This week’s memoir prompt from The Red Dress Club: Imagine you are meeting someone for the first time. You want to tell them about yourself. Instead of reciting a laundry list of what you do or where you’re from, please give us a scene from your life that best illustrates your true self.
It is my belief, based on nearly-scientific research, that there are at least two red Honda Odysseys in every parking lot in America at any given point in time. There’ll probably be a red Sienna or Grand Caravan there, too. So of course, of course, I have stood outside “my” car, pushing the fob buttons impatiently, and finally realizing the truth three minutes later.
I only bring it up because the embarrassment of attempting to break into a stranger’s car is really my only complaint about the Odyssey. I’ve never minded the “soccer mom” stigma or being one of the crowd. There’s safety in numbers, after all. A minivan shows that I have made the practical, responsible choice, which I always do.
It was this past summer, as our family drove through rural Tennessee, when I discovered that my research was flawed. The Minivan Rule was true in every suburban parking lot in America. Here, there were precisely two kinds of non-commercial vehicles on the road: shiny, big, brand-new pickups with those oversized, diamond-plated, stainless steel toolboxes in the beds, and rusted old pickups with mud on the tires. Covered outside with the dust of nearly a week on the road, and inside with a layer of crayon shavings and Goldfish cracker dust, we very definitely did not fit in.
On top of my mild fish-out-of-water anxiety there was a bigger concern. The kids were bored, and Nashville was still several hours away. We’d already watched a movie, I was carsick from reading aloud, and we were way beyond counting license plates or coloring. It was time for the emergency bag, but we were getting close to the end of our trip, and I was almost out of tricks.
I pulled out the aluminum foil a little reluctantly. The website had said it was a good idea, but it just seemed so … weird.
“You’re supposed to crumple it into different shapes,” I instructed. “You can make toy animals, or trucks, or jewelry.” I trailed off. They weren’t going for it, and I was out of ideas. I’d have to break my one-movie-per-day rule, and I hate breaking my own rules.
But it turned out their silence was actually absorption. Riya had already fashioned a crown. Ben wanted a giraffe; the two of us spent several minutes engineering a neck that would support the weight of an aluminum head. Karina made bracelets. I created a necklace for myself with a metallic jewel in the center.
The stares from passing trucks became more pronounced as the other drivers caught glimpses of the tinny glitter from within our cabin. It didn’t bother me anymore. I made myself a crown to match Riya’s, and one for Karina, too. I took photo after photo. It was one of the most fun things we had done so far.
By the time we got to Nashville, the floor of the van was buried under a foot-deep layer of discarded foil. Robin and I stuffed it hurriedly into trash bags under the incredulous eyes of the hotel bellhops.
When we headed out of Nashville two days later, the kids asked for foil before we’d even hit the freeway.
Sometimes, even a minivan can be more than what it seems.