Tuesday, May 6, 2014


If you need a small Mother's Day gift, please consider my book "Better Living Through Chaos."  It's a collection of columns from my time at the Bergen Record.  Just click on the link to the right to learn more or to purchase. 

So you can get an idea of the book, here's one of my favorites from it.  Thanks for reading me, and Happy Mother's Day to all of our Mothers!


I am driving my dream car.  Every time I slide into the driver’s seat and caress the steering wheel I feel a deep sense of satisfaction.  Every sacrifice I had to make, every year I waited for it, was so very worth it.

My dream car is a late model minivan with a dent in the hatch.  My dream car has a box of tissues in the front seat, toys on the floor and cracker crumbs in the seat cushions.  My dream car can hold two adults, five kids, two bikes, a stroller, dozens of plastic swords and balls, and a scooter, provided one adult holds the scooter on her lap.

My dream car has plenty of head room.  A six year old boy can easily stand up in the back and change his muddy pants.  In fact, so can an adult woman, but don’t ask me how I know.

With my minivan, I can pull over to the curb at a moment’s notice and pick up a perfectly good patio table and chairs that my neighbor was just going to throw away.  If you don’t think that’s a blast, all I can say is, you haven’t tried it. 

When I told my friends that I was getting a minivan, many of them grimaced in light horror and groaned things like, “Oh, well, I’ll still be friends with you.”

I realize that I driving a minivan is not hip.  It’s even less hip to openly love your minivan.  The usual minivan owner will acknowledge his car with a sheepish nod meaning “Yeah, yeah, I’m driving a minivan.  I have to, for the kids.” 

OK.  You may be driving a snappy sedan or trendy SUV, but if you have kids and you let them snack in the car, if you shuttle them around to soccer games and birthday parties, if you bulk shop once a month, believe me, you have left hip far behind.

As Hollywood types settle down and have babies, the fan magazines would have you believe that  motherhood is actually becoming hip.  Really?  Which motherhood are they talking about?  The gorgeous-starlet motherhood, in which your abdomen snaps back into a size 4 two weeks after the baby is born?  The motherhood with night nurses and nannies and someone to do the grocery shopping for you?  Or the one in which your son requests that you turn down the radio so he can hear himself burp the alphabet?

Being a parent is anti-hip.  You stop cursing (or you should!), you become super safety conscious, you adopt your child’s baby talk into your vocabulary, you start cutting your own hair.

Do you get excited about being asleep before 11 p.m.?  Do you have living room furniture that is important to you?  Did you see Eminem perform on a televised award show and conclude that, while he was talented, you would not be downloading his songs to your iPod?  You, my friend, are no longer hip and a car cannot change that.

Being hip is all about detachment, coolness.  Feeling detached can be a heady and immortal feeling in youth.  It feels free and exhilarating. Driving too fast, listening to loud music, maybe even flicking your cigarette ash out the window, all contrives to make you feel free, unencumbered, powerful, immortal. 

Now, in the middle of my life, being encumbered is what I want, that is what makes me feel immortal now.   I am needed for everything:  to pour cereal, fold laundry, notice progress, make unpopular rules, share discoveries.  A cool sense of detachment is impossible for me these days because I am so extremely attached … to my kids, to my husband, to my house, to my debt, to my church, to my friends, and darn it all, to my car.  

I have settled into my life and it’s as comfortable as, well, as a bucket seat with lower lumbar support.

Loving my minivan means that I have happily let children take over my life.  There are no better passengers for a ride.  They clamor, they compete, they notice everything.  “Mom!  Look!  That dog just has three legs!  Can you believe that!?  Did you see how fast he was running on three legs?  Did you, Mom?”

I know how I look.  When I pull up at the drive thru and holler at the kids to “Quiet down so I can order!”, then start tossing bags of fries and nuggets back to the famished hordes,  I can see the look of pity from the quiet guy in his tidy coupe.   I’m shoving backpacks and library books off the passenger seat to make room for the happy meals, and he is flicking a piece of lint off his dress pants.  I wonder if he saw that three-legged dog back there.

Driving a minivan is the ultimate betrayal of our youth/sex/success obsessed culture.  It says “I am more concerned with safety than style!”  “I put a balanced meal on the table almost every night!” “I sing along to the Eagles!”

I don’t want to drive fast.  I don’t want to be flashy.  I want to buckle my loved ones in safely, pass out some snacks, and enjoy each mile for what it brings.  I want to go slowly, I want to be considerate, I don’t care about being the best at anything.  I want to be the one who is responsible, the one who keeps us from getting lost.  The one in the driver’s seat of a car that has room for everything.