I’ve had my minivan for over ten years. I remember when I got it. I thought, shit – I’m one of those soccer moms now. The ones who swap style for practicality, leather trousers for trackies, Saturday night cocktails for long-distanced tournaments. I used to look at the moms of such cars and think, wow – you look like a minibus driver. I’m far too cool for that car. But then I got one. No real option with four boys and their toys in tow. And slowly, especially once I realized that at the press of a single button half the side of the car could slide open, the ease in which I moved about the LA world with up to seven kids happily seated in the back, plus two dogs and the shopping, made me more happy (and comfortable) than my need to look cool. My life was as full as that car and I was gonna rock the minivan.
This car became the flagship embodiment of Hamm Fam enterprises, a real friend. It safely took us everywhere: skiing, road trips, camping (ok, glamping) and day in and day out mileage for playdates, parties, athletics and school outings. Reliable and protective, we have weathered many a storm together, both inside and out. It was one of the first of its kind to have that screen pop down from the middle section so that movies could be watched in the back seats. I will forever know the entirety of the soundtrack to Batman Returns, Sky High and Star Wars. That nice car smell inside lasted for longer than it should have until boy sweat and dirty cleats declared victory. And yet still, every time I open the door there remains an ever so faint reminder of the way it used to smell, and it feels like the van’s giving me a ‘wink-wink’. The bulk of my time in this car was a blur. All of those years running after the boys, around for them, going, doing. You never think that raising kids moves slowly when you’re in it, until it torpedoes so fast it makes your head spin and you’re the one chasing Time to slow it down, sitting alone in the minivan.
So today, when I drove to get it washed, not because of the chaos and dirt from the boys but because of the rain, I felt nostalgic and dare I say emotional. My boys are grown and growing into young men. Three were supposed to be living away. But then Covid changed all that. They came home. And Family Hamm got another year living together as older boys. Time; a neglected and undervalued commodity in our modern society. Everything is so immediate and set up for instant responses we are zoomed into a now now now expectation and we aren’t accustomed to waiting for anything anymore. Or, taking our time. Time to be together; time to connect; time for a response; time to do nothing; time to do something you always wanted to do. Covid has stopped society from advancing in the way its used to and has made us all pause. Because it was enforced and came with great suffering, this pause hasn’t always felt like a positive thing to have to do – more like an endurance test. There has been real loss and undeniable grief in the stillness of our lives. But I have reflected, and the time spent with my family, those lockdown, slow days of nothingness and togetherness, yielded a greater understanding of who is in my pod and how lucky I am to have them all. And my minivan came back to life once again.
We had many unexpected trips with all of us spending this time together. It saw In and Out leftover wrappers shoved into its creases; sand from playing on the beach more often; enough paper masks, hand sanitizer and wipes in its side panels that an entire football team could get cleaned up. And of course, who could forget the new rack that was assembled on top to support Husband’s new paddle board- a rack never used when it is way more fun to shove the whole thing inside the car and let the boys hang out the open back. Having all four boys home again felt like a gift, even though it was ultimately counter-intuitive to where they are at with their own, independent journeys. Gotta say, I loved it. And so did my youngest. To have all ‘the brothers’ home all year – he said he was living his best life!
It wasn’t all rosy, what lockdown/shutdown can be, but we did well. Memories were made that we all appreciated. And that thing called Time, well, I’m still learning how to be in it and not chase it; to be productive and not wasteful and to be reflective without losing my momentum. I daydreamed about it all until the guy at the carwash waved his rag and screamed, “Whose minivan?” I got up, while eyeing the other Porsche and Audi owners next to me, and proudly said, “Mine.”