Thursday, May 26, 2011

I Am a Mom

I’m guessing that it’s not news to anyone who’s ever read my blog before that I am, in fact, a mom. But I feel the need to announce it, because I just got my official Mom Street Cred: I bought a minivan.

When my husband first brought up the idea of trading in my beloved Honda Civic sedan for an SUV or minivan that would actually hold a double stroller in the trunk and accomodate two car seats plus adult passengers, I was terrified. Despite the fact that I learned to drive on a huge Plymouth Gran Fury station wagon that seated about 12 people, since then I’ve only driven tiny compact cars. My first two cars were Honda Civic hatchbacks and even my current sedan was smaller than most. The thought of driving something as big and heavy as an SUV or a minivan filled my heart with fear and trembling. But I agreed with him that upsizing was a necessary evil, so we both started doing our research.

The thought of driving a van for the first time on unfamiliar roads with a car salesman yammering at me from the back seat brought me to tears. So wisely, my husband suggested that we rent a minivan for an upcoming weekend trip, to let me get a feel for driving a bigger vehicle without a stranger watching me. By that point, we had eliminated SUVs as having too few seats and being too high off the ground, and were seriously considering the Honda Odyssey minivan, both because it got excellent ratings in all the reviews we could find and because the familiarity of a Honda cockpit was very comforting to me. So my personal research department (AKA my wonderfully patient husband) searched all over town to find someplace that would rent us an Odyssey for the weekend. No luck, but he managed to come up with a good deal on a Kia Sedona, so I agreed that any kind of minivan would be a useful experience, and he picked up the Kia and brought it home, then had me drive it to his sister’s house, a very familiar journey.

Pulling out of our street onto the main road was probably the most nerve-wracking part of the trip. I was surprised at how high off the ground I felt – it was like driving my own car sitting in a lawn chair on the roof. But as I got off the city streets and onto the highway, I was surprised but relieved to find that it didn’t feel as ponderous or heavy as I’d expected. In fact, it had more pep than my sedan. The only time I had any sense of the weight of the van was when I was making a tight turn at a high speed. I had another minor nervous moment when I had to back the beast out of a parking space at a busy highway rest stop, but even that was more manageable than I expected. I ended the weekend confident that I would be able to survive, and possibly even enjoy, driving a minivan. (The satellite radio tuned to the Broadway station might have contributed to that impression.)

That feeling was confirmed a few days later when we found a 2008 Odyssey at a dealership and took it for a test drive. As expected, the familiar Honda cockpit helped to put me at ease, and since we had our son in the back seat, he helped to distract the salesman a bit and I could concentrate on my driving. We took the car on the highway and on some back roads so I could get a feel for how it handled under various conditions. I even turned around in a parking lot and laughed when I realized that this big beast had a tighter turning radius than my little sedan! I found that very comforting.

Then last night, we went to a dealership that had a number of Odysseys on their lot that fit our criteria: right year, right body type, right mileage, right features, and of course, right price. One of them had more bells and whistles than most, even the backup camera that had originally been on our “must have” list but that we’d been unable to find in any other vehicles at other dealerships. The sticker price made me catch my breath a bit, until my husband reminded me that the “online” price (and the one we would be paying) was considerably less than that. (Of course, that also reminded me of how much I hate car dealers’ deceptive and manipulative selling tactics, but that’s another whole blog entry.) Our wonderful saleswoman, Luda, had us take it for a test drive, and instead of yammering on about how wonderful the car was, she chatted with my son in the back seat (and let him play with the DVD remote, which endeared her to all of us immediately) and let the car sell itself, which it did.

My husband and I had a little chat in the waiting room and agreed that this was the car we wanted, and within an hour I had signed, initialed, and gotten copies of a whole stack of paperwork promising that this would be my very own mom car. So today I go to the bank to have them cut the biggest check I’ve ever written and then back to the dealership to drop it off and sign, sign, sign my life away on another stack of paperwork. And then just wait a day or so for them to get new plates and detail the car to ensure that new car smell, and she’ll be all mine!

And yes, she is definitely a “she”. I had joked to my husband on the way to see the car that I was thinking of naming it “Stan the Van”, but this car is much too elegant and ladylike to be a Stan. In fact, I was so grateful to our saleswoman for being so helpful and unpushy that I’m thinking of naming it in her honor: Ludmilla, or Millie, for short. I just hope that she and Gustave get along.

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