What you heard the other night, the cheering and clapping and dancing in the driveway, came from my side of the neighborhood. My minivan was on fire.
Flames licked from under the hood. Black smoke boiled out.
The kids partied in the electric atmosphere of disaster. They never dreamed the minivan era would end in a bonfire. They never thought it would end at all.
Their fearless father jumped into action, propping open the hood and assessing the situation. He huffed and he puffed and he blew the fire out.
He huffed and he puffed and he blew the fire out.
It flickered back to life.
As if demonstrating the definition of stupidity, he huffed and he puffed and he blew the fire out. Again, it rekindled.
Not one child moved to help. They watched daddy and wondered why he was trying so hard. Even they, lost deep in the fog of adolescent hormones, knew that this was the only solution to the problem of the minivan, which they think they’ve grown too big to ride in and I’ve grown too old to drive.
This vestige of the post-modern American family, the minivan, suffers ridicule from the lips of today’s youth. For me, it symbolizes a period in the late ’80s, ’90s, and early 2000s when we felt young and fearless and optimistic enough to fill the seats with babies, toddlers and preschoolers. For my kids, that’s too many decades to own a car.
The minivan is to my generation what the station wagon with the rear- facing seat was to my parents’. Just like the sight of an old beater wagon with faux wood panels makes my mama and daddy want to slide a switch over the visor and smoke an entire pack of Kool Menthols with the windows rolled up, the sound of a minivan’s sliding doors conjures sentimental memories for me of crushed Cheerios, popped balloons and wailing infants.
My husband attempted on a previous occasion to rid us of this vintage piece of Americana, though he claims it was unintentional. Following the harrowing transport of a load of 11-year-old girls, he left the minivan parked on the street, unlocked, window down, keys in the ignition, motor running. Lonely and rejected, the van sat on the curb the next morning, its battery dead and its spirits dashed.
With the harsh light of history shining on the car combustion in our driveway, the pants-wearer’s huffing and puffing to put out the flames came off as a man-doth-protest-too-much scene. I would never make the accusation out loud, but to the casual observer it might have appeared that my beloved’s true intent was to add oxygen, to feed the fire, to apply the tried-and-true Boy Scout method of starting a blaze. This must have occurred to him, as well. When he turned and saw his attentive audience proffering sticks of skewered marshmallows, he ran for the garden hose.
The smoke cleared, revealing a mysterious mix-up amongst the battery cables. I would tell you the details, but my husband’s explanation was too complicated for the female mind. The part I understood was when he threw his arms skyward and roared, “It’s alive!”
I’ve sent word to the 15-year-old off at camp. The memo read: Minivan caught on fire STOP. Cause is questionable STOP. Daddy put out the flames STOP. We have not lost your inheritance STOP.
His response has yet to arrive. I’m sure he regrets his absence from the festivities. He would have certainly pitched in and given his father a hand with the fire.