I was driving our 12-passenger, Ford Econoline silver/grey van around Rolla last week, doing the weekly groceries shopping, stopping at the bank to deposit our working teens’ paychecks into their savings accounts since they were still in school and couldn’t get to the bank as easily as I could, and suddenly, I became all weepy!
There wasn’t a sentimental song playing on the radio. No touching radio ad or news story had hit my ears to bring about the tears. I simply started dwelling on our van and how many ways it had been a great vehicle for our family. The flood of memories, I think, just hit me at the right moment and the tears sprang forth.
It was Autumn of 1999 and we were a family of 6 when I went to the doctor to confirm that baby #5 was on his or her way. That afternoon at the doctor’s office, an ultrasound showed not one but two hearts beating! After I got over my initial shock, I told husband and he, after realizing I wasn’t joking about expecting twins in April said, “We’re gonna need a bigger van!” Up to that moment, we had a Ford Windstar mini-van, which worked fine for our family. With my brother being an employee of the Ford Motor Company, it was a no-brainer to find out what Ford offered for those families that were too large to fit into a mini-van. That search led us to the Econoline. It’s the same size as those church or a daycare vans that dot our roadways in the U.S. We eschewed the 15 seater and went with the 12 seater and we placed our order with our local Ford dealership. We learned that part of our new van was going to be made in Canada and then those parts would be shipped to Loraine, Ohio and the final assembling of the vehicle would be finished there, but not until November of 2000, some months after our twins would be born. So until we were notified that the van had arrived at our local Ford dealership, we were a two vehicle, caravanning family.
The day arrived and the kids were all excited about getting inside of this behemoth vehicle. The twins were oblivious but I think they sensed the excitement of their older sibings! The kids burst into the van, bouncing around on the bench seats, each claiming their spot, and the twins car seats were placed on the bench seat closest to the driver and front passenger seats. It did take me a while to get used to driving it around town, to not feel like I was taking up the entire lane of traffic. I finally did get used to it, so much so that whenever I rode in a “normal” sized vehicle, I felt like my seat was going to drag on the road! The only detriment, we learned, is that it’s impossible to really see out the back of such a large, long van. Hence, whenever parking it, we always, always look for a spot that we can drive forward out of, or park in a spot where there isn’t any place for anyone to park behind us.
Memories came flooding last week: the numerous trips to St. Louis Zoo, or any of the museums in Forest Park, or any of the homeschooling field trips we went on through the years, hauling the kids and their friends to Koch Water Park or Bangert Pool, or Fritz’s, or to a mall, or helping to drive kids from church out to High Hill Christian Camp. Vacations taken via our van: Disney World, Busch Gardens, trips to OH to see the grandparents and other relatives, a trip to MI, a trip to NC, a trip to Texas when it looked like we might have to move there, and trips now back and forth from Rolla to St. Louis or Rolla to Springfield, to Branson and back.
There are also the times the van has been extremely handy in hauling stuff: concrete and paints, mulch and plants, wood, tools, for various home improvement projects, new pieces of furniture. Hauling college daughter’s myriads of stuff to the dorm and back again for school breaks. It has also proved valuable on Cub and Boy Scout campouts;driving scouts and equipment to and from camps. Two summers ago, while on a Cub Scout camp out with our youngest, we were at Camp Arrowhead, about 40 minutes east of Springfield, MO. A strong thunderstorm had been predicted to hit the second night of our camp out. I told my Webelo son, that to be on the safe side, at 9:00 pm, we were going to move our gear from the platform scout tent to our van and sleep there for the night. I was so thankful I thought to do that as a fierce thunderstorm did hit, the rains flooded the campsite, but my son and I were safe and dry inside our van. I know some scouting parents would insist on “roughing” it during a thunderstorm but I fell back on the motto, “Be Prepared” and to the van we went!
The Econoline has another family vacation to take us on this summer. It will again take our oldest daughter and all of her stuff back to her college for her Senior year. The van is starting to show it’s 15 years of usage, but we still aren’t ready to trade it in for a newer vehicle. We’re hoping it can hang on through the August of 2016 when child #4 will be moving to his college for his Freshman year.
One weekend when my husband and I were highschool sweethearts, he related to me that as his parents were opening up their pop-up camper it was discovered that during the winter, water had somehow gotten inside of the camper and mold had grown inside and ruined the interior. He went on to tell me how sad his mom was, and that she actually broke down and cried about it. When I asked why she had gotten so upset about a camper, my wise husband explained to me that their family had gone a lot of camping trips in that pop-up and that she was sad they wouldn’t be able to continue making memories with that camper. At the time, I was a high school kid and didn’t understand my future mother-in-law’s tears. Driving around last week and dwelling on our reliable, yet old van’s travels, I found that I now do understand the tears.
Memories are made, families grow and change. The trusty vehicles age and according to some law of Physics, the repairing over and over again will all be for naught. Maybe it’s part of a mom’s heart to tear up at memories, to recall with fondness, smiles and wet eyes the passages of time via their childrens growth; the need for car seats of various sizes, then just a booster seat, then the seat belt, to the child driving the vehicle on their own with their own driver’s license.
Chalk it all up to memories and a mom’s heart, I guess, as to the reason why I was emotional as I drove around Rolla running errands. I guess as I tool around town in my giant silver/grey van, I will need to keep a kleenax box handy, especially as our kids continue to grow up and time marches on .