Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Goodbye, Old Friend

In the spring of 1999, we drove to Florida with our three kids, then 12, 9, and 6, sitting shoulder to shoulder in the narrow backseat of our Subaru wagon. That trip convinced us that as much as we didn't want to admit it, it was time to start thinking about a minivan. We held on for another two years, but finally in the summer of 2001, we made the leap and bought a Toyota Sienna.  We opted for quad seats, thinking it would lead to more peaceful car trips with the three kids. The boys immediately claimed the middle row captain chairs and relegated young Em to the third row. Over the years, however, that cozy seat in the way back became the coveted spot on long trips. We quickly realized why minivans were so popular--there was SO MUCH ROOM inside--for kids and dogs, for band instruments and sports equipment, for friends and grandparents. Then as our kids headed off to college, we hauled the backseats out and had space for a dorm-roomful of belongings. Later still when our kids started moving into apartments, we discovered that if we took out the middle seats, too, the good old minivan could hold mattresses, dressers, and couches. For that reason alone, we were hoping the van would last one more year so we could use it to move Em home from Syracuse next summer. But as its inspection drew near, the brake light and the ABS light joined the "check engine" symbol in lighting up the dashboard; the air conditioning hadn't been working all summer, and there was an ominous clunking noise coming from underneath. So after much debate, we decided it was time to part ways with our minivan. I was surprised at how sad I felt about trading it in--it has cost us a lot of money over the past few years with its seemingly insatiable appetite for oxygen sensors and exhaust pipes; it was big and clunky and no one ever drove it if the other car was available--but still, it had served us well. I admit I have a tendency to personify inanimate objects, but the van definitely looked sad and embarrassed as our car salesman made disparaging comments as he discussed the van's trade-in value. Now when pressed, I can acknowledge that cars don't really have feelings, but I still couldn't quite stop feeling bad about letting the minivan go even though we had a snazzy little Subaru parked in its spot in the driveway. As I tossed and turned during that night, I figured out that what was really making me sad was the realization that Steve and I don't really need a minivan anymore. Our kids are grown up; they have their own cars and their own lives. And even though we'll still take trips together from time to time in the years ahead, the five of us won't be sitting in our spots in the good old van, playing the jellybean game, eating pretzel rods and Mint Milanos to pass the time, and arguing over where and when to stop for lunch.  That's what's hard to say goodbye to. (But I am still feeling a little worried about how sad the old van must be as it sits in an unfamiliar car lot in Jamestown waiting to be sent to auction.)


  1. Wow! I can't believe you also had a Toyota Sienna. We have two! One is a 2000 with 250,000 miles on it. The other is a used 2006. We started out with a Toyota wagon which we loved but the mini van is indispensable for carting kids, camping gear, set pieces, beach stuff, Xmas presents since we always spend Christmas in New Wilminington, and on and on... Always an old apple, water bottle or Cliff bar rattling around in there somewhere...

  2. Wow--250,000 miles! I am still missing our Sienna. So strange how a minivan can become like part of your family!