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The Cargo-Space Shift
When did the change happen?


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Susan Konig

One warm afternoon, when we had a quiet moment, my old pal Beth took me out to the garage and showed it to me. I’d heard about it but had never seen it — knew I’d probably never own one. She pulled back the tarp and there it was — black, of course. I was thrilled she wanted to lend it to me for our vacation.

“You just bolt it to the top of the minivan and you can take tons more stuff.”

“Just what I need to get my brood to the beach for a week,” I giggled.

“Well, a van just doesn’t have a lot of storage space.”

I knew she was right. How had I made such an unsatisfactory automotive choice?

“But our station wagon doesn’t either,” she quickly added placing a hand on my shoulder. “Especially if we’re using all the seats. I guess that’s why SUVs are so popular.”

I perked up. “C’mon, I said, let’s put some more bug spray on the kids.”

In a former life, Beth and I lived together as swinging single chicks both in Washington, D.C. and New York City. We’d partied in a chalet in Vail, at a ranch in Palm Springs, and in a motel in Jupiter Beach.

We once went on a diet that consisted almost exclusively of beets. We gambled at the dog track. We saw a guy named Howard swim in Jell-O at a downtown performance art show. I mean, what didn’t we do? From college roommates to young career girls on the go, our relationship was based on all the fun stuff we did together.

Twenty years later, it’s about our kids and husbands and cargo space.

After the excitement of the rooftop storage unit, we shuffled back in our flip-flops to the kiddie pool in the driveway where the children (three hers, three mine — all under 8) had been quietly slurping ice pops on a break from splashing activity.

I was still thinking about our vacation. “I’ll want to pack some groceries. The supermarket at the beach is sure to be a mob scene with everything marked up for summer tourists.”

“Oh, I know. Hey, remind me I have coupons for ketchup and swim diapers.”

“Great!”

Someone please help these women.

We wear sensible khaki shorts and our husbands’ polo shirts and our idea of a wild time these days is sneaking out for an hour to indulge in a pedicure at the local strip mall. Eggplant-colored toenails, how daring!

Wasn’t it just the other day we were blasting Talking Heads, cramming shoulder pads into our blouses, and sharing copious handfuls of hair gel for wild evenings of night clubbing?

We went out every night of our lives whether or not we could afford it. Or we’d stay home to celebrate essential holidays like Chinese New Year by having 50 people over to our groovy, tiny overpriced studio apartment for egg rolls. Once we drove 14 hours through the night to see a basketball game in Kentucky. We invited so many people to share our hotel room that Beth ended up sleeping on the floor with a towel as a blanket. Me, I was smart and caught strep throat, developed a raging fever and had a whole bed to myself.

But how cool were we with our big silhouettes and noisy-neighbor status and our pushing-the-limits-of-logic road trips?

Now we’re sitting in lawn chairs in the driveway monitoring the plastic pool and talking about the best way to remove red popsicle streaks from a toddler’s belly.

Well, it didn’t happen overnight. I guess I should have suspected something when Beth and her husband Carlos did the funky chicken at their wedding reception a few years back and we all thought it was a riot.

Our coolness was obviously on the wane even then.

But it was kind of cool because they just got up and weren’t embarrassed and it was such a great happy day and now they have three kids and an awesome house. It’s cool that things have turned out so well.

And, by this point, Beth and I have survived the broken hearts, the bad jobs, the terrible apartments, the wondering if we’d ever find the right guy, settle down, have a family, a life.

As the suburban moms we are today, would we ever eat nothing but beets for a week? Not exactly a good combination of the major food groups. Pay to see a guy take a gelatin bath? Been there, done that. Drive 14 hours to a basketball game in Kentucky? I don’t think so. Although with that cargo unit bolted to the top of the minivan, it could be pretty cool.

Susan Konig, author of the book Why Animals Sleep So Close to the Road and other lies I tell my children, is an NRO contributor.



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