If I had to pick a class of cars to label “most abused,” minivans would win, hands-down. Yes, even over contractors’ paint-spattered pickups hauling around fifty-three tons of tools and eleven extension ladders. Even over teenagers’ smoke-filled dumpsters on wheels decorated with dancing Grateful Dead bears.
Well, in the case of my minivan (we’ll call her Wanda, just because it seems like a good name, though I’ve never been one of those people who name their cars), life started out beautifully. All was cushy until two babies with Poltergeist-style reflux came home from the hospital. Their tender skin got all kinds of care while Wanda’s leather bucket seats got a cursory wipe.
Wanda’s commercials indicated the rear area should be used for tailgating and fun family soccer time. Instead, I repeatedly screeched to the side of the road in random neighborhoods to deal with diaper blowouts on what became our mobile changing table: Wanda’s folded third row. And yes, on more than one occasion, I forgot to remove the dirty diapers when we got home. (Three cheers for Ziplock bags! Do NOT go generic on those puppies–brand name can contain a stench of astonishing magnitude for up to two days.)
Wanda was packed to the gills with diapers, wipes, Ziplocks, trash bags, burp cloths, extra outfits, and Baby Einstein DVDs. And when the twins started eating solids, her very gills were stuffed with goldfish crumbs, Teddy Grahams crumbles, Nilla Wafer pieces, and splashes of milk.
And then, when we went through potty training, Wanda became our very own porta-potty. Yes, I was THAT mom who kept a potty in the back of the van. Don’t knock it ‘till you’ve tried it.
When the twins started preschool they climbed into the van every afternoon with a new art project. They all used magic glue. Glue that held stuff onto the page exactly long enough for it to get into my car, at which time it would promptly fall into the smallest crevice possible. Goldfish crumbs, meet glitter, goggly eyes, twigs, and stickers.
Wanda also served as family pack mule. We made monthly (or bimonthly) trips to our warehouse club and loaded up on thousands of dollars worth of formula, diapers, and wipes, mountains of toilet paper, Kleenex, and paper towels. And wine.
Now, we live in a big city, and as a rule, the bigger the city the smaller the parking spaces. Wanda is not a compact vehicle, but neither is she an oversized ridiculous (pardon me if you own one) Suburban or the like. The sliding doors mean that it’s virtually impossible for the kids to door-ding somebody, but that doesn’t translate in reverse. She’s only six years old, but the poor thing has been through the wringer. Door dings, paint scratches, kind people in parking lots who scrape my bumper and think nothing of it … and recently, two kids with scooters and bikes squeezing past the van to park them in the garage, completely ignorant of the concept of paint-scratching.
The most egregious insult, however, was probably mine. During the second week of Mark’s radiation, we had an appointment to talk with his oncologist together, so I left the kids in the house with my mother and roared out of the garage.
And slammed Wanda into my mother’s car.
I was too late and too upset to do anything about it, so I went on to the doctor, and when I got there, I saw the rear quarter panel was sticking out. In a prior life, I would have had Wanda in the body shop immediately, but the new me had different priorities, so I simply took a knee, shoved until the panel popped back into place, and never bothered with touch-up paint.
Finally, it’s come back to bite me in the ass. Literally.
Wanda’s been carrying around some serious resentment, y’all. How do I know this? Because she tried to kill me.
That’s right. My minivan tried to off me. I kid you not.
By the grace of God, I write to you from the car dealership waiting room and not from a hospital bed.
Perhaps that’s a tad melodramatic.
But Wanda’s tailgate simply went out one day. As in, if you wanted to raise it, you had to brute force it open, and Lord help you if you let it go. All of the weight would come crashing down. More than enough to break a child’s limb–it was enough to break an adult’s back and (as Mark pointed out to me after I’d let it drop closed from what I thought was a reasonable distance) shatter the window.
We rearranged the seats in the van so the kids were in the third row so I could have room to put groceries in front of them until we got the tailgate fixed. Which was great until Mark put the second row of seats back in. And I went to Target and didn’t remember that fact until I was standing with an overflowing cart in the parking lot next to a van I had to use for carpool … my only choice was to try the tailgate.
I heaved and huffed and got the thing up over my head. Jillian Michaels would have been proud. Then I realized my grocery cart had rolled a few inches away. I balanced the tailgate (all 300 pounds or so of it) on my shoulder as I grabbed for the cart. Then I began throwing bags in the trunk. Sort of.
Picture it, dear readers. I had my left foot on the cart to keep it from rolling away, my back and neck pinned under the tailgate, and the minute I heaved the economy pack of toilet paper into the cargo area, the tailgate slipped, and I found myself pinned at the waist between the bumper and the tailgate.
Stuck in the Target parking garage with my booty hanging out of the van for all to see. One of my finest moments. There was honking. There was hollering. Since the half of me that possessed ears (and, thank God and foresight, my purse) was stuck inside the car with me, I’m going to pretend it was the regular kind of Target parking garage honking and not some teenage guys having a drive by laugh at that ridiculous mom with her ass stuck out the back of her minivan.
Let me tell you, it’s hard to get leverage when you’re in that position. I’m sure you bodybuilders would have had no problem at all heaving yourselves out of there, but for me, this was not easy. I have back problems anyway, and I’d had a series of trigger point injections in my upper back the day before. The smart thing to do would probably have been to crawl all the way in and then maneuver over the seats, but I was terrified I’d amputate a foot in the attempt.
So I pushed backwards. And then did a little shimmy. Yes, that’s me, butt stuck out of a van, shaking it like a Polaroid picture. But you know what? The hips don’t lie, folks. That shimmy got me out from under the deathtrap that is my tailgate. Miraculously, with my head still attached. In a feat of biceps curls never again to be duplicated, I even managed to extract my purse.
Please tell me you would have offered me help, because here, in the lovely, gracious South, not one single person came to my aid.
Maybe they were enjoying the show.