The Blue White Van.
The Blue White Van.
...Still, strikes fear into my heart.
After I graduated high school I had convinced myself I was no longer afraid or ashamed of it.
Not so my friend. Nooot so.
It's a high top, Chevy, conversion van. Feels like there should be a "Big Ol'" in that description somewhere. It had blue and white stripes. My brother Adam named it. I think because we had a white van we called "The White Van" We also had a white cat named "Whitie" and a gray cat named "Grady cat" and a cat named "Mama Cat". Because, well... she was fertile.
We were totally on top of the name thing. We called 'em like we seen 'em. But we did try to name her "Louie" at first tho. But when she surprised us by having a litter on top of my dad's office papers in the garage we had to go with something else. So that bad's not totally all on us.
In all of my naivety when I happen upon "Louie" sitting in a box with a heap of kittens I was so scared. I really thought he had stolen someone's kitten family...Until mom explained.
The Van was sooo awesome back in its day when we were little. Because it had a TV inside of it that you could watch while on road trips. It had curtains and nightlights and a button that laid the seat down to "conversion" it to a bed.
But the TV is what made it awesome. Grab a couple of movies and we were in Utah in no time. Our whole family could fit no prob. Mom and Dad up front. 2 in the middle captain's chairs, 3-4 in the back bench seat and one laying on top of the luggage takin a nap.
But after many miles and many many rowdy destructive children, the van wasn't looking so....awesome. No mo. and it just became a big lumbering old van. (embarrassment?) I remember using it for a Sadie Hawkins-type dance, and while we were picking everyone up the muffler FELL OFF in the street, and that's why you can hear dad coming home 15 minutes before he actually gets there. Oh, you didn't know? Yeah. my dad still drives it. Not as frequently (Thank heavens.) Cause its gets like a mile per gallon and after the third time, it caught fire and that one time the brakes went out on Cole road (which is a hill. BTW). She ain't as re'liable as she usta been. I remember being at school and dad saying something about taking the car for something getting fixed or changed or something. And I walk out of school to the dreaded blue white monster poking its high top at me from the student parking lot. I didn't know that sometimes the door just didn't shut. (like 1 out of it's 2 main functions. Opening and shutening.) I found out later the mechanism doesn't always reset so no matter how hard you shut it. It will just bounce right back open. (Picture me, just slamming shut the door over and over and over and it not keeping shut. Getting more and more panicked with each and every slam. Questioning my door shutting abilities, face full of shame and confusion.) So I get in to drive home and its the passenger door that won't close. So I'm stuck with it flappin in the wind like laundry. So I find one of Dad's ties that were left behind and tie it to the handle on the door and hold it semi shut while I drive one handed on the way home. Dad later told me that that was really smart thinking. Even though I felt crazy dumb. I also remember at that Sadie Hawkins dance after stuffing the muffler in the way back. Finding a stray can of Sprite had burst open when I shut the door and sprayed all over me and my Hawaiian garb. That was the theme of the Dance. Twas a full and eventful day of little Van gifts.
Yeah, I hated that Van. Not only was it incredibly humiliating but it also brought bad luck. Like it was a living thing that wanted to stick it to you one last time.
But Dad loved it...ish... .He would go out and start er up every day so it would start up when you needed it to. He loved that you could haul a bunch of stuff like a truck but didn't have to worry about it getting wet or stole. He loved that it was paid off...and well that's prolly it in the things to love category.
After a while, The Van became less and less of a horrific promise, to a terrifying threat to a no big deal, might happen, to a faded worry from our childhood/teenage years.
My sister Sam is in town visiting from Utah and It's Summer and Hot and Glorious. We are both single and have boys we care about in our lives. So I plan for a bunch of us to go float the river. Josh has never done it before so I thought It would be a blast. Sammy tells some kids about it. I invite all my friends and we get a pretty huge group to go. So we all meet at Ann Morrison at the take out point. And we are trying to hammer out how everyone will get to Barber Park and who can take them back after we're all floated to pick up their car back at Barber. So I think to myself. "Hey self, Isn't dad just hanging around today?" "I bet he would be willing to drive us all up to Barber and everyone will fit in the Trail blazer just fine. No one will have to drive back up or leave their car up there". Bam I had totally fixed our problem. (The trailblazer by the way was the new family car. It seated 8 comfy like.) So I call dad. He agrees and is on his way. So we are all just chatting in the park waiting til he arrives.
....When I hear a familiar rumble behind me....
Immediately my gut hurt. It's The VAN! Why? Why did Dad bring the Van? Nooooo! Please be indigestion. Please be in digestion.
So then my phones ringing and I know it's Dad. Cause nobody can ever find anybody in Ann Morrison without being guided. Samantha comes up to me and she's like "Is that dad calling you?" (she doesn't recognize the rumble) So I answer and I'm like. "Hey, dad... We'll meet you..." He says. "Well I'm in the Van" (It's the only van we have left now, so we no longer need to differentiate with colors. It's only known now ominously as The Van. The Van of Punishment. The Van of Death. The Van of I'd rather walk, please. PLEASE!) "Yeah I know. I say." I now have to tell Samantha. Warn her. Yeah, you know that guy you like? The one you brought? The one you're not exactly sure of yet cause things are fun and simple and new. He's about to meet the Van. Tthhheee Vaaan. The one Dad stopped cleaning out when everyone refused to ride in it? The one he used to take the lawn mower over to grandma's house in?.. cept he didn't take it out for 3 months after he was done? With the mower and the bag of grass hanging on it baked inside all summer? The one where things go in but don't come out? With the Cheetos on the floor? In fact, the carpet is actually probably Cheetos? The one Dani rocked in and broke all the seats? Like...ALL of them. Yeah. That's what we're riding to the park in. Soo Giddy yup.
"...he's in The Van Sam."
She doesn't hold her torment inside.
"The Van?!?" "I Hate my LIFE!"
"I heard that," Dad says into my one ear.
I think to myself does he not know??
Does he really not understand this humiliation hurricane he hath unleashed upon us?
"He heard that," I say.
"Why didn't he bring the trailblazer?"
"Umm Daddy why didn't you bring the Trailblazer??" I say.
"It wasn't home. Mom's got it." He says.
I should have factored this in. I saw that the TB wasn't there when we left for the park. Why would I think it would be available? Why would I not guarantee this in my negotiations with my father? Who by the way is impervious to embarrassment Unlike myself. Metal, Adhesive and Embarrassment that's what I'm 'lergic to. I could have been all like. "Hey, Dad, what car you got? The Van? Nnnnn K bye."
I have invited Alllll of my friends here. Including the boy I like. (and will end up husbanding.) and I have ZERO damage control time. No prep at all. These kids have NO idea what's about to happen. No idea what's about to slap their innocent fun loving faces. It would have been better to tie a garbage can to a car, get in and just ride up in that.
So I hastily spout off an "It's old and broke" type speech and lead my friends to The Blue Wagon Of Shame. And pray that they will still talk to me after. I vaguely remember Josh saying. "Cool van." I throw up in my mouth a little. I lovingly give the keys of my car to my sister and tell her to save herself and to take 2 of the kids I know the least well and her guy friend and to run because there's "Not enough room." (riiight.) I've never seen her move faster.
I ask Josh if he wants to ride with her and I pray he takes the opportunity to save himself, One because I love him and want to save him from the horrors of the world. 2 because I only want happy nice things for him. He says. "Nah I'm good." Even though I can feel my heart pounding in my chest. It feels like there is no blood flow to my brain.
"Okay" I squeak out.
Then we get in The Van...
El Carro Del Diablo...
I don't even look at Josh. Cause I'm scared and sweaty, not because it's a bajillion African degrees out. But because my body is going into shock and I really need to use all my concentration to make my knees bend when they are supposed to and walk towards this doomed destiny.
It has been a long time since even I have been in The Van. So here is a run down.
1 captains chair is completely gone. The back is broken on the remaining seat, making a nice bridge to the floor. I imagine one of my poor friends rolling down whilst my dad accelerates.
No seat belts
There is no longer a bench seat.
The passenger front seat is held up by a single 2x4
The carpet has been ripped up halfway through the middle.
Leaving some lovely exposed metal flooring.
Oh, and since most of the seats are missing we only have random stuff to sit on. Someone literally sits on a TV. And the rest have the choice between a disassembled garden trellis, a weed whacker or a pile of trash to sit on. Josh beelines it for the wheel well "hump thing" because he tells me later. "I'm no dummy." My Dad's all "Hey kids! Sorry, the Vans a mess." like it was accidental or something! Like he's as surprised as we are! What?!
I'm the last to get in so I plan to just crouch by the door where the other captain's chair used to be but dad says he needs a navigator. So I go sit by him up front. Like a traitor. We are almost there when dad starts to slow down and pull over to the side. I'm like Nooo dad we aren't gonna stop to visit anyone. (Cause he does that sometimes) He loves visiting.
Oh, Well except this time the Van did literally run outta gas. As in no more gas in the tank. As in we're stopping willing or not. Thank goodness there is a gas station and dad glides right in on fumes. So he starts filling her up and goes inside. It is so beastly hot everyone else jumps out so they can breathe gas station air. Because it's actually fresher than the air inside the Van.
Dad comes back outta the store with a Gatorade and a small bag of Cheetos's and I die a little inside.
He says "Okay let us go!" and we all scramble back in. So as he starts her up and accelerates into traffic. Since nothing anyone's sitting on is secured to the floor. We all get tossed about like a salad in a gerbil ball. The kid on the TV gets it the worst. He falls completely off and is like a turtle on his back for a while. Rolling, scared, confused I'm sure contemplating which life choices lead him here. Laying in old Cheetos, grass clippings, and food wrappers. In The Van.
Ever heard of grace under pressure? Well, I ain't got none of that. All the awkwardness I thought I had grown out of I still had. Which I knew. I just thought I could hide it better, with like age or something. The thing that got me through, was me saying to myself. "This van is part of me, Part of my history and a family keepsake. If they can't handle that then they aren't real friends... yea... that's what. THEY'LL just have to DEAL. Yeah!" That lasted until we got past the gate at barber park and then it didn't calm me anymore and I just wanted to explode out of the Van. I was biting back what I wanted to say. Which was " Get out. Everyone out! Go!Now! Never speak of this!" My hearts racing and I just start to babble "Okay everyone good? Everyone here? Ok? uh..yep.. just crawl out, don't look back. It smells fear so... just own it, trust me." I try at making jokes but...really. why? even? try?
We finally make it to the river and everyone graciously thanks Dad for the ride. All I'm thinking is let's get in this river and wash ourselves of this memory.
He then asks what time he needs to be back to pick us up at the take out point. Ya know like a good dad. Completely oblivious. But totally caring. But I'm like "NOPE!" I shout. "WE'RE GOOD!" I'm still shouting. "WE GOT IT COVERED!" I can't stop shouting "HAH! IT'S OKAY" (signature awkward laugh.) "FOR REAL DON'T COME PICK US UUUP!""DON'T COME BACK HERE!" "HAAAA" I can't make myself not shout. "THANKS, DAD! LOVE YA!" "TAKE LUCK!" And he rumbles off and that is the story of the last time I survived The Van. I think (hope) it's been parked ever since. Since it feeds off pure horrified embarrassment and it had like 12 personal Thanksgivings off me alone. Maybe it could just die full and happy. It just had to get me One. Final. Time.