Adventures in Carpooling*


The design on the shirt may have faded, but the sentiment is still strong.


I drive therefore I am…

a mother.

Of three busy kids, but I often drive many, many more than that because — cue the pulsing nightclub music — my vehicle is a bitchin’ minivan. Yeah, that adjective didn’t make it any cooler, did it?  Didn’t think so.

It’s OK, long ago I came to terms with the fact that I drive a minivan, which means people automatically assume

A) I am a slow driver (I got a speeding ticket. Once.)

B) My car is stuffed to the trunk and sliding doors with kids (almost always)

C) I no longer give a damn (kinda sorta true, validated by the filthy interior of my car)

When I was growing up, my parents would both park so far away from a store  — to avoid all other cars with wide-swinging doors and wayward rolling carts that could dent fenders — that we would have to call a taxi to deliver us the rest of the way to the entrance. I also remember spending one day every weekend helping my dad wash the cars — but only after they were a year old because my brother and I weren’t allowed to touch them before that. Yup, they loved and took good care of their vehicles. Not me.

Once upon a time I took very good care — OK, well I would take it to get washed occasionally — and I just got burned. Well, more accurately, barfed. Yup, I had a lovely, new-to-me car for all of a week before a kid threw up in it. Sigh.

But these days, I revel in the liberatingly low expectations that come with driving an 8-year-old minivan with 120,000-plus miles. No one’s breaking in thinking there’s going to be good stuff inside. There’s just empty snack wrappers, dog hair and partially ripped “Foxtrot” cartoon books. No one’s gonna look at my car and think “sweet piece of machinery!” and then boost it to joyride to Nogales. Also, when I ferry adult passengers, I know I don’t need to apologize for the slummy mess — they know exactly what they’re getting into.

So sure it looks like a Junk for Jesus reject, even more so after I got rear ended the day before Valentine’s and now the chick that hit me isn’t responding to her insurance company’s calls and certified letters, which means that if I have to go through my insurance then I will be on the hook for a too-high deductible and that’s not gonna happen so therefore the scratches on my bumper will remain and just continue to add character, like the pleats on Tommy Lee Jones’ face.

My car doesn’t need to be pretty, it just needs to be functional. It must: ferry filthy boys to assorted sporting games; get the whole posse, plus a shed-y dog, to family dinners with enough space between everyone to prevent intentional or accidental touching; and fit a looooot of groceries in the back — along with whatever items have been forgotten by its passengers. To date the souvenirs include a lava lamp (no joke), a wallet (score! with $20 in it!), a lanyard with a locker key attached and a water bottle with a loose top. Now see, that last one, that would have driven me nuts if I had some fancy-schmancy new car that I was all worried about. Instead, I just shrugged it off and made sure to leave the windows open so mildew didn’t join the putrid party.

I gotta be honest, those boys — mine included, especially mine — are gross and occasionally smelly, more so if they take off their shoes, and it can be quite the burden to be responsible for other people’s kids, especially because there’s always a pokey one who takes his time in the locker room or forgets there’s a game and then you have to try and track him down and call his mom to make sure he’s even going to the game and then they fight over the snacks in the snack bag to the point that I wonder why I bother to keep refilling it.

But, the payoff is great.

I’m just the driver so they spill gossip (along with blue Gatorade) and do these incredibly funny, goofy things like sing along to vintage boy band songs. I get the distinction of driving “the fun car,” the one the kids linger in, long after they arrive at school so they can keep jamming out to some tune. I know that one day, my minivan will be empty — but my heart will be overflowing with fun memories and my trunk full of forgotten crap. Maybe I’ll even find another wallet again.

*I probably should have gone with a more contemporary movie reference, like “Mommy Driver” but I just don’t see how that movie could be as good as everyone says with a lead character named Baby.


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