The Family Wagon

12.10.07: Livin' large


"The Apocalypse is upon us," Will announced the other day.

"Why?" I asked, with images of nuclear winter, fires, and earthquakes flooding my mind.

"Your brother just bought a minivan."

"No, really. Why?" I asked again.

Will just shook his head.

"Oh, my God!"

I had to sit down. And put my head in my hands. And blink. Blink. Blink.

"So. This is how it ends..." I sighed, resigning myself to our collective fate.

I know it may not sound like the end of days to you, but if you knew my brother, you might be inclined to start making plans...I don't know...stocking up on canned goods? Building an ark? Getting your proverbial house in order? Emptying your bank account and wiping the grocery store shelves of mega-sized boxes of Rice Krispies treats? (Just an idea.)

"We should call him and make fun of him," I decided.

"Definitely," Will agreed.

Dude, where's your car?

We called and ridiculed my brother about his new lot in life.

"Laugh all you want now," he said. "It's a smooth ride. Once you try it, you're going to want one, too."

Little did he know that Will and I had been out test-driving cars that same day. Both of our cars have been dying a long, slow death, sputtering along like two down-and-out, rusted-out, chain-smoking gasoholics. But, we love our cars. They're fun. They're sporty. They're outdoorsy. We've been through a lot with them, and we hate to see either of them go. We've been trying to hold out for as long as is humanly and mechanically possible. And now, at the 11th hour, it's decision time. We need to buy a new car, and we need to buy it fast. And, oh—by the way—in order to buy this new car, we need to figure out exactly how big our family is going to get—or not get—in the next five to ten years.

And so, there I was, shivering in the 20-degree wind, eyeing the back of a Toyota Highlander with the third-row seat set up for our hypothetical-potential-future-third-child's car seat, scratching my head and asking (apparently out loud): "But, where would we put the stroller? Or, the groceries? Or, the suitcases?" when the towering Nigerian car salesman who'd been helping us turned to me and said, in this great booming voice, with big puffs of air escaping from his lips: "Ahhhhhh. What you need is a minivan."

Will and I looked at each other in horror.

It was like some strange, trippy hallucination, all puffs of floating breath and slow-motion echoes of minivan... puff... minivan... puff... minivan...

"I...ummm...I...ahh... I think we're going to have to call it a day," Will finally said. "We just weren't prepared for this."

An agonizing decision

On the way home, we looked around at all the cars on the road and wondered: What did people drive before minivans? Did our parents agonize over this decision, too? Oh, yeah—that's right—my parents were driving a Blazer, in which they had conveniently removed the only back seat in order to put in bean bags. Which their four children would then slide around on in the back of the truck as my father cornered hairpin turns like a race car driver. That is, we were sliding around on bean bags when we weren't relegated to perching on the wheel hump. Or, when we weren't taking a 24-hour family road trip in the more fuel-efficient sedan, where one of my siblings would sleep across the back dash, two would sleep head-to-toe across the back seat, and one would sleep huddled up against the carpeted hump on the floor of the backseat. No, my parents definitely weren't wondering where to put that third car seat.

There's also the issue of the environmental impact of a minivan. And I'm not talking about greenhouse gases and carbon footprints, though we're concerned about that, too. I'm talking about the impact on our home life. If having a third child would require a bigger car, what's next? A bigger house? A bigger bank account? More, more, more? More stress? More chaos? More work? Would we be stretching ourselves too thin, running out of hands... patience... sanity?

Or, in making room for another baby, would we be making room in our lives for more laughter, more happiness, more love?

Personally, I'm a little afraid to push our luck. We have two beautiful, healthy children. As our friend Seth said on the topic of whether or not to have a third child: "I have enough blessings in my life." But, Will told me that he feels in his soul that there's a third child out there for us. How do you argue with that?

I guess we've got a little more time to think this all through before we make any rash decisions. Unless, of course, our car doesn't start in the morning.

Join's Managing Editor Dana Rousmaniere each week as she chronicles life with a new baby.

Read the next entry: 12.17.07: Bye, Bye, Binky