Award-winning writer: Jackie Papandrew

Airing My Dirty Laundry!

Minivan Mentality

You can take the mom out of the minivan. But you can’t always take the minivan mentality out of the mom.

For the first time in 15 years, I’m not driving a family truckster. We finally traded it in for a mid-sized SUV, and I immediately felt hipper. When I told my children that, they assumed, for some reason, I’d said “hippier” and suggested I cut back on the carbs.

After I explained that my liberation from the mom-mobile had transformed me into a more groovy parent – a cool and definitely with-it individual -- they ordered me, in withering tones of horror, to never leave the driveway. Apparently, my SUV-inspired chic hasn’t sunk in with them yet.

And, to be honest, I’m having a hard time with it myself.  Oh, my new vehicle is sleek and (for the moment) spotless. She’s even equipped with a state-of-the-art navigational system that I’ve nicknamed Nancy . At first, it was rather pleasant to have Nancy telling me – in her disembodied, female voice – where to go. But a couple of weeks into our relationship, she’s beginning to remind me of my mother, always slightly disapproving of my driving even after I’d morphed into a mother myself.

“You missed the turn! You’re driving too fast! You’re going to get us killed!”

OK, maybe Nancy doesn’t say those words specifically, but that’s what my mind hears. Nancy ’s turn-by-turn instructions have taken on a nagging quality. Every time I deviate from her dictatorial directions, she sounds a bit snippy.

“I am recalculating the route,” she says with the same peevish inflection I use when inquiring which miscreant member of my household stuck an empty milk jug back in the refrigerator. Nancy ’s really starting to get on my nerves.

And it’s not just the Nazi-like navigational system. I think I actually miss the old, non-talking minivan. The new auto -- with its factory-fresh scent, clean carpet and unmarked exterior -- seems sterile, devoid of the debris that made the minivan kind of a family scrapbook on wheels: the faded bumper stickers that touted the kids’ accomplishments; the dents and scratches made by a wide assortment of balls and even a couple of bicycles; a variety of stains inside courtesy of every colorful, sugary drink known to mankind; a handle on the back of the driver’s seat, hanging on haphazardly after one brother tried to pull it out and use it as a weapon against another brother. I miss all of those things.

Believe it or not, I also miss the way the minivan smelled – that piquant bouquet of old french fries, rotten bananas, stale milk in sippy cups lodged under the seats, sweaty soccer cleats and fetid football jerseys, all left to heat up year after year in the sun, and all mingling with the nauseating odor of dog vomit that we never could completely eliminate. Even when everything was cleaned out, the van still retained its distinct aroma – the congealed essence of childhood.

And I thoughtlessly gave it away. Somewhere, someone else is hurtling down the highway right now with a minivan full of my memories. (They've probably got the windows open.) Whoever you are, I want those memories -- and that cruddy old minivan -- back. In exchange, you can have Nancy and the stylish SUV that encases her. You’ll always know where you’re going. I want to remember where I've been.

~  © Jackie Papandrew 2007 ~

Jackie Papandrew is an award-winning writer, syndicated humor columnist, coffee addict and mom to a motley crew of children and pets who provide a steady stream of column ideas and dirt. She's also wife to a very patient man who had no idea, years ago when he still had time to escape, what he was getting himself into. Visit her website at:  JackiePapandrew.com

[ by Jackie Papandrew Copyright © 2007, (me@jackiepapandrew.com) -- submitted by: Jackie Papandrew ]


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