I drove a minivan for 20 years - from the time I got the pregnancy results with my fourth child till just a few years ago. My four sons are all grown now and even when we go to a common destination they prefer to drive separately. I clunkered in my minivan for a hybrid that is economical and zippy. No one could ever call a minivan, “zippy,” but I sure have a lot of memories from that car.
I was very proud that I could parallel park my minivan into a spot fit for a Smart car. I will admit that I did use the “kiss” method, but it worked. Even with my petite stature I was perched high enough so that I had a perfect line of sight in all directions. The configuration of the split seats in the minivan was such that I could stop the car and easily confront the misbehaving perpetrator in the middle or back row. It also had unlimited space for all the equipment one needs to travel with a baby. Can you remember how much you have to schlepp when you take a baby anywhere? Not to mention the sports and school equipment used by the three other boys - bookbags, cleats, bats, balls, shin guards, uniforms, flags, whistles, hats, helmets, towels, and the list goes on and on.
My family moved and lived in three different states during the time we owned our van. The mini van came with us when we moved from NY to Hawaii, back to NY a year later and then two years after that, to California. It traveled by rail, ship, barge and car transport. It didn’t earn frequent flyer miles but it certainly could have earned a free trip if it had.
The areas in which we lived were so diverse that we drove the van through Manhattan’s gridlock streets, the Big Island’s lava deserts and jungle, the West’s lush mountains - on highways, freeways, and local streets and even on dirt roads. In each of these environments my minivan was essential. The boys were too young to be left alone, so whenever one went somewhere, they all went - to soccer games, to hebrew lessons in the jungle, to playdates and on family forays to the tide pools or beach two and a half hours away.
My sons were musicians as well as soccer players. They couldn’t choose a nice compact instrument like the flute, oboe or clarinet - three of my four sons chose to play the string bass - not the electric bass, but the largest member of the violin family, the double bass. When we moved to California twenty years ago, Ron and Gil, the two eldest boys auditioned for and were accepted into the Junior Philharmonic of California. No matter how hard I tried I could never find anyone willing to car pool with two double bass players and their instruments. Parents were not allowed to stay for rehearsals so all five of us drove to the mid-Wilshire rehearsal space, dropped the two of them and their instruments off, returned home and then we all returned to pick them up several hours later.
When he was 16 and learning to drive, Gil, insisted that he drive the minivan to and from Junior Philharmonic rehearsals each Wednesday. As he drove I would sit in the front passenger seat, pressing the imaginary brake pedal while I gripped the door handle, and tried not to gasp. If he could have he would have put me in the back row, but that wasn’t allowed when he only had a learner’s permit. After a period of time he felt he was ready and he made an appointment to take his driving test. My husband agreed to take him to the test in his Nissan maxima. The maxima had other ideas and decided to die that day. After a brief heated discussion it was agreed that Gil would not forfeit his appointment and they would take my minivan. Gil, like his mother, is highly excitable and would not take failure lightly, so while they were gone I prepared a set of conciliatory responses to use when he returned home after failing the test. You can imagine my surprise, delight and fear when he burst through the door of our home and announced that he had passed. I was so grateful for all those stressful Wednesdays in the minivan!
Although my minivan days are over, I will always have great memories of those years.