Skip to content

Month: June 2016

Memories & Goodbye to My Minivan, Hello Mini SUV

I cried on my 30th birthday. I was sitting in a bar in downtown St. Louis at an impromptu party that my husband had organized and suddenly I was crying.

The nostalgia hit me when I was cleaning out my minivan. I was reaching under seats and into storage nooks, evoking emotions and extracting memories along with loose change and band-aide wrappers, piling it all onto my driveway for sorting.

My friend, Jan, asked me what was wrong, and I said, “I’m 30 years old and I’m driving a minivan.”

Jan snickered and reminded me I wanted the minivan, believing it would be easier on my back to get my 2-year-old in and out of her car seat. That only made me feel worse – I chose to drive a minivan for a practical, “old lady” reason.

“Oh God,” I sniffled. “What’s next? Sensible shoes? Then Depends?” We laughed and the moment passed.

That was in 1997.

It’s 2016 and I’ve owned four minivans since that time: a Dodge Caravan, a Chevy Venture, a Kia Sedona and finally a 2004 Honda Odyssey — My favorite. Car. Ever.

My goal was to drive the Odyssey for several years after we paid it off, which we’ve done. With 207,000 miles on it, it’s starting to need more maintenance and repairs, and the last repair happened when I was out of town, which was a major inconvenience.

It was time to downsize.

But my Odyssey served me well. It was extremely reliable. And kid friendly and comfortable. And best of all, it had lots of Mom-friendly real estate, which means lots of places to stash things and the perfect spot to put my large purse where it wouldn’t tip over and spill its contents all over the floor.

Criteria for a New Car

When I sat in the Honda dealership to choose my next used Honda, our salesman asked me what things were important to me in a vehicle. I said:

“A place to put my purse; safety; good gas mileage; room for family road trips; low mileage; a key fob with automatic door locks; comfort; all-wheel drive; a backup camera; deep cupholders for my coffee; and don’t forget a place to put my purse.”

Salesman: Does color matter?

Me: No.

Salesman: Do you want alloy wheels?

Me: What are alloy wheels?

Salesman: They’re nicer wheels. They come with the higher trim package.

Me: No, I curb my tires all the time. I’ll ruin them.

Salesman: Leather seats?

Me: I don’t care. But I like having an arm rest, and I need luggage racks on top. If I’m giving up the space of my minivan, I need to be able to put luggage on top. I don’t travel light. So I want a trim package that comes with those things. And a place to put my purse.

Salesman: Purse. Gotcha. Okay, well, let’s take a look.

My new Honda CRVWe ended up purchasing a 2014 Honda CRV. It had everything I wanted but the luggage rack, which Honda installed for me. Not surprisingly,  the dealership agreed that we could sell our used Honda for more than they could give us, so we took it home to sell ourselves.

Minivan Memories

The nostalgia hit me when I was cleaning out my minivan. I was reaching under seats and into storage nooks, evoking emotions and extracting memories along with loose change and band-aide wrappers, piling it all onto my driveway for sorting.

This van used to smell like chlorine, because my oldest was a swimmer and I drove lots of carpools, meaning a wet towel was forever being left inside to bake and release its chemical scents into my cloth interior. Now she’s a swammer (retired swimmer).

It sometimes reeked of teenage boy sweat because my son plays basketball and seldom used the locker-room showers before climbing in to ask “What’s for dinner” or “Can we get Qdoba?’ Now he drives himself home from practice.

It used to smell like sour milk because a sippy cup would inevitably roll under the seat to start the process of making cottage cheese. Now she won’t even drink milk.

It’s covered in dog hair from our Golden Retriever and coffee stains decorate the carpet. Well, at least the dog still sheds and coffee still stains.

Here are some of the things I found as I cleaned it out:

  • A complete change of clothes in size 3T – pants, top, underwear, socks, shoes –My youngest now wears a size 8, but in the not so distant past, a mess that would require a complete change of clothes was a very real possibility.
  • Multiple cloth rags, one tucked under each seat in case of a large spill. They reminded me of the time my daughter got carsick on the way to camp; and the time my son had rotavirus; and all the carloads of kids who would spill their slushies, ice creams and milkshakes onto the carpeting, complimenting my numerous coffee spill stains.
  • Two first-aide kits for an emergency that thankfully never came. One kit contained a baby enema and “night-night juice” (aka Benadryl) that I may or may not have used to drug my daughter and my niece on a lengthy road trip that was wrought with whining and fussing.
  • The remote control to an entertainment system that quit working two years ago when a Barbie movie borrowed from a neighbor got permanently stuck inside.
  • A handheld can opener and enough food, some packaged, some petrified, to sustain me on a Whole30 eating plan for at least three days.
  • A stack of bank deposit slips from a bank I left six years ago.
  • $3.57 in change.
  • A princess blanket that I discouraged my husband from purchasing at Disney when my daughter was three because I didn’t think she’d use it. I was wrong, and we never make a road trip without it. It came in quite handy a few years ago when I was snowed in at a swim meet in Crawfordsville, IN and had to stay in a nasty hotel that shared a parking lot with a strip club. I was reluctant to use their bedding, so I busted out the princess blanket for my daughter and I to use.
  • A handful of my late father’s police department business cards, proving he was a detective and giving me some help in a avoiding a few speeding tickets.
  • A Chick-fil-A placemat and a box of melted crayons from Applebee’s.
  • 10 reusable grocery bags from Aldi’s, Wholefoods, Dierbergs and Schnucks.
  • Three lip glosses.
  • 12 pony tail holders.
  • Four road flares (again, the cop thing — no car is complete without government-issue road flares – these are at least 30 years old).
  • And a partridge in a pear tree (Couldn’t resist).

I’m almost 50. My oldest is 21 and moving out for law school in August. My middle child is 18 and will be a senior in high school this year, most likely going away to college in 2017. My baby is 8 (and a half).

It was time to downsize.

So, I cried at the start of my mini-van days and I almost cried at the end of them.

It’s a minivan full of memories, representing an entire era of my life that has come to a close. But I really love the CRV so far and I think we’ll have fun making memories to fill it, as well.

NOTE: We purchased the pre-owned Odyssey and the pre-owned CRV from Bommarito Honda in Hazelwood, MO. That is NOT close to our home, but we had such great service there in 2008 that we returned. We were treated like family and they went above and beyond to make sure we found the car that was right for us. Then they went above and beyond to get my luggage racks installed before we head out on our first road trip. A big thanks to everyone who helped us: Kevin Hall, Randy Graves, Guy Taylor and Jake from service. 

A Lamp, an Engraving Tool and Fishing

When I was a teenager, Missouri driver license numbers had 16 digits. I still know my number by heart because my Dad had an engraving tool and he etched that number on every single one of my possessions with a personal engraving gadget.

Evidence of that quirky habit surfaced as we spent part of our Memorial Day weekend doing some basement cleaning out and reorganizing. My husband came across this desk lamp, which was a high school graduation present from my next-door neighbors. Notice the driver’s license number, (part of which I’ve concealed with photo editing to protect against identity theft in case this number is still somehow tied to me).

When my husband found the lamp, he texted a picture of it to my kids and I. The following text conversation ensued:

Daughter: “What is that?”

Husband: “It’s the base of a desk lamp that your mother used in college. Your grandfather marked all of her stuff with her name.”       Me: “And my driver’s license number which I can still repeat w/o looking.”

Daughter: “Why your driver’s license number?”

Me: “That was an anti-theft thing. Made it less valuable to steal because a pawn wouldn’t take something marked with a dl number. And for sure, someone was gonna steal my lamp to pawn. And my makeup mirror and cooler tool.

Me: “If you didn’t want it monogrammed with your DL number, you had to hide it from my Dad.”

And that was true. My late father was a police officer and he spent part of his career in the detective bureau working in the fencing unit. At some point, he bought his own engraving tool and spent hours inexpertly engraving our belongings. Friends often asked me about the lengthy number etched – sometimes messily — into the front of my lighted makeup mirror, or on the side of my playmate cooler.

Finding the lamp delivered a pang of guilt – it was Memorial Day weekend and I was unlikely to make it to Jefferson Barracks to visit his grave.

That’s because after the basement cleanup, we had plans to go camping with my brother’s family.

While on that overnight campout, my Dad crept into my thoughts several times. I thought of him as I watched my young nephews erect a tent, was we grilled hamburgers and while the kids chased moths with fishing nets.

I laughed when my sister-in-law attempted to demonstrate that she could, indeed, hit a Wiffle ball and my brother jokingly heckled her with each strike. His friendly harassment juxtaposed with memories of my very athletic uncles getting into brawls over similar games at family barbecues when I was a child. My brother reminded me that while my Dad didn’t have anything near my uncle’s sports prowess, he never failed to get into the game and he often enjoyed a private laugh at my uncles’ expense when they took things too seriously.

In the evening, my husband and brother decided to take the kids fishing off a river boat dock, loading up rods and what was left of the bait after the four-year-old spent the afternoon playing with his “pet worms.” They headed out with a five kids, ages 14, 12, 8, 7 and 4. Sitting my lawn chair, enjoying the company of my sister-in-law and 21-year-old daughter, I was impressed at their bravery.

It conjured a memory of the time my Dad took my siblings and I, plus my best friend, fishing on the Lake of the Ozarks when my brother, the youngest, was 5.

On that day, we motored out into the middle of a cove on a borrowed jon boat in the August heat. Lathered in thick sunscreen and anxious for some lake action, us kids were anything but patient fisherman. And my father was not known for being a patient man.

But I distinctly remember him wanting that trip to be successful. He was excited. He had good intentions, seeking to impart his enjoyment of fishing and the lake upon his young charges, even if he wasn’t armed with the skill set to stay calm and collected on a small boat with young, virgin fisherpersons.

He carefully put worms on the lines of four poles, handing the first pole to my brother and helping him cast the line. Then he proceeded to bait the hooks for my sister, myself and my friend. In short order, a couple of our lines were tangled, the clear filament starting to resemble a spider’s web.

My Dad got us untangled with minimal cussing, and then recast our lines with a little less patience than the first time around. Then my brother reeled his line in again and decided to try casting by himself. And that’s when he hooked something – my father’s cheek.

Patience gone, yelling ensued. A lot of yelling. And the fishing expedition ended promptly with no fish caught.

But he tried. And he was successful in at least two aspects. He taught my brother to be undaunted about heading out to fish with five kids in tow. And he created a lasting memory, engraved with all its imperfections on my heart with just like my driver’s license number on my desk lamp.

We didn’t make it to Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery on Memorial Day weekend. But I think we honored his memory just the same.