Once upon a time, when we were newly married and blissfully unaware of Elmo, Prince Charming and I swapped our two rusting hulks for a brand-new sports car. Our new wheels were shiny and throaty and sleek, and no longer generated scorn, if not outright pity, from the guys at the valet stand. We drove in tautly balanced, two-doored, high-horsepower splendor for years.

And then I got pregnant.

Determined to hang on to some semblance of our past life, we laughed at everyone who asked what kind of minivan we were going to get. “How much room does a 20-inch-long human being really need?” I asked. “Besides, we don’t drive that much anyway. We’ll walk to most of our errands, and just pack carefully on longer trips.”

Baby Bear appeared, clocking in at 19.5 inches. And lo, we were suddenly the proud owners of Stuff: a car seat, a stroller, a pack-and-play, a booster seat, a Costco membership and the sins thus generated. Not to mention the avalanche of books and toys required for longer trips, plus whatever vitally essential items PC and I would bring for ourselves. Like a change of underwear (me) and golf clubs (him).

For two years, we played Car Tetris, carefully utilizing every available square inch, packing and repacking until at least most of the baby’s face was left uncovered. (They don’t sell infant snorkels. I checked.) Finally, unable to surpass our latest triumph (one pack-and-play, one booster chair, three overnight bags, one backpack, two pillows, two bath towels, three beach towels, a couple books, the most beloved stuffed animals, a beach blanket, one set of gold clubs, three human beings and a four-hour drive), we bit the bullet and started car shopping.

The auto-everything minivans with cupholders in the cupholders’ cupholders were nice. But lacking the sherpa necessary to carry the stuff that would accumulate inside, we decided we didn’t need a mobile living room. (And besides, I’m pretty sure aftermarket installation of a sherpa will void your warranty.) We calculated the space in some of the little cargo runners (Toyota Matrix, Mazda 3) and realized we’d be back to automotive Jenga very quickly. And we couldn’t stomach getting a full SUV, not with parking space and gas at a premium around here. Which left…

Now, the fine folks on Madison Avenue can call the Subaru Outback whatever they want — “crossover vehicle” sure sounds all nice and adaptable and inclusive. And they can gussy it up with a moonroof and turbo booster for more wind-in-your-hair per mile. They can even run commercials featuring mud and rocks and rugged-looking people just itching to jump on their mountain bikes and ride off into a sunset filled with hot monkey love. But no matter how you spin it, I’m now driving a station wagon. And I don’t know how I feel about that.

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