Monday, September 5, 2011


Back in June, Uncle Chester and I took The Inmates to Chicago for vacation.  Three days before our departure, an expensive but critical bit went out on my 2002 Toyota Sienna minivan and couldn't be repaired in time.  Needless to say, after six hours' driving each way with four of us crammed into a PT Cruiser, my determination to purchase a new van this year went up a notch.  I had intended to get one in the Spring, until a tsunami decimated parts of Japan and caused major issues with Toyota production.  By summer things were mostly up and running again when I ran into my second obstacle:  Hurricane Vulcan.

Since The Vulcan rarely goes out with the children and even more rarely drives the van, he thought there was no reason not to drive the current one to death.  I, on the other hand, was the one who ran the risk of it breaking down on the expressway with Foghorn in the car, whining in my ear for hours on end waiting for AAA.  Not to mention I've been fighting sticking side doors for years.  It all came to a head on Saturday when Grandma tried to close the door from the inside only to have the button she'd depressed get stuck and the door refused to close all the way.  I decided it was perhaps not wise to have a woman about to turn 79 ride home holding onto the handle to keep it from sliding open.  There I stood, in full view of a restaurant full of people, kicking the hell out of the door panel, trying to get the button to dislodge and/or the door to shut all the way.  Foghorn even got to kick it from the inside, but instead of hitting only the button she kept hitting the glass and I could see her entire foot going through, so she had to be restrained.  Once I finally got that door shut, I placed a loving, calm, and sane call to my husband, telling him we were going out to look for a new van.  I may have cut him off mid-sentence by hanging up on him, but that really doesn't sound like me..

Long story short, after trips to two dealerships over the weekend, a couple hours of nasty quarreling with The Vulcan, and a sincere threat to take money out of our bank account and simply write a check to Toyota without him, we are the owners of a new 2011 Sienna minivan.  In the end, even The Vulcan admitted we got a good deal, since the 2012s come out in early October and the dealers are wanting to get rid of their 2011s.  We had intended to pay cash, but since we got 0% financing in addition to a $1000 rebate, it seemed silly not to use their money for three years.  It also helped wipe that stricken look off The Vulcan's face...a little.

Foghorn was extremely enthusiastic about the idea of a new van, although she kept insisting I also check the car lot for an RV.  A couple years ago she became obsessed with owning a Winnebago and began saving money in a three foot tall Coca-Cola bottle bank.  That was fine (even though the price tag on the model she wanted was $180K and it would take her a good 25 years to save that much from her allowance).  What I objected to was her insistence on hitting up people for money.  Grandma and Chester regularly had their pockets picked, which was bad enough.  The straw that broke The Warden's back was when she started panhandling to complete strangers in stores or restaurants, pleading for pennies for her Winnebago fund.  When that didn't work, she began going around saying she was a "poor little urchin" and could someone spare a dime.

The Professor in Gatlinburg -- 2008
The Professor, on the other hand, is extremely sentimental.  At this moment we are in desperate need of a new sofa-bed in the basement, but he insists we can't get rid of the old (read:  broken beyond repair) couch because it has so many good memories.  Our blue Sienna minivan was purchased when he was three and I was expecting baby #2.  (That pregnancy ended in miscarriage, but another successful pregnancy came right on its heels.)  He really doesn't remember riding in anything else and I will say it was not without a little emotion that I gave it up to Beechmont Toyota.  Our vacations are always road trips, so that van was used to go to Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky.  It rolled through Civil War battlefields and big city traffic.  It took us to the Smokey Mountains and to the beach.  It transported us to numerous Camp Gonnawanna destinations, Halloween pumpkin patches, and Christmas light viewings.  It saw my kids go from rear-facing baby seats, to front-facing car seats, to booster seats, and, as of a month ago for Foghorn, to just a seat belt.  The poor thing, given that it experienced the first eight years of a child's life, also had every type of bodily fluid splashed in it, as well as large quantities of juice, lemonade, and dog drool.   (We left behind the DNA of at least a dozen dogs and two cats.)

Camp Gonnawanna - 2008
As far as The Professor was concerned, all those memories were more important than having a vehicle we could actually rely on to get us from place to place.  I disagreed.  And, of course, I won the battle.  I arrived at Grandma's to pick them up in our cranberry red minivan  and Foghorn went wild with exicitement at all the new technology.  After almost a decade of using our no-frills version, we're overly impressed by extras that others have had for years.  Foghorn is in love with having middle seat windows that roll down and have detachable sunshades.  She gleefully watches the back-up camera come on when I put the car in reverse and can't get over the fact that her seat is now separate from The Professor's and can recline.  She gave it the ultimate compliment when she declared, "This is better than an RV."

The Professor is a harder nut to crack.  He's old enough to ride shotgun now, so he's able to fiddle with knobs in the dashboard and is enjoying that I can hook the iPod right into the stereo where he has easy control over songs.  He loves the automatic sliding doors, especially opening them with the button on my key chain.  And he thinks having 10 cup holders is just the best idea ever.  Still, he's having trouble letting go of the old van.  Repeatedly while riding he says, "I'm not saying this one isn't better.  I'm just really gonna miss the old one."

My beloved Tristan
And I completely understand.  I wasn't allowed to drive until I was 18 and living in a rural area I was chomping at the bit to break free.  Thanks to my mother matching whatever I put in my savings account during my teen years, when I did get my first car it was a brand new one.  I purchased a 1988 light blue Chevy Nova, which I named Tristan Graham Hewson.  ("Tristan" for the character on All Creatures Great and Small, "Graham" for Graham Nash, and "Hewson" because it was the real last name of U2's Bono.)  Nobody loved a car more than I loved that one.  I suddenly was in control of my own movements and could go wherever, whenever I wanted.  I bonded with that car in a way I didn't bond with anything again until I had my first child.  I've had many cars since, all much nicer than that Nova, but I've never loved one as much and none has given me the same thrill.  While I appreciate how The Professor feels, I also know that there comes a time when you have to let go of something that's gotten...well...old.  For Tristan that was 1995 when two $1300 repair bills still didn't manage to solve the problem of him stalling every time I touched the brake.  I reluctantly let sentiment go for a car that wouldn't kill me at an intersection.  I still miss him, though.

Frank gives it two paws up.
The Professor is slowly coming around.  Today, on the way home from Grandma's, he said with a smile, "This really is a great van."  And to ease the pain, we've given him naming rights.  He's still pondering what to christen it and I just pray I'm not about to spend 10 years with a van named after a Pokemon.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love the new van.