When my fifth child was born, we outgrew our car. We'd been driving two cars for a while to get our whole family anywhere, but at five kids we no longer had enough seatbelts for all of the kids. Someone had to sit on the floor. Most of the time we walked rather than risk death, dismemberment, or expensive traffic tickets. For about three months, we walked. And walked. And walked.
The need to buy a van grew within me. Not just any van. A new van. A Toyota Sienna, the car of my dreams. Crazy thinking. But crazed or not, the notion took root, and each time I drove with my oldest on the floor or walked the four miles to church, it grew a little. By the time May rolled around, we had an addition complication: our family needed to move into my mom's place so some repairs could be completed at our house. That made the walk to church seven miles. One way. My growing little obsession blossomed and bore fruit.
Don't get me wrong, it wasn't easy. My husband protested. I insisted. He strongly protested, but finally my insane determination triumphed. Against my husband's wishes and all sound budgeting, I purchased my first new car.
The day we drove our sparkly new 2002 van off the dealers lot, we drove past something like unto this:
I looked at my sweet husband and said, "That is our future."
And indeed it has been. The first ding was a parking lot boo-boo on the passenger's side. The biggest was when my MIL backed into our front bumper. The most irritating was when one of my cute angel-monkeys got mad at me and took a rock on a drive down the driver's side a few times. The most painful was when the Montessori teachers (who opened the door for the kids each morning) pulled the handle right off the passenger's sliding door. My husband cracked the right rear-view mirror. Spills, forgotten apples, children's wrestling matches, car-seat dents, soda explosions, mud, straw all have contributed to our van's condition. My contribution? A big scratch from my mis-installation of a bike rack the other day.
Even though the glory of my glittery new toy faded fast, I cannot tell you what a joy it has been to get into my car and have it start, to need to go somewhere and to just be able to get there, to be able to give rides to people. Quite honestly, I think I appreciate my grubby old van today as much as I ever have. Maybe even more. It's still going seven years and 140,000 miles later. Even my husband's been glad we got it. And that's saying a lot.