I’ve inherited a van. A piece of antiquated, grey scrap metal heaped and smelted together testifying to the latest van engineering marvels of the late 1980s and early 1990s. What tree rings or layers of rock sediment teach of the passage of time, she does in rust and rattle. I don’t believe in certain types of evolution but I’m pretty sure that in another 50 years she will be a mushroom.
But don’t make fun of my moving mountain on wheels yet! You might see her in a different light by the end of this post (just don’t use the unflattering overhead light, mind you, because she is sensitive).
When I gave up working to stay home we sold a car. After dreary months of houseboundliness with relatives rushing to save the kids and I from perpetual cabin fever, my grandmother generously volunteered the van of my childhood - the van that held Grampa at the helm and my sister and I stretching out or sleeping on the back seat during many Reno-bound journeys. Yes, it even went through snow at one time.
Despite her dilapidated state, the desperation made manifest in the expression, “At least it’s a car,” was keenly tangible to me after months of a cloistered home existence, so I accepted. And so the kids and I literally climbed aboard and have been making the most of our metal sloth for about six months now. Though it has never been quite what I would characterize as glorious, we still are greatly relieved and indebted to our grey tank just to be moving again!
“How many miles does this thing get?” My husband asked me on one of the rare occasions he was riding with us in the van. “Oh, I’m sure at least 5,” I answered proudly as we guzzled gas on our way to Palm Sunday Mass.
Palm Sunday: the day Jesus rode a donkey. I felt a sudden affinity with our Lord in that moment.
But Christ’s donkey never had anything on my donkey in the way of inconvenience. Sure, one is exposed to the elements on the back of a humble burro, but guess what? So are they if they ride in mine! Yes, when it rains outside my van, it rains inside as well. This is because the seals around the doors have gone and so there is nothing to stop the elements from seeping in.
But despite her beat-up, rattling frame, she is a special vehicle, especially in how each of her doors require special treatment for closing securely. The same can be said for her special seating: on one seat you can recline, another, you can’t sit straight, and one is normal.
She does have electric capabilities that still function and not just in the nice electric shock that waits for you every time you get in and out. Mercifully, she does have central locking and electric windows which make up for the lack of air conditioning output.
Most of the backseat curtains are gone probably due to the abuse we gave them as kids, and the blinds (you heard me right, window blinds) somewhat obstruct my vision. Potentially dangerous, right? But don’t worry, this is compensated for by her slow driving (really, lurching) which allows time for myself or some poor unsuspecting small to midsized car to swerve.
But the radio does work which is essential for every Immaculate Heart Radio listening mom, and one does get a nice arm workout from steering that bus-sized wheel. Also, being an oversized, conversion-top van, I can actually stand up straight in it if I need to.
But the bonus is this: the kids LOVE it. I LOVED it especially when I was a kid.
The other day this was crystallized for me when a friend’s children poked their heads into my van. I half expected them to make fun, but they didn’t. Instead, they turned to their mom with the brightest expressions on their faces and proclaimed, “This is luxury!” over and over again. It was contagious! I began to beam. Luxury? They thought my van was luxurious (and their family has a nice new minivan)!
I am indebted to those sweet kids because in that moment my perspective was adjusted, dramatically so. Or at least as re-adjusted as my wing mirror often needs to be since it slowly shifts out of place as I drive.
I am still so grateful.
Donkey? Metal van? Humility instilled in its rider? Excitement of children. Palms waving in the air outside of Jerusalem. My family safe and secure as we lurch through Santa Clara. What could be better?
And so I for all my wishing someone would mercifully steal my van and sell it for parts, and all my longing to buy something new, I’ll keep it and enjoy feeling like its spoiling me…and not just spoiling. It does get me from point A to point B which is the function of a vehicle, right? And how many others come complete with a chamber pot and TP for those kiddie emergencies on the go? Not many. But my luxury van does.