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BUSY IN BRISTOW: An Odyssey to Remember

busyinbristow-1My family is again in the market for a new car. I remember well the road trip we made 10 years ago to College Park Honda in our too-small Accord: our three and a half year old in a booster wedged between the twins in their two rear-facing infant car seats. Our new Odyssey was spacious, luxurious even … with its leather seats and rear entertainment center. More importantly, I felt safe in that minivan, and we’ve driven it on vacation to Florida several times as well as to Maine and New Hampshire not to mention countless trips to Ohio and New York to visit family.

It has 180,000 miles on it. Although it’s still running well enough, it can no longer pull our pop-up camper without noticeable strain, and none of us feels it can be trusted on long journeys out west where exits on the interstate can be spaced out as far as a hundred miles and boast nothing more than two gas pumps and a metal stand of prepackaged donuts.

Since I’m not trying to sell it to you and yours, I will let you be privy to the underbelly of its loyalty: our van has, in its ten-year tenure, endured the indignity of countless exploding diapers, an enviable collection of urine-filled Gatorade bottles, and so much gratuitous vomit that not even the neglect of open windows during thunderstorm downpours could fully cleanse it.

And through it all, this van hasn’t missed a trip.

To add bodywork insult to our van’s internal injury, you have to know that in my 20’s I drove the smallest car you could then buy:  a Geo Metro.  Therefore, my graduation to a behemoth van in my 30’s didn’t offer much of a learning curve to navigate parking spaces in claustrophobic garages and other tight spaces, so I’ve smashed into my share of concrete curbs and misjudged plenty of median strips.

We’ve also been through some scary moments like last summer on Interstate 95 right around The Middle of Nowhere, Virginia before you cross into the Top of Nowhere North Carolina. There our left back tire blew into a thousand rubbery pieces (while sailing along in the left lane), and we limped over to the side of the road into the weedy shoulder where I stoutly refused to let my husband change the tire because we were still too close to the maniacs speeding by. We slowly drove it to the exit – which, thankfully, — was well within sight where there was plenty of room for him to do his work. Thank you, Number-One-Safety-Rating-Honda. (With additional props to God.)

In this van, we have picked our way through the confusing labyrinth of Washington, D.C. near Children’s Hospital for Oldest Daughter’s eye surgeries, and we’ve parked it – not knowing if we would ever see it again – on garbage-strewn streets in downtown Philly near Temple for Oldest Son’s gymnastics meets.

In short, we have lived our children’s young lives in this van, and we have indeed embarked upon an Odyssey.

I can’t be the only one who grows emotionally attached to vehicles, or well, to just about any physical object with which I’m in close proximity.

There is a part of me that is eager to be rid of it: it is old, there are rust spots where I lost in curbside skirmishes, and it doesn’t have Wi-Fi.

But there is another part of me that wants to drive it forever. I want to look into the rearview mirror and see the younger versions of my children as they sat enraptured by Baby Einstein (screen time in the van has never counted in the total number of allotted hours – after all, it helps Mommy and Daddy drive better which is in the best health interests of our children, developing brains or not) or as they’ve grown older and learned how to take Ninja shots at each another without our even catching a glimpse of it in any of the multiple and well-placed rearview mirrors.

Perhaps it is even more difficult to move out of our “starter-van,” because I now realize we’ll only need one more vehicle with seating capacity for 6: in 10 years, our youngest will be, gulp … 17.

In fact, since our oldest is already 13, we’ll be able to make family trips in a much smaller sedan in only 4 years (assuming he no longer wants to vacation with his aging parents and annoying siblings). Imagine us in a Prius … riding against the wind … somewhere out in the canyons of Nevada while Oldest Son sits in his overpriced dorm room studying, his Spring Break spent weeks before ours starts. Unlike some smaller (or wealthier) families who can fly to their exotic destinations, we have accepted the reality that if our intrepid minivan cannot take us there, we ain’t goin’.

Last year, we had an opportunity to go to a family wedding in Alberta, Canada, but we just didn’t have enough confidence in our car to make the trip to the Northern Wilds. Sure, we can put off the inevitable, and during our summer excursions, we can rent, but when you know you’re driving on borrowed time with the one you own at home, it doesn’t make much sense to dole out money on a rental that could be used on a down payment.

In the end, all of life is about taking risks and letting go. Since this isn’t something that comes naturally to me, I write a lot about my reluctance to do both. Maybe some of you have no problem at all getting rid of the old car that’s starting to cause you problems, and maybe some of you can’t wait to convert your youngest child’s room into a media room for that matter, but I think most of you who are still reading, feel – at least a little – like I do … nostalgic at times, downright fearful at others.

No one ever told me that being a parent would bring up this wellspring of grief alongside this geyser of gladness.

I guess even if they had, I merely would’ve laughed in denial behind the steering wheel of my compact car, revved all 3 cylinders of its economy engine – and turned up Nirvana.

© 2015, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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