Joco Diversions

When a minivan turns from soccer-mom vehicle to a movable gathering spot for friends

The good thing about a minivan? You can fit in plenty of friends.
The good thing about a minivan? You can fit in plenty of friends.

Becoming a minivan chauffeur was a decision rooted in pragmatism. It solved the problem of getting more than just our nuclear family from point A to point B. Carpools, carting friends, and outings with extended family became possible.

A minivan is a status symbol, for sure, but I wasn’t looking to be defined as a suburban soccer mom. Sure, we live in the suburbs, and we have kids, but I don’t really need to flaunt that. And, for the record, we only have one ill-fated season of soccer under our belts.

The plan was to get the minivan, drive our family around, then, when we were all done giving rides, trade it in for a smaller car. One with more street cred. Maybe something a little more edgy - like a Subaru. And with both kids teens now, that farewell is in sight.

Except, there’s something that had never crossed my mind. It turns out, adults like to be driven around in a minivan just as much as kids do. More, even. To some of our friends who have no kids, or whose kids are grown, the suburban mom vibe seems kitschy and fun.

A few weeks ago, we made a First Friday outing to the Crossroads with our minivan stuffed with tipsy adults, as my husband gallantly served as designated driver. Like a carpool full of best buddies, we laughed and turned up the music, filling the cramped space with camaraderie and fun. We called out driving directions and advice on finding parking places to our good-natured chauffeur as he drove us to the busy arts district.

Later, having cruised the galleries and street performers, we were all hungry and piled back into the van. My husband took side roads to avoid traffic, and landed us smack dab in the middle of a parade of custom vehicles amid some sort of car gathering.

My minivan is, in fact, customized as well, with deep purple paint across a dent on the front bumper, a scar from backing out of our narrow garage while simultaneously yelling at the kids. We could feel the bump of other cars’ stereos as we cruised past the crowd, who stared at our classic Johnson County mom ride.

We laughed, tears streaming down our face at the absurdity of us joining the parade, owning our minivan moxie.

Some of my favorite memories, in fact, involve a full van. Our family of four, plus our friends, another family of four, exploring the Rocky Mountains. Driving through southern Missouri with our family plus my mom, aunt and in-laws. Road trips with friends.

These days will end when we hang up our keys and abandon our third row. And so, you may find me driving my ride for eight well after the kids can drive themselves. Because nothing can match the fun of an adventure with a whole bunch of people we like to spend time with.

Emily Parnell lives in Overland Park