Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Behold, the Minivan

For those of you that still follow this blog, my great silence has been due to my official hiring by the firm where I have been temping since July. Working hard and away from home, I have little time to write, but at least I am now the happy copyeditor for a wonderful company whose consistent paychecks have allowed me to replace my ancient SUV.

I had hoped the SUV would last till next summer. My mechanic shook his head and said that only another $1000 would guarantee an attempt at that.  "Well," I asked hopefully, "maybe another thousand miles without those repairs?" He grimaced. That week was the last time I drove it to work, the shaking and rattling and whining so severe I thought it would break down on the highway. By the weekend, I had succumbed to the need to finally replace the automobile that I had acquired a few months after my daughter's birth, and that had carried home my newborn son from the hospital. We have been everywhere and everything, that SUV and me: married, single, married again, residents in three states, and journeys across half the country. There were 164,000 hard-earned miles and eleven years in that vehicle, which had been a symbol of consistency, sameness despite change, a familiar comfort in new places.

It had also grown to be awfully inconvenient, however. At a car dealership that weekend, I reluctantly explored what I knew would be the best for a family that travels, a family with a large dog, a family with guests, a family of growing young people. I slinked past a row of shiny BMWs, Saabs, and Lexuses-- pretty little sedans glistening like slices of meringued pie in the cool afternoon. But those things aren't practical, and I came home with the whole wheat loaf of vehicles instead.

Behold, the minivan.

Actually, the minivan has been very nice. It has been like driving my living room, and the best part of the whole thing is that my kids cannot touch each other in the back seat. The mid row is two captain's chairs, where Tiny takes up his seat, and the third row is a bench that my daughter hogs. No one fights anymore about who poked whom. I even had a DVD player installed for those road trips we take. This past weekend on our holiday roadtrip, I smiled as my husband dropped the thermostat on his side of the car to the upper 60s while I kept my side of the car on "toast." As far as minivans go, it isn't as granny panty as I thought it would be. The front end of my mini is rather chic-ly designed, and the remote operated easy-access sliding doors are about as mechanically sexy as a mommy-mobile could be.

Truthfully, I panicked when I sold my old SUV to the dealership that weekend. My daughter stood beside me and told me not to cry about it. I didn't know what was worse--saying good-bye to my old tried-and-true or having to embrace the unglamorous genre of family vehicles. But we're doing ok here, the Catichemobile and me. Practicality won out, and for that my entire family is thankful. Even the dog... and me.

Friday, November 4, 2011


My daughter is a minority at her school, which is about two-thirds African American. I think this is a good experience for her, as she learns to get along with kids whose backgrounds differ a little from hers. Occasionally, she will come home using an expression that is specific to that culture. Last night, for example, she asked if I could buy her some lotion. "My skin is so ashy," she said. As she adopts vocabulary and tries on expressions, she will sometimes come home with something I wasn't quite ready to hear:

"Mom, Coach told us not to be those girls that have four or five different baby-daddies. What's a baby-daddy?"

We had been walking out of my son's school, another mother some steps ahead of us. I was stunned into silence, but when the mom turned to say, "Good luck with that. We just had that conversation last week," I burst into laughter. Yes, I explained it. I explained the coach's trying to set a standard for the girls. "There are young ladies at your school who fall into this category," I said, "because their moms had one relationship, had a baby out of it, moved onto the next boyfriend, and did it again. Sometimes, you'll see entire families where there is no committed relationship and a string of children from different men. It makes for great instability and uncertainty in a family. It's not good for society. She was just trying to tell you all to make good choices."

I thought I had done very well here until my daughter asked if her step-mother could claim such a label. After clarifying the difference in the relationship and reminding my daughter that her step-mom cares greatly for her, I searched for the right words to stop my daughter from repeating "baby-daddy" and getting herself (or me) into a pickle. My little boy had the right idea. "It's not nice!" he stated emphatically. No, it's not nice at all, but it sure was worth a good chuckle.