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  • Betsy Singleton Snyder

I Used to Be Cool

Once upon a time, I owned a 1998 Saab 900 SE manual convertible in navy blue with a black top. It had a tricked out sound system in the trunk that held 8 CDs at a time. I got custody of that beauty because it was considered a "gift" and the judge gave it to me in an exhausting divorce settlement. My sister said I had earned it. Christians probably shouldn't say such things, or agree with them, but I confess that I did agree.

I did not squander the keepsake. I kept that sophisticated ride as my life changed, and it changed a lot while I owned that car.

One of my favorite adventures with the Turbo happened when I took my Golden Retriever, Bishop, on a road trip to a retreat in Santa Fe.

I had never been to New Mexico, and its dry air, intoxicating mountains, and artistic community was a balm. The first week, I stayed at a Presbyterian retreat center and studied scripture with feminist biblical scholar Phyllis Trible. (If the word "feminist" freaks you out, you don't know how strong you are, and, by the way, I learned that word in church.)

After a few more days in Santa Fe, I ate food that filled my soul and body, soaked in a local spa tub, toured galleries, and bought a pair of hand-tooled cowboy boots, "These are boots are made for walking' -- google it.

Next, I traveled up to Taos.

The little places I stayed were pet-friendly, and the town bed and breakfasts accommodated my spirit animal in public spaces. Bishop and I had beer in small cafes, and hiked up to Williams Lake. I've got some black and white photos of that day. If a woman and dog can look proud, we did.

On the way home to Arkansas, we came back via the "Mother Road," Route 66. Bishop sat next to me, harnessed in, and our newly purchased art took up much of the back seat. All of that art is in our home. It reminds me of what that year was like, and, it also reminds me of the trip I took, and the journey that was not miles on the speedometer, but me learning about myself, that I could be strong on my own.

Less than a year after that trip, I met and began dating my husband. Though we're an older couple, we got ourselves busy, and began a family that grew to four children in 3 years. Throughout that time, I held on to my Saab. In those early years, I still put down the top, and I let my hair fly in the wind, and I turned the volume up on my tunes like some cool kid without a care in the world.

Finally, at 95,000 miles, still sporting a come-hither look, the Saab was traded in for a brand new Toyota Sienna van. Victor took my picture next to my old, sexy friend. Of course this car was no longer practical, but I'm not a practical person. With tears in my eyes, I grieved: it was the end of one adventure, and the beginning of another, one I desperately wanted. Yet, grief is always a part of goodbye and hello.

The "Red Van" was pretty cool. It came with u-connect, sliding doors that made it easy to pile the kids in, a small screen to play DVDs for long rides, and it had a sun roof. Whoopee.

Within a few months, 2.5-year-old triplets "made art" on it. They took small rocks and wrote creative stuff on the side doors. One wrote his name backwards. That seemed genius.

Before too long, trikes scratched the sides. Once, I took it to a body shop, and they said it'd be at least $5,000 to get it looking decent. Whoopee! Then, there was the day a kid took off his seat belt, causing me to look in the rear view mirror and hit the car next to me. The car I brushed against was fine, but my front bumper caved into a nice round dent, perfect for an emoji.

Somehow, the AC vents in the back were pulled out. On a trip to Sylamore Creek, Victor bottomed us out and part of the under-carriage came loose.

The Red Van is our family car. It is not cool. Our oldest is mortified to be seen anywhere near it. A head rest on the inside went missing. There's a hole in the passenger seat, and I am a firm believer in duck tape.

While driving home today, I stopped at a red light. I was behind a black Toyota Sienna van, newer model, with tinted windows, and no dents. There was a tiny sticker on the rear window: "I Used to Be Cool."

Maybe her kids are better than mine, not the scratching kind, and that sleek van will stay semi-cool. I mean, let's be honest, a van is not a convertible; I don't care how big your sun roof/moon roof is.

So, this strange and funny thing happened while owning this Red Van for 8 years. My kids are growing up, and it's going fast, faster than the Turbo, and this uncool van is covered in love, hard love, difficult love, and beautiful love.

It's pretty freaking cool.

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