Tuesday, November 19, 2013

RIP BWT: Eulogy for A Crappy Van

Sometimes something happens that seems like its not a big deal, but then it is. You find yourself crying in a high school parking lot behind the auto tech classroom wondering what the hell is going on.

You see, a couple of weeks ago the Big White Ford Tampon started acting weird. It got all jumpy. Then it got shaky - really shaky. It got to the point where the kids got scared when we drove out of the neighborhood. I had the Cap'n drive it and he was decisive: "The transmission is going out. We only have a few more weeks."

Part of me was happy enough to do the hammer dance (that is my dance of joy and celebration). I have been driving that van for 5 years and it's a piece of crap. I am so ready for something new and not smelly. But part of me was unhappy. The part that would have a new car payment. The part that would have to deal with the hassle of having to research, test drive and negotiate a good price on a replacement car.

Let me share with you some facts about the Big White Tampon: it's 9 years old, it has almost 100,000 miles on it, and it was used when we got it. Not only was it used - it was the courtesy shuttle at the dealership that we bought it from. It looks like it should say "Mt. Zion Church of Crappy, White  Vehicles" on each side. We paid cash for it. It wasn't a lot of cash. In the past five years, there have been diaper explosions, car sickness, spilled milk boxes, dog hair, lost socks and granola bar crumbs ground into every fiber of the all-cloth interior of that van. No amount of vacuuming or shampooing or Febreze could possibly eradicate the pervasive funk.

We first bought it because we were going from having two kids to having four. My sister had just moved in with us to finish high school and I was 8 months pregnant with my third baby. My oldest was five. It was a crazy year. We were a crazy family. We really needed a Big White Ford Tampon.

So much has changed since then. The baby I was pregnant with is now learning to read. I started a blog with my friend Kate. My sister is now the mother of a toddler. My husband changed jobs. We bought a house. I went back to work. Everything is different.

The changes in my life are the most noticeable to me at preschool. There, I am a different person than I was when I first bought that car. These days at preschool drop-off, I'm usually calm and showered (or at least clean) and looking fairly respectable. On some days, I'm wearing gym clothes because I have actually been to the gym. On work days, I have blown out my hair and I'm wearing mascara. I mean - I'm still me. If you look hard enough, you're going to find a boob stain. But seriously me five years ago and me now? It's an enormous improvement. Like a before and after photo.

Back then, I looked at the bathed and blown-out moms (like stupid Kate in her Jimmy Choos) with awe. HOW DID THEY DO THAT? I was the most train-wreckish of them all. My pajamas were essentially the same as my clothes (yoga pants/v-neck shirt). I maybe showered 3 times a week. I was exhausted. I was not sleeping and I was breast feeding every two hours. I was a new parent to a teenager. And a newborn. My little kids were adjusting to those major life changes. My husband was working double shifts at the office and at home to keep us all together.

That first year was so hard.

But we all fit in the van. We took trips. We went to the zoo. We went to Starbucks (a major treat in those days). We rocked out to music and had epic car parties. It got surprisingly good gas mileage. It had a very powerful V-8 and nobody could mess with me on the interstate or at a stoplight. We took road trips. We went to Florida for Spring Break. It took me to Target 14,786 times. When it was time, it took my sister to the airport to go to college.

It did everything a van was supposed to do for a family and I was going to miss it, even if it was smelly and embarrassing.

A couple of days ago, I ran into a friend at Target and she congratulated me on getting rid of the BWT.  She said: "It's time. Whenever I see you driving around in your old car, I always think - there goes a humble woman."

From someone else that might be a dig, but this friend is a Christian and very kind-hearted. If you are a nice Christian lady, "humble" is a very nice word. I know she meant it as a compliment. That unlike other people who felt they had to drive something fancy, or who lived above their means, that it spoke well of me that I didn't care about that and just drove a practical vehicle that met our needs.

Her comment stuck with me: There goes a humble woman, in a humble van. 

For the past five years, I was that van. As the mother of three young children, it was my job (and looking back, my pleasure) to meet our family's needs in the most basic and important ways. KEEP THE YOUNGLINGS ALIVE. Feed them. Snuggle them. Bathe them. Wipe them. Buckle them. Smooch them. Find their tiny socks. Get them to the doctor. Take them to school. Sometimes that meant that I was unshowered, or had dog hair stuck to my pants. That's OK. It's a stage of life, and one that for me is now over because they're all big enough to wipe themselves. And I still have dog hair on my pants.

The BWT lasted as long as it could. It's transmission went out about the same time we really didn't need it anymore. Now I'm in a different stage of life that is slightly less basic and slightly more showered. I'm not the BWT anymore. I think I'm ready to be a Sienna. To some that's fairly ordinary but for me, comparatively, IT IS SUPER FANCY. It has systems. It has seat warmers. (Editor's note: I have actually heard you use some very "basic" four letter words while trying to figure out all the buttons and bells in your new van with me on speaker phone. I'm just sayin'. -Guru) I'm learning that to be a Sienna is great. It is also, however, much more complicated and much less basic.

As our patron saint Erma Bombeck once wrote, "the grass is always greener over the septic tank". There certainly is no faster way to become nostalgic for the simple and the basic than to have your life become more complicated.

I didn't really put any of this together until I was taking the van to it's final destination yesterday. I thought of all that it had done for us on that last drive, and how it was like The Giving Tree, and how it was the end of an era, and how I was a Sienna now, and I cried my eyes out. Yes. I cried over the smelly, embarrassing BWT like my heart was breaking.

We're donating it to a local high school with an auto tech program (because the poor van is literally not worth selling at this point). The students will overhaul the transmission and then the school district will donate it to a local charity. It would be a good next life for our old friend. It will deliver meals or drive volunteers where they need to go. It's a useful and humble van, after all, and that's what it was made to do.

(c) Mommyland Blogs 2013

36 comments:

  1. Totally hear you... and I cried, too.

    http://trelasfight.blogspot.com/2008/06/ode-to-volvo.html?m=1

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  2. Awww! This post was so sweet! I think we can get a few more years out of our minivan, but I'm certain I will cry over it when it's time to move to something else.

    I currently drive a Sienna (and love it, except for the stupid run flat tires - I don't know whose idea it was to make them standard but I hate them with the passion of a million fiery suns), but I have to be honest - I saw a commercial the other day for a Honda Odyssey with a built in vacuum cleaner & my first thought was "That? Would be LIFE-CHANGING!"

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  3. I have cried when we replaced old cars ever since I was a little girl. Even then I knew what an important role they had played in my life.

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  4. And suddenly I'M crying about YOUR van. I guess that means I totally get it.

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    1. me too, I'm sitting here sobbing about life changes...

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  5. I have the double whammy against getting a new car: I'm poor enough a car payment sucks (luckily for us we've been able to hold out until we have enough to pay cash, though I did have a hundred dollar car last me six years once), and my husband is s mechanic. That second one sounds great until you realize that mechanics will keep their cars on the road no matter how shitty those cars have gotten. My seven year old can with 110k miles isn't bad, but our 12 year old Jeep with 165,000 miles should be replaced despite his insistence that it's fine (when you have to rig it to trick the emissions test because the fix is several thousand dollars for a non-essential part). I'm hoping (when we have enough money) that something like the trans starts acting up so we can upgrade, but not yet, you stupid Jeep!

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  6. Thank you for writing this! My good friends are going from family of 3 to 5 in a few short months, and they are not thrilled with having just bought their own BWT. Hopefully it will give them a little perspective to embrace it!

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  7. Aaaaaahhhhh...this is me. We're getting rid of our tampon this weekend. Except ours isn't shiny white, it's mud brown. Transmission problems too, got it just after our mini was born, he'll be 5 soon. I don't think we're upgrading at all though, just a newer tampon. lol

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  8. Odd. We went through the same thing. 1998 Ford windstar van, it was huge, powerful and could hold just as much as a pickup. At 98k miles, the tranny went out. We donated it to a local charity and got a HUGE tax write-off that year. We then bought a slightly used 2003 Toyota Sienna and proceeded to put 180,000 very tough miles on it. 4 kids, a dog and everything to go along with it all. Its been overloaded with toys, people, home improvement projects, towed our overweight pop up camper for 8 years without a single major repair. After having no car payment for 4 years, it finally popped the head gasket on the way home from work one day. I sold it for $3000, and yes, i teared up when it drove away.

    The sienna was a great van, I still miss it. We've moved on, but I still see it in the background of 8 years worth of pictures and home videos. It was the cheap one, no frills or "systems". But it humbly did its job, and now is probably living out the rest of its life as a taxi in mexico city.

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  9. Love that you shared this.... my Mario Cart Minivan (a Sienna) is a 2002 with 230,000+ miles on it. My 10-year-old son cries when I say it won't last forever.... it only has to last another year and half until his older sister graduates from college. Then I think we'll all cry. Humble is good. xo

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  10. I cried like a baby when we traded in my Mazda 6 for a minivan. I loved my first minivan but the Mazda was the first new car I ever had and I paid for it by myself. I was happy to have a van that was better for my family, but that car was a symbol of what I did on my own. The guys on the car lot thought I was crazy.

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  11. Oh no you did NOT conjure The Giving Tree.

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  12. I had this same van only maroon. Transmission problems are notorious in this model, apparently. Buying that van was a very bad decision fueled by pregnancy hormones. I drove it for about 2 years before I just couldn't take it any more and traded it in. Happiest day of my life.

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  13. I was the same way when we got rid of our 12 year old minivan - it had brought three of our sons home from the hospital! And when our 17 year old suburban (bought used and driven for 15 years!) died - it had brought son number four home from the hospital, all of them to and from Scout trips and camps, college move ins and move outs. It was a part of our lives and I sometimes spend more time in those two vehicles than I did at home. I now have a CRV. I can only carry 5 people and that is assuming one of them is stick skinny. I cannot adjust to not being able to move the entire neighborhood around!
    Life goes on - mourn what is gone and joyfully look forward to future.

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  14. Awww - I cried for you and the BWT. May it have a lovely second life for another family at a time that they need a BWT.

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  15. That was us 5 years ago, right before our first child was born. We bought a bigger car and needed to get rid of my husband's 20 year old Chevy Corsica, that he learned how to drive in. It was bitter-sweet, because it still ran fine, but only one door would open. We took it to the junk yard and the man there bought it from us for $200, so he could fix it up for his kids. I'm sure it's still going strong, it was just that good of a car.

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  16. Man I love the way you write! I love the way you live too. And I especially love how you took that kind Christian lady´s comment in exactly the spirit it was intended and are now teaching more of us how such a word can truly be a compliment. Enjoy your new wheels, I believe they will be all the sweeter thanks to the years spent in the BWT.

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  17. Oh Lydia. I'm right there holding your hand. I too lost a beloved mini van friend this year. Her name was Veronica. She was the Blanche Devereaux of mini vans. She was old, but she was still hot and still had it. Till she didn't. She was free, which in my book is right there next to god. My parents owned a car lot for a brief time. When we found out I was pregnant and we were going from one to two, my parents made my far fetched dreams of a minivan true. She was purple and a little rusty, but she was mine.

    We had a good 4 years with her. She was so good to us. A little gas and an oil change when we remembered and she never asked for anything more. She never needed any repairs in her time with us. It came to a point though, where she couldn't turn left without fear of everything falling apart. We struggled to get her above 25 mph. She was no longer reliable for even school pickup, which totaled only a mile total, but unfortunately required a maximum speed of 35 and one left turn.

    So in March of this year we set out to find someone new. I picked the first van I saw at the first lot we went to. Dumb maybe, but it was love. It was a place where we 'knew someone,' and they offer warranties. She is navy blue (my favorite color) and beautiful. Her name is Roxy. Short for Roxanne. ALA the Police. Veronica went out the way she would have wanted. Being banged by another piece of metal. She brought me a cool $260 from the junkyard. I took it as a sign that she approved because it was the amount of one month's car payment for Roxy.

    So far Roxy loves it here. We've done all we can to make her welcome. I clean her out often and bathe her weekly. She gets things like routine maintenance that we couldn't afford 4 years ago. We're about to put new tires on her and last month she got $1150 in repairs, for which we paid only a $100 copay from our warranty company.

    But I will tell you Lydia, I too shed some tears as they towed Veronica away. Because in that van a dream came to fruition. I became a Mom of two. I was a SAHM. I was a Mom in a minivan. I got something awesome for free. You never forget your first <3

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    1. "Veronica went out the way she would have wanted. Being banged by another piece of metal." My co-workers think I've lost it because I'm giggling so hard at this!!

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  18. I'm getting a small SUV tomorrow to replace my zippy Jetta. I'm very sad. It's just not big enough and also needs some transmission work. Car seats plus racing bucket seats just don't work too well. My first grown up car. Paid for with my own money. Lovingly taken care of for 9 years. So, so sad.

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  19. I agree with Olivia above - your writing and how you live are so on key and easy to relate to. I feel your pain of losing the old reliable, but the BWT isn't reliable so it's time to move on. I turned in my 2 week notice yesterday and thus am looking to get something with better gas mileage - the '05 F150 isn't the most fuel efficient, but it sure works wonders with hauling things around (baseball equipment, yard work, etc) and is huge inside to haul kids and leave room so they're not squished. My daughter was in tears - WHY do we have to get rid of the truck?? Pretty, it isn't. But it's mine, paid for for a long time, and if we get a ding, no big deal. I mean, dented tailgate, chipped running boards, and sticky stuff from the window shade thingies on the outside, and I swear enough stains from spilled drinks and food on the inside that I joke it looks like I haul bodies in it. It will be sad to see it go, but it's been a good truck, and we bought it from hubby's g'pa, who is in a nursing home with alzheimers now. Put all but 4k of the 128k on it. Good times, good memories, but sometimes you just gotta move on. BWT will always be in your heart and a reminder of that time of life. Love you oodles girl!!

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  20. Just reading the title made me tear up. Your BWT was like another character in the adventures you tell us about your family. I am ever so glad that it will have another life after this one. It's like Sirius Black...beyond the veil, but not really gone. Though I still hate when characters I like are written out...

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  21. I still miss my 13 year old Ford Explorer. It was a wicked rattle trap, the drivers side window was stuck open 3 inches and terribly embarrassing, but I got it before I even got married. I had a horse and a dog back then. Then we lost one dog and got another. It brought my two babies home from the hospital, back and forth to daycare, to the ER. I sold my horse and bought a house. Bessie was with me through it all. She never once broke down - not once. I couldn't cry when I traded it in for $400 and bought our used Odyssey, but I wanted to. Four salesmen got in it and drove it away. Probably to take it 4-wheeling and put it out of it's misery. But I loved that truck. I love my Odyssey now but I still think of "Bessie" like a first love. The BWT will always hold a special place in your heart and memories. It's not weird to mourn it. Okay maybe it is, but your in good company. :)

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  22. Just think though, the effect this will have on those students who get the opportunity to learn on it. The pride they will feel when they rebuild it and it runs. The joy they will feel when they hand it over to be donated. And how happy the recipient will be when they sit in that drivers seat of their VERY OWN BWT, maybe for the first time of owning anything. And they will reflect fo a moment as if in prayer. Then wonder aloud...."What is that SMELL?" - tee hee! Give it forward, baby!

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  23. I had to part with my college car recently. It was time... It was passed time... But oh did I cry. And actually, it sits on a far corner of our property awaiting my decision to sell or scrap or I don't know, give it a funeral? She wasn't pretty, but she got me back and forth to college over an hour away every day for four years. There were so many times when I thought she was on her death bed and wouldn't make it, but she pulled through. This fall I started grad school and also found out I was pregnant. Alas, as faithful as she had been, I needed something safer to transport me and the wee babe, and my student loan was the ONLY way possible to get another car. It was so sudden, and I felt I was betraying the car that had been with me through so much. My DH thinks the emotional distress I have felt over this is due to my pregnancy hormones, and perhaps it is, in part... but this post makes me feel so much better knowing that others get attached to their cars.. even the ugly ones.

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  24. at least you're donating it to science? nice eulogy.

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  25. When we recently sold our Quad Cab Dodge 1/2 ton Pickup, my 8 yr old was very upset. She was afraid the "memories" would be sold with the truck. So we "vacummed" them up and put them in the 3/4 ton Ford extended cab diesel we bought to replace it. Need the bigger truck to haul more horses in the trailer for 4H shows. It made her a happy camper, and me a weepy mess!! Good luck with the Sienna life!!

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  26. HI!!! Long time listener, first time caller! You just wrote where I am RIGHT NOW. Just bought a Sienna - and it's the nicest most fanciest car I've ever owned. 7 months pregnant with my 3rd child, eldest (a girl) is 5. I have lost track off all the piles in my house, including bills, and most days I have to chose between doing laundry or fixing a non-pasta dinner, but rare is the day when BOTH occur. Thank you for reminding me that this is a season, and though it has its perks too, I look forward to the day when I don't have to be humbled by my appearance. ;)

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  27. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    1. Diane - I reposted your whole entire comment except for the name of my husband's employer. I truly hope you're ok with that. If not, feel free to send me an email at admin@rantsfrommommyland.coma & tell me that I was being an a-hole and I will humbly take it.

      DianeNovember 23, 2013 at 8:22 PM
      It would have been nice Lyd if you and the Capn donated the big white car to a family whose child is going through horrific pediatric cancer treatment at Fairfax Hospital on the Ped Onco floor or Childrens National Med Center in DC. As a ped cancer Mom whose son was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer in June of 08. I would have given anything for a reliable car to get him to his cancer chemo torture. I am still driving, as single Mom, my 97 Rav 4 that still has a tape deck. No GPS on this car folks. Just spent 800 last week to get old bessy's timing belt replaced. Not a good thing with five years of cancer treatment. The Capn can well afford to get you a new car Lyd. I used to work with him at his former law firm. He can well afford it. You all need to keep the pediatric cancer families in your prayers and it would be great if you all would set up a fund for the kids and Moms .... who live in the hospital for months on end. A cancer Mom only takes a shower once a week while taking care of their child undergoing chemo in the hospital. Trust me .. I've been there. Count your blessings gals and check out thetruth365.org. Make a donation and help our kids. Sorry folks, you have no idea how lucky you are.

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    2. crap! I mis-spelled my email it is admin@rantsfrommommyland.com and also, we considered donating it to family but please understand that van was not reliable. My kids were scared to drive in it because it shook so much. Also, we were told that the cost of repairing it was worth more the value of the van. And even then, we weren't sure how cool it would be to donate it to ANY family who struggled with money because the repairs on it were just going to keep coming, you know? It had sort of crossed that magical line where stuff kept needing to get fixed. I will go check out the link you shared right now.

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  28. Hi I read this earlier but wanted to say you were kind not to kick that lady when she made that humble comment- I mean I get it too but it was still rude of her to even point out that she had noticed you and what kind of car you have. Sorry rant over I was just incensed that someone would have the nerve to say that. Also, I get attached to cars. I have a Honda so it should keep going for quite some time- so should your Sieenna

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    1. She seriously meant it in a nice way and I knew this so completely that it wasn't until later that it occurred to me that coming from someone else that would have been a zing. She's just not that kind of lady. In 8 years, I've never heard her say a unkind word about someone else.

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