Finding swagger in my wagon

IMG_2960If I have to spend one more day in this filthy, salt-crusted, paint-chipped, rusted, dog-hair-filled, good-for-nothing tuna can of a minivan, I’m gonna lose it….

This is the thought that brings me to a near mom meltdown each morning during my daily school drop offs. I swear, 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, Virginia. 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 know it, our minivan has 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, Rhode Island, 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 think positively.

In my youth, I drove a 1975 Volkswagen Beetle for eleven 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.

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Comments: 15

  1. Cara Molinari February 18, 2014 at 6:29 pm Reply

    Love it and have to say I still get excited every time it snows in the Nation’s Capital b/c no one knows how to handle it.. Except for the kids. To heck with Florida and incessant sunshine. I love the change if seasons and this winter did not disappoint!

  2. Ellen Edwards - InsureTheQueen.com February 7, 2014 at 9:23 am Reply

    Lisa- You are hilarious! I have had the rolling ghetto too. When I traded her in (I named her Bessie) my 7 year old daughter insisted I peal that “Student of the Month” sticker off the back and transfer it to my new ride. Lol. Mission accomplished! Thank you for sharing. What a delight to read.

  3. Jersey Joshii January 26, 2014 at 10:36 am Reply

    I kept asking my sister to please remove the Febreeze from her Honda minivan dashboard and she said no, the car smells like the milk that’s on the ceiling. Nasty.

    • Lisa Smith Molinari January 26, 2014 at 1:44 pm Reply

      Ha!! I am intimately familiar with that odor, and a swagger wagon is not complete without it!

  4. energywriter January 19, 2014 at 9:42 am Reply

    Great story, Lisa. I can relate. The stories I could tell about some of the “beaters” that I’ve driven. Really like that mirror photo. The dilemma shows on your face. Just a note: I’m 67, my last child left home in 1985 and I still have cars that will happily handle little people. Not sure what I’ll do when they outgrow their safety seats. sd

  5. podnumber2 January 18, 2014 at 11:23 pm Reply

    There is a point at which we all just give up. But then we’re shocked back to sanity! The months old pancake in the 3rd row did the trick for me!

    • Lisa Smith Molinari January 18, 2014 at 11:44 pm Reply

      Ooo, pancakes?! All you need is a dribble of sticky syrup to round out the picture!

      • podnumber2 January 18, 2014 at 11:50 pm Reply

        I think there was some of that there too, but I can’t be sure.

  6. loridraper January 18, 2014 at 7:27 am Reply

    I just went through the agony of replacing my worn and torn ride. The process is near unbearable, but necessary.

    • Lisa Smith Molinari January 18, 2014 at 11:41 pm Reply

      I’ll be there soon, but not untilled we figure out next year’s tuition payments!

  7. Anonymous January 17, 2014 at 9:51 pm Reply

    I agree with Grace. Lisa, she’s an oldie, but a goodie. I remember when you bought her. Mary

  8. Grace January 17, 2014 at 9:38 pm Reply

    Get the old gal detailed….she will be like almost new! ;)

    • Lisa Smith Molinari January 18, 2014 at 11:36 pm Reply

      Grace, you’re right, but there aren’t any affordable detailers in Newport, they’re used to doing Bentleys and Mercedes, not Toyota Siennas! You’ll see the old gal down in the OBX this summer!

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