This week our van passed 100,000 miles. Not a big deal, really. But it kind of is. I was four months pregnant when we bought that van. That kid is now almost 9. I used to feed him in the backseat, change his diaper in the trunk, wrestle him into his car seat, and listen to him exercise his lungs at top volume on eight-hour road trips.
Early on we discovered long car trips were unbearable with young children. Not only did we have to pack the whole house, all teetering in the rear, but that van has heard more curse words than the Eagles’ stadium. The steering wheel has taken a beating, all thanks to I-95 traffic and a screaming toddler.
The side door cup holders still hold the rocks from our many trips to the park when my son was a toddler. The carpet is stained with milk shakes, ground-in Goldfish, and matted raisins.
It took me five months to learn to park that van. Let’s be honest, I still have trouble.
I’m not sentimental toward it; I’ll be glad to see it go when the time comes. But when I look back, I’m amazed at the ground it’s covered, not to mention what it’s been covered with, and what it’s seen us through. Man, my kids aren’t babies anymore.
Car seats have given way to booster seats that the kids can strap themselves into, their heads hanging like limp rag dolls when they fall asleep.
The screaming has given way to giggles and after-school discussions, sometimes in whispers from the back too far away for me to hear. Or sometimes both kids yell at once, “Hey Mom, you’ll never guess what happened at school today.”
The trunk now holds chairs, soccer balls, and dirty cleats, while the sweaty kids with the crumbly snacks relay the good plays of the game.
The van has only seen one speeding ticket. Unfortunately, the kids saw that too. The son who “really had to go” suddenly had to go no longer. The cop, not sympathetic.
The van has left me stranded only once and that was in our driveway. Like people, it has become stubborn with age. The side door latch gets stuck and takes repetitive slamming and a few choice words to whack it into place. Sometimes the key won’t turn in the ignition…unless you open the driver-side door and say a few more choice words.
Our van is like a pair of broken-in jeans: It’s the perfect fit for us. But I know the time is near when we’ll have to start all over, worrying about spills and muddy shoes. Though I love the idea of driving around in a sportier model, wind in my graying hair, I can’t get over the comforts of a van. I look forward to the adventures the next new van will hold: seats filled with tweens gossiping about the latest and greatest, dating, learning to drive.
But for now, candy wrappers stick to the console, favorite toys go on every trip, and the DVD player still features Disney favorites. Soon the kids will be taller and surely smellier. And thankfully, they can sit in the way back.