2018-09-14 / Commentary

Ode to the Minivan

40–Something

I never in a million years thought I’d ever say something like this, but I’m actually sad the end of our minivan era finally appears to be upon us.

My wife and I bought our Toyota Sienna in 2004. Back then it was brand new with a plush grey leather interior, a state of the art sound system, and a DVD player with a television screen.

Well, after 15 years, 234,000-plus miles, three kids, several dogs, and every imaginable cargo from trampolines to trees, the van isn’t quite what it used to be.

The plush grey leather seats are worn, cracked, and a little green in some places. The state of the art sound system now has a mind of its own. It refuses certain radio stations, will go into some alien code on the digital display, and will crank up the volume without warning or provocation. And the DVD player? It quit working sometime in 2010.

I probably could have gotten rid of it in 2013 when my oldest child refused to drive it. She said my truck was much easier to navigate. After she wrecked the van into our garage stairs, it was hard to argue with her.

When my oldest went off to college, my younger daughter not only volunteered to take the van, but she fell in love with it. I have no idea why. It’s not exactly what all the cool kids are driving, but image was never her thing. She’s off at college now and doesn’t need a car. The wife and I can’t tell my daughter we’re thinking of trading in the van. It would break her heart. So, if you see my younger daughter, please don’t tell her about this column.

My son is driving now and has the same excuses to avoid the van his oldest sister once used.

“It’s too big,” he says. “I just can’t drive it.”

I know the truth. No teenage boy wants to cruise into a high school parking lot in his mom’s old minivan...especially when it is the same car he came home from the hospital in as a newborn.

So, I’m back in the minivan, and I have to admit, it’s still—by far— the most comfortable car in our fleet of three.

Yeah, it’s not too cool, even for a 48-yearold man, but I lost any hope of coolness many, many years ago. In all honesty, if it were just about my ego, I’d keep on chugging along in our minivan. I don’t have a car payment, and the taxes are about $70. That’s truly cool!

The problem is 15 years of accumulated aromas from a plethora of sources: i.e. undiscovered Happy Meal remnants, bales of pine straw, old dogs, giraffe food from a trip to the zoo, and years of sweaty shin guards, cleats, and various other hazards of youth sports among other things.

Let’s just say I don’t step out of the van basking in the glow of that new car smell. My wife is nice enough to point that out to me every day.

So, the minivan has to go.

There was a time I would have scoffed at the mere mention of a minivan, but I freely admit now I will never regret having one these many years. In fact, I’m grateful.

Our van not only survived three kids as toddlers and as teenagers, it took care of them. It also served as well as any truck when it came to transporting cargo.

I never thought I’d say this about a minivan, but it will be missed.

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