Gum in Your Hair

A blog for parents under the big sky.

The Road to Hell is Covered in Minivans

WRITTEN BY LELA DAVIDSON

I don’t actually drive a minivan, but I know a lot of people who do. So when a single, child-free friend rolled up into my driveway in a smokin’ hot gold Odyssey to pick me up for a girls evening out, I didn’t judge.


“This thing is so ugly,” she said. “And it’s hard to drive. Why do people drive these things?”


The unspoken you, as in, “You People,” hung heavy in the air. You People, of the 2.5 children. You People with the golf clubs and strollers. You People of Suburban Hell.
When I asked where her car was, I got a long story about a former colleague and a company car and her accommodating driveway. Bottom line: She’d started driving the van just before Thanksgiving because she had to take some things to her parents’ house out of state.


“I had stuff to haul.”


“That is exactly why Us People drive minivans,” I told her. “We’re transporting cargo, too. Ours is live. And snot-laced.”


“Well, they’re hideous and impossible to park,” she said, pulling into an average-sized parking spot.


“So when did you come home from this stuff-hauling journey?”


“Last week.”


“And you’re still driving the van?”


She gestured toward the back. “I haven’t had a chance to clean it out.”


I blame the baby boomers. Today’s symbol of domesticity has its roots in the vehicle so popular with the psychedelic generation: the Volkswagen van—perfect for taking beaded macramé crafts to the fair or road-tripping to muddy music fests. By 1968 the VW van had all the trademarks of its less groovy descendant, including the sliding side door.


Cut to the ‘80s, when all those love children started transporting children of their own, and voilà! – rise of the minivan. It’s a short trip from groovy to practical to pathetic.
Therein lies the danger of buying, or even borrowing, a minivan. You might have the best intentions, but we know where that road leads. Maybe you only plan to use the eyesore vehicle for a short time—until the kids are out of strollers, or done with soccer or until you can weasel your way out of that godforsaken carpool. But life happens. Shin guards accumulate, yoga mats and notebooks from the Junior League multiply. French fries solidify under the seats and a school of goldfish crumbs take up residence in the way-way back.


This was already happening to my friend. She may not have had the trappings of family, but the van had cursed her nonetheless. Piling up in the back were clothes headed for the donation bin, a printer and two pair of shoes purchased during a hormonal imbalance and waiting to be returned. And there was plenty of room for it all. Unknowingly, she had joined the tribe of You People. Like the rest of them, she’d rather be driving something else, but first she’d have to clean out the van.
And possibly rent a storage unit.


Until then, I’m hoping she’ll agree to take my place in the carpool rotation.

 

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Lela Davidson is an award-winning author of Faking Balance: Adventures in Work and Life and Blacklisted from the PTA. Her thoughts on marriage, motherhood, and finding balance are regularly featured in magazines, websites, and anthologies around the world. Lela drives a Toyota RAV4, which has less storage space, but is infinitely cooler, than a minivan.