Recently, my 6 y.o. son began complaining that we need a new car. He would prefer a minivan.
“We don’t need a new car,” I snarled, “this one’s only nine years old. It runs just fine.”
My defensiveness surprised me. I began appraising the situation through more critical eyes: the car has a certain musty smell; the leather upholstery is discolored; the floor mats haven’t seen a vacuum this decade. In truth, I’m too lazy to shop for one. My discomfort level hasn’t risen high enough yet. Also, the car has a history….
As my daughter’s first birthday approached, my sedan seemed to shrink. So did my hopes for finding lasting friendships with other stay-at-home moms in my neighborhood. My status as a part time graduate student/new mom put me on a lonely path. Buying a vehicle reflected my identity crisis.
Our suburban parking lots were populated with three vehicles: minivans, SUVs, and luxury SUVs. The luxury SUVs moms intimidated me. The minivan mammas and the SUVs were generally safe unless they displayed bumper stickers bragging about their children’s academic or fitness exploits or personalized license plates such as “TWINNSS.”
Aside: Yes, I have always been snarky. Previously, I was quieter about it.
For a while, a particular minivan made advances toward me with its power side windows. These weren’t the pop-out windows that reminded me of a blue and white Ford Econoline van that I’d once thrown up in as a child. “It looks more like a car,” I tried to convince myself.
I returned to my senses when I saw the new breed of vehicle – the Crossover. Only three car companies were manufacturing them at the time. Guilt-free SUV or stigma-free minivan might be the best description. “It’s like the compact version of a minivan on the interior, housed in the body of a SUV or a sporty station wagon,” I explained to someone who hadn’t seen one. I carefully avoided clichés like “the best of both worlds” or “a bit of heaven.”
An opportunity to be a trendsetter presented itself with the purchase. I could become the practical, yet sporty neighborhood mom: the one who shunned the warehouse shoppers’ dream vehicle, the one who cleverly avoided paying an extra 10K for the equivalent of a Tommy Hilfiger label slapped on my mother’s 1978 station wagon. I’d earn the envy of minivan moms and the praise of the hip Dual Income, No Kids (DINK) crowd consisting largely of my sister-in-law in Wisconsin and my newly married neighbors across the street.
I contemplated these potential accolades as I eyed the 2005 guide to buying new cars. I reassured myself that gaining stature in the community would reward my patience. And I knew that underneath the EPA’s estimated gas mileage and the racecar tires, I would essentially belong to the sisterhood of minivan mammas.
Aside: My SIL now has two kids and drives a minivan, as do many of my friends. The automaker no longer manufactures the model in our garage because better crossovers have edged it out. Nonetheless, come Saturday morning, I’ll be throwing my son’s soccer gear in the back end along with lawn chairs.