With all the driving folks do at this season I’m thinking a lot about cars. It’s amazing what people can do in a car. Parents in the Roaring 20s went crazy worrying what their kids were doing when they borrowed the Model A for a night out. “Rolling brothels!” one worked-up elder called the cars of those days but cars were always much more than settings for sex. They were wonderfully mobile spaces people could climb into and go just anywhere – provided their tires didn’t blow and their little sewing-machine-sized engines didn’t fail.
But if a car was nice to have then, how much nicer it is now, especially if your car is the much-mocked minivan.
In my book the minivan is the best invention since the blow-dryer, the pencil sharpener, the washing machine even. I bought my first Chrysler/Dodge minivan back when the man with the velvet voice took up residence in the White House. It was bright red, like 90% of his First Lady’s wardrobe.
Nancy Reagan was chic all right, but I FELT chic tooling around in my Caravan. And so, seven years later when it died, I traded it in for another one, again made by Chrysler, only white this time.
- Then, seven years later, I got a green one.
- Then in seven more years, another red one.
- And now these 30 years later, I have a van of midnight blue with big wide shoulders and a decidedly masculine feel.
I have loved them all, and done my best to nurse them back to health when any one of them got injured, as this one did, when, in a freak accident, our neighbor’s construction-related porta-potty ended up falling on it.
Yup, in my book, whatever year’s model you have, this seven-seatbelt marvel has all other vehicles beat because of Chrysler’s patented ‘Stow-and-Go’ seats in back, big comfy thrones that, with a touch here and a tug there, sink away under the floorboards, yielding a ballroom of space. Then, another touch-and-tug and up they come again like a band of jolly ghosts bringing mirth to the family table.
I have at various times toted whole dining room tables in there, large and swoony palm trees, and up to eight chairs, both wooden and upholstered. I have practiced both yoga and piano back there, the latter on my portable keyboard. I have soothed whole pet taxis of white mice alarmed by their visit to the vet. I have even refinished furniture back there, though not with the lung-searing chemicals you’d use for a major strip-job but with sand paper and steel wool merely. And this past summer I filled it with two seven-foot paddleboards while two nine-footers rode on the roof.
But the chief joy I take in my minivan comes from the peace I feel inside it, a peace that suffuses the whole car so that even behind the wheel I feel held and soothed.
And while I love the model I have now, that doesn’t stop me from imagining the fresh delights that a new model might bring me five or six years hence. Maybe in that van’s roomy back I can set up a ‘The Doctor-is-in’-Style booth for compassionate listening, or – wait, I know! – how about a couple of lanes of bowling for my mice?
In the meantime it will just go on being this family’s faithful friend, in all our comings and goings.