Updated: Apr 2, 2019
I remember pulling away from the dealership in the minivan fifteen years ago, turning around and looking wistfully at my dark green Jeep Cherokee we had traded in...yes, looking wistfully.
I didn't want a minivan. Minivans weren't cool enough in my book. But I was third child pregnant and the carseats wouldn't fit all in a row in my beautiful Jeep. Minivan it was.
I drove a minivan for 15 years. And rarely alone. Always with someone. Usually a kid. Because...well, that's why you have the minivan. Groceries, Ikea dressers, luggage, a pooping dog on the 4th of July, broken toys and too-small kid clothes waiting to be dropped off at Goodwill, friends of kids, library books to be returned... I drove them. Miles added up. Months added up. Car seats switched to boosters switched to just the seat switched to Converse hiked up high on the dashboard as we waited in parking lots after church events, after lessons, after classes where the kids grew incrementally.
I drove a minivan for 15 years listening to music, Cubs games, news, sports radio, podcasts and audio books. I listened to a story on This American Life about a dad who suffered from Alzheimer's and was losing his memory of how to find his way back home. His son interviewed him as they drove in a car - the dad confused as to which direction to take. The dad forgetting the man next to him was his son. It was the most poignant story I've ever listened to. I forgot my 10 year old was with me as I listened. "Wait, mom, let's see how it ends," he said and we parked in the driveway as the summer sun went down listening to the story of a son losing his father's presence in his life. My son and I both wiped a tear away when the story stopped. "I didn't know life could be so sad," he said. We had a good conversation about life. About death. About dads.
I drove a minivan for 15 years talking to my kids. Stopping fights between my kids. Laughing with my kids. Loading in the kids to drive to the local ice cream place where I would challenge them to eat ice cream outside in -5 degree weather. The dash showing the temp in a neon shining green. We can go to Oberweis tonight! It's cold enough! We piled back in, shivering, laughing. Let's do it again next year! We talked about anything and everything. As they grew older, the conversations changed in tone, in depth, in weight.
They talked. I listened.
I talked. They...I don't know, they might have listened? It's hard to tell.
I drove a minivan for 15 years. I was embarrassed sometimes by the van. I know, I know, how cool do I think I need to be? I jealously looked at other cars driven by people I thought were so much more with it than I am. I sometimes felt I had the symbol of selling out to motherhood. I gave in to it. I relinquished the part of myself that likes things that are new, things that are trendy and oh so relevant. I relinquished the part of myself that likes to listen to somewhat inappropriate music *ahem*. I memorably taught my kids a word we definitely do not say in our house and ended up apologizing, showing them that even mommies are fallible. At times I struggled staying engaged in the conversations - wanting to be pouty, quiet and disgruntled in my own struggles instead of setting myself aside and listening to their days. At times - a lot of the time - I had to learn to set aside myself.
Me. Who hates taking the passive passenger seat - I want to be in control, the driver. I want the attention on me. Trust me, the minivan is not the place that's going to happen.
But God...God in His mercy, granting me the grace, the absolute gracious GIFT of spending time with these little creations of His. Me, unworthy to meet their needs, settling to pull in for fast food fries and sometimes offering what were basically fast food answers - answers meant to easily and quickly quiet them. oh-my-word-can't-you-just-be-quiet??
And sometimes? God granted me the words, the patience, the grace so that I could have the privilege of speaking into their lives. Sanctification happening in a minivan.
I drove a minivan for 15 years. And it's not so much that the van made anything happen or not happen. It's neutral in the story, but it was driving me forward to who I am now. And somehow I end up being thankful for that not-cool, less-than-I-wanted minivan.
Here is the link to the This American Life episode - Act 6 "Route Talk"