From the Farm:
THE FAMILY VAN
Published in the Casper Journal January 5, 2011
Our family has a New Year’s Resolution: This year, we will purchase a new vehicle. You’d think that just whispering such a statement would bring dozens of car salesmen to our door. But, alas, despite the fact that we have personally shared our resolution with six salesmen, no one is knocking yet.
Why do we need a new vehicle? It could be, perhaps, that our kids are too big. It could be, perhaps, that the seat belts are too tight. But I think that the most likely reason of all is that our current van is two sizes, too small.
For nearly two years we’ve put up with it now—the squishing, the squeezing, the complaining and groans. But whatever the reason, the kids or the seat belts, we’re officially in the market for an eleven passenger vehicle.
“Why do you need such a big van?” asked one skeptical salesman. “Do you run a daycare?”
“No,” I responded firmly. “I run a family.”
However, if we are in such desperate need of a new van, why are we having such difficulty locating one? I must admit, we do have a high order—nearly as high as Mt. Crumpit. Our dream vehicle includes eleven seat belts, five doors, and All Wheel Drive.
“They don’t make vans like that,” one salesman told us.
But, despite the pessimism we’ve encountered, we know that such vans do exist. We’ve found several which meet our criteria. Unfortunately, they’re always in Florida or Vermont, or have been sold a day earlier. But this is the West! There must be an AWD van this side of the Mississippi.
In our current van, when we’re all traveling together, oh the noise, noise, noise, noise! The only way to combat it is to sing, sing, sing, sing! (Actually, with all of our voices within inches of each other, the tone is really quite pleasant.)
Ironically, the youngest members of our family enjoy the most space. Infant car seats these days come with headrests, cup holders, entertainment—the whole gamut. Plug several of those colossal contraptions into our van, and the remaining seat space for our tweens and teens is nearly gone.
On other occasions, when all ten of us must be at the same location, we simply drive two vehicles; a practice which isn’t very economical, and doesn’t work at all when I’m the only driver available.
I have fond memories of the family van of my childhood. There were eleven children, but only eight seats, so my older sister and I often held smaller siblings on our laps. I remember traveling long distances, lounging about, reading books, changing seats and lying on the floor. It was a different world then – less stringent and less safe, but perhaps a little more family-friendly.
Some of my favorite memories are of our van’s idiosyncrasies. It had a sunroof which opened by a crank handle, and caused the people in the middle seat to feel as if they were in a hurricane, while those in the front and the back felt only a slight breeze.
Another cool feature was the stick shift. It wouldn’t stay in gear without the driver manually holding it. Daddy kept a bungee cord under the driver’s seat. On long trips, the driver could shift into gear, and then hold the shift while the front and middle passengers wrapped the bungee cord around the stick and hooked it underneath the middle bench. This set-up was purely inspirational, and allowed the driver to use both hands on the wheel, perhaps like an ancient form of cruise control. It worked well until the driver needed to shift down, of course. At this point, all three members were once again needed to unhook the bungee cord and shift back to first gear.
While these childhood memories are near and dear to my heart, I’m willing to sacrifice them for a safe, competent, law-abiding, modern van.
Well, we have an entire year to reach our goal (although I’m not sure how much longer we can hold out). While we wait with our feet ice-cold in the snow, puzzling and puzzling, we’re hopeful that either a salesman’s heart will grow three sizes, or our own search will turn up the van of our dreams. But for now, we’ll enjoy the close company in our current van, and the fun memories we are building. Still, until we achieve this New Year’s resolution, every time I travel with nine other passengers, I may act like a Grinch.
Nettie Francis is Editor of The Wyoming Woman Magazine.