Let’s Drive to The Moon (A Van’s Tale)

    Never drive faster than your guardian angel can fly.  ~Author Unknown

     Randomly, I decided to clear the stack of April bills and expired coupons from my mini-van’s dash today and was astounded when I found my previously hidden odometer and made an amazing discovery.  At 211,784 miles I have almost driven the equivalent of a one way ticket to the moon, which is a mere 238, 854 miles from our house.

      OK, I confess the car had about 80,000 miles on it when we purchased it, but that was only four and a half years ago.  I don’t work in sales.  In fact, I only work part-time.  That means the rest of the miles were accumulated carting kids, running errands, or driving the occasional aimless when I pretend I’m about to run away because of never ending obligations.

Don’t lecture me about the environment; sometimes just getting out of the house for thirty minutes by yourself, driving to who knows where does wonders for the soul.  This is especially true if you happen to carry your camera with you.  You never know where a journey of serendipity will take you.

My van’s taken the kids and me on countless beach trips, and usually a large remnant of the beach returns home with us, namely pounds of sand in seat crevices and crushed shells in the carpet.

It housed three car seats when I had my nanny job four years ago; the kids were a joy, but buckling 2 tots and a babe multiple times a day is a curse for the lower back.

Two years ago, a lady ran a stop light and slammed into my right side passenger sliding door when I was going through a green light.  My airbag didn’t go off, thank God!  I probably would have had a heart attack and lost all control.  God was gracious in the fact that it was a rare occasion when I had zero kids in the car so no one was injured.  Sadly, the van was totaled, but even sadder, was the fact that we couldn’t afford to replace it with such a low insurance settlement.

We took the measly insurance settlement, and had it patched the best we could.  My husband, an auto mechanic traded engine work with a body mechanic who fixed it up rather well.    Once again, God is good, and offered enough provision:  Through my husband’s skills and the money we did get, we were at least able to fix it.  We are still without car payment and for that I’m grateful.

For many years before my daughter had her driver’s license, it served as a portable kitchen café and toy room on wheels.  Nightly dance lessons often demanded fast food meals straight after school for her, with smoke coming off the tires as we made it to dance lessons by 5 pm.  Multiply my son’s four happy meal toys per week and you get the picture.  Tiny tot toys invaded every crevice of space imaginable.  Many adults who didn’t check their seat first, were often butt stung by Buzz Lightyear’s outstretched arm, or painful contorted Bionicle body parts.

Several months ago, my van wrecked itself with no one in the car. Thankfully no one was hurt.  What in the world?  Yes, it’s true.  I had parked my car at a friend’s house on a steep driveway.  I left the engine running because I forgot something in the house.  I went to retrieve my forgotten item for all of thirty seconds.  I came back out, glanced at the driveway, and shouted, “OH NO!  My van’s been stolen!”  And within one second I heard a loud crash.  My heart sunk.  I didn’t want to look to the right, but I had to.

My van had rolled all the way down this long steep driveway PERFECTLY!  It had missed their mailbox and thankfully didn’t hit any children or pets.  It then rolled up an embankment into the yard of a neighbor who lived across the street and had been raking his yard.  His abrupt hill slanted upward is what stopped the van entirely.  When I walked down the driveway he was already standing there trying to see if anyone was hurt.  Imagine his surprise when the driver appeared running down the driveway in a panic!

It stripped my muffler clean off, and put a dent in my bumper the size of a baseball.  BUT THAT’S ALL.  It had missed a gas lantern in his yard by inches.  Had his yard not had the upward slant, it probably would have gained speed and run right into him or possibly his house.

I apologized profusely and was crying tears of embarrassment and relief.  My van was so smart!!!  It did no damage to my friend’s house and only dug up a small patch of this neighbor’s yard.    Who am I kidding!  God is so good!  No people, animals, or property was seriously injured.  The van’s engine was still on.  I opened the door.  Yep!  Sure enough, I had not fully engaged the car into park, and had left it in reverse.  I still can’t believe I did that!  It horrifies me still when I think of it.

The stunned neighbor who realized he clearly had a panicked woman on his hands quickly did the nicest thing before I fell into a sobbing heap.  He said, “Awww!  Don’t worry about it!  I can just re-rake the yard.”     When I went back a day later, it was as if it never happened.

My husband fixed the dent in my bumper by applying some sort of heat machine to the metal and stretching it back out, almost to the original shape.   Only a month later, it got a long wrinkled indentation when my six year old son demanded I park one space closer at COSTCO on a rainy afternoon.

I didn’t want to give in.  But I did.  That’s when I accidentally hit the side of the shopping cart return stall because I was watching three sets of people loading groceries and kids and I didn’t want to hit them.  Basically, too many distractions.  After thirty one years of clean driving, this is how I have an at fault accident?

So here we are almost five years later.  That van still runs great.  My driving record is  clean even though my conscience winces at what could have happened.   It doesn’t serve as a kitchen anymore as we cut out the fast food circuit about a year ago.  It still has lots of toys.   It carries bikes, basketballs, toys, and supplies on a daily basis.  Undoubtedly there’s enough hidden food in it to survive a small snowstorm.

We’ve talked about selling it.  Yet, replace it with what?  What can you trade up to in a vehicle worth less than a thousand dollars?  No thanks, I think I’ll keep it until it croaks.  This van has history.  Its dings and dents and sticky seats and broken buttons tell a story.  Its cheap stereo with intermittently working speakers, that alternates between talk radio, kids music that will make your ears bleed,  and the hypnotically relaxing  voice of Bono, sing the story of me:   The songs I’ve sung, the tears I’ve cried, the amazing places I’ve been to, and of course the mundane.   Kelly’s blue book would show you it’s basically valueless.  Or is it?

My van is similar to the weathered, bent, and slow old person who’s seen and experienced so much, with stories to tell if only someone would ask.  It has value, because sometimes sentimental is the truest worth.   Like the aging soul who has a story to tell, it’s not finished yet.  So we will keep driving,  old TC and me (it’s a Town and Country) until we reach the moon.  Or possibly like plastic Buzz buried somewhere under the seat occasionally encourages:   To infinity and beyond!