Archive for Monday, January 17, 2011


River City Jules: Nice minivan, ma’am

January 17, 2011


It’s not so much that we were about to purchase a minivan this week. I accepted the fact long ago that I was far too practical of a person and lacked far too much eye-hand coordination to ever own an SUV and was, therefore, destined to contain my herd behind sliding doors.

It’s that we were about to purchase our third — T-H-I-R-D — minivan.

To be fair, our first minivan had to be put down early after a car accident that landed us all upside down on the side of a highway. My husband and I, along with our oldest three kids (and apparently Caroline, whose existence would surprise us three weeks later) (a story for a different column), survived the accident with nothing more than a few scratches. And one totaled-out mom-mobile.

Our second van, a red model exactly like the first one, was bought brand-spanking new and carried our family 133,000 miles before her glory days began to fade, leaving us in need of a new ride for our family of six.

Honestly I had always envisioned this purchase a little differently. I tried to make myself believe we did not need another van. Just like the scrunchies and pleated jeans of the ’90s, I believed I could shed this ultimate symbol of nose-wiping and bottle-toting and move on to the sleeker, sexier crossover. Ignoring the fact that our kids would take up nearly every cubic inch of cargo space, I pictured myself behind the wheel of a pearly white Enclave, turning heads as I cruised by The Hawk (en route to son’s guitar lesson) while Madonna blared from my slightly open, semi-tinted windows.

No one would call me “Ma’am.” Nope, people would stop and stare in awe, wondering to themselves, “Who’s THAT mom?”

Conveniently forgetting that my daughter’s stand-up bass would have to be strapped to the top of the car for every school concert, I looked forward to ditching my roomy minivan for an automobile with real doors, swung open by real people who no longer needed me to buckle them and lead them in a Rafi sing-a-long to and from the grocery store for Goldfish and fruit snacks.

Basking in denial that four kids, one dog and anything bigger than a lunchbox would be a tight squeeze, I could not wait for my turn to upgrade from “Mom” to “Cool Mom.”

But then, during one family overnight with two suitcases, a couple of guitars and a box of truffles piled high in the back of our outgoing van, I had a revelation: sliding doors and all, this is my life.

I have overcome worse (see: braces and bad perm of ’86), and in 11 short years my nest will be empty and this mother bird will be free to fly in any two-seater I choose. Until then, I have people to haul and places to go and things to bring, so I drive a minivan… and how cool is that?

— Julie Dunlap can be reached at


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