You are what you drive

AMY ROSEN Around Town

Anyone who has ever had a minivan knows that it does not exactly rank as the coolest of vehicles. I mean you’re not going to get “oohs” and “aahs” and people staring at your car as you drive down the road.

People aren’t going to pull up next to you and rev their engine at a traffic light to challenge you to a race. And I’ve never had anyone say, “I bet that baby is a dream when you get her out on the open road.” But anyone who has kids and a minivan knows it is a really practical investment that offers comfort, versatility and sometimes even sanity when you have ample room to separate siblings to ensure a peaceful ride.

OK, enough with the minivan commercial. I’ll get to the point.

I just traded in my minivan for a sporty luxury sedan. I had that minivan for six years and two other minivans before it. Prior to the minivans I had a station wagon – my transition vehicle from yuppie to soccer mom. My very first vehicle was a Ford Mustang and there were several cars in between. I think what a person drives makes a statement about who they are and where they’re going.

Some people drive expensive cars loaded with luxury features just to impress others and to say “Look at me.” Some drive practical cars just to get from point A to point B. Others drive fast little sports cars and convertibles to say, “I’m so cool.” And others look for safety features and gas mileage.

Some people want classic cars and others want classy ones. I like my cars to be practical, comfortable and roomy with a smooth ride and eye-catching appeal.

Although trading in a car is no big deal to most people, trading in this particular minivan had a profound effect on me. Besides the fact that I tend to become attached to inanimate objects, I had a little extra lump in my throat as I watched someone else drive Big Blue away because I realized it meant the end of an important chapter of my life that defined me as a person. My kids have gotten older and I am no longer a minivan mom.

Even though I was never the typical soccer mom minivans are associated with (I was more of a roadie and chauffeur), I loved having my van because it meant being a mom, something I could not be prouder of.

I have to admit that when I drove my first minivan, I was a bit embarrassed at the less-than-cool image it projected, but in time, I came to embrace what it represented. It represented family. It represented going on long trips together or just taking a ride for no reason. Having picnics in the back of the van with the middle seats folded down into tables created moments we will always treasure.

It meant taking all the seats out of the back and eating ice cream in our own little clubhouse outside the ice cream store. It meant watching movies on long rides. The sticky cup holders represented driving through many fast-food restaurants on our way to or from a new adventure or a lesson, and the grains of sand embedded in the carpet held memories of days at the beach.

The earlier models were a great place to change a diaper or two, and when the back door was up, it provided shelter on a rainy day. Strollers of all sizes could fit in the back with no problem. You could walk from the front of the van to the back without having to go outside on a nasty day.

We always had room for whatever we needed to transport from one place to another. Over the years, we took home tables and chairs, lawn mowers, snow blowers, a mattress, patio swings, a fireplace, computer cabinets, a stage, home furnishings, pet cages, a sleep sofa and appliances. It transported the makings of an entire college dorm to school and home again. It held boogie boards and kayaks, drum sets, amps, guitars, congas and more, and was a tour van for a band on several occasions. I spent so much time in that car that if it had a kitchen and a bathroom, I’d never have had to leave.

That minivan saved my life and kept my son safe when someone ran a red light.

The minivan went to Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, Massachusetts, Canada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Connecticut and New York.

I thought about getting another minivan, but my family convinced me that since my older kids no longer need to be chauffeured around and they have their own SUVS and trucks, which can fit large items as well, it would be OK for me to downsize. Besides, the minivan was not cool enough for them to be seen driving (unless it was being used as a tour van).

So I resigned myself to getting a real car, and I have to say, I like it. Although I was feeling kind of old since my minivan mom days were ending, zipping around in my sporty new look has helped me recapture my youth. If the vehicle that you drive says something about the stage in life that you’re at, I think I’ve come full circle.

I’ve come to terms with the fact that although my Mustang days are over, my zest for life is not. As I turn the page on one chapter of my life, I eagerly press on to see what comes next.

Amy Rosen is a Greater Media Newspapers staff writer.