good-bye to her, I was too happy to see her again. After getting her smog tested, insured and registered here in California, I finally got down to brass tacks and started dealing with an issue with the driver’s door that had been plaguing her for months. What I thought was a $50 issue of a hinge turned out to be a $3500 issue of a new door. Add to that new tires and a timing belt, and I knew her time with us was done. So, just a couple of months after entering the new life in the state of California, she is being put to rest today. I always thought I was too practical to be so connected to anything inanimate, but as I take this day of transition and consider my sadness, I realize that for the last 6 and a half years, I loved my car and my “mommy-ness.” My mommy-ness will last forever and tomorrow I will move on. But today, may she rest in peace.

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