The Old Van

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When I was growing up, my dad had a van. A really old van. And not old in the classic-vintage-any-kind-of-cool-way van.

Just old.

And dirty.

Not dirty old man.

But dirty old van.

Although, I hope to one day be called both.

Wha-?!

I have spent my adult life searching for a van with the insides that could match that one. The one from my memories. With the interior so covered in dog hair and dust that when you slid the door open, it appeared as though my father was throwing magic confetti into the air.

If magic confetti was made out of dog hair.

Which I am quite positive it is.

I am thinking I will never find a van quite like it.

My dad’s favorite color is blue. Every year he would paint his van a different shade of blue. Inevitably, it would chip or fade, so the van always had patches of different shades of blue peeking through it. It was like a blueberry jelly bean. Before they made blueberry jelly beans. It actually looked quite pretty paired with the rust. It had a special ombre effect decades before ombre would become fashionable.

When we were little we loved riding in the van. It had no unnecessary items. Such as seatbelts.

My sister and I would argue over who would get to ride in the front.

Looking back, I cannot quite figure out why this was. The front seat sat precariously balanced. Another unnecessary item in this van was the bolt that would have held the front seat in place. This meant that if you leaned back in the chair, it would topple over backwards.

We were a no frills family.

Seatbelts? Pfffft.

A seat that would stay in place? What are we? The Rockefellers?

Doors that stayed shut? Please. Those are for amateurs. Just don’t lean on the door and you’ll be fine. As in, you won’t tumble out onto the moving road. Or rather onto the road from the moving vehicle. I use the word “vehicle” loosely. It was more like the blue ride of terror.

I will never forget when my little sister was two.

I was pouting in the back of the van. Sitting as close to the console as I could get, away from the back. I was scared of the depths of the van. In fact, I never went back there. It was where all of the magic confetti was made. Too much of that stuff and I was sure I would drift into the dust motes that clung to the carpet as they unsuccessfully avoided being made into illustrious scraps of crap.

I was glowering at my sister who had once again scored the fun seat. The seat up front. She was busy spinning and trying as hard as she could to keep her balance so the seat would not topple into the back where I would surely hold her for ransom in an attempt to claim her throne.

It happened so quickly.

One moment we were being jostled down the dirt road that led to our house from my grandparent’s home. And the next moment, the front door had swung open.

And my little sister. My two year old little sister was holding on to the open door by the window frame. Dangling there like an unfortunate mountain climber in an action movie.

Or an unfortunate child of the eighties before there were laws concerning the safety of automobiles.

I will admit to laughing. I had no idea how dangerous the situation was. I thought she was just up to her old tricks. She was the dare devil. I seriously thought she was purposefully hanging onto an open door.

It was awesome.

And then she let go.

And my mom freaked the freak out.

She stopped the van.

She was terrified that she had run my sister over.

But she had merely fallen out. There was not a scratch on her.

It had to be all of that magical confetti.

We were always covered in the stuff.

You would think it was at this point that something in or on the van would change. Such as, I don’t know, adding a little fancy somethin’ like a bolt to a seat or a screw to the door.

Or a seatbelt for a toddler.

Nonsense!

The only thing changing on that van was which color blue it would be from one day to the next.

If you got black and blue from riding in the van. Well, you just matched it better.

We are going to fast forward this story to when I was thirteen. Seven years had passed since my sister’s little incident. The van had not changed. Or rather, I am sure it was still being painted yearly and the magical confetti had now had seven years to grow bigger. Thicker. Fuller. As we acquired more and more dogs to ride in the van (a story for another day).

We had a bus lane at our school. For buses. Let me repeat. For BUSES!

But my dad, well, my dad would pull up in the bus lane whenever he would pick me up. From Junior High School. It would go yellow. Yellow. Yellow. Yellow. Blue. Yellow.

No one ever told him to move. They were much too in awe of his van.

I would, as quickly as I could manage, run up to the van. Yank it open, pause to admire the magic confetti as it swarmed into the sunlight intent on infecting delighting anyone who passed by, and then jump into the back as fast I could. Why the back? You ask.

I think maybe I was humbled by how amazing my ride was and maybe I did not want anyone seeing who was in the blue van. I did not want to be hounded with autographs. Did I mention the back seat had no windows? Yea. I was incognito in my coolness.

Years later I would learn that my little sister would make my dad park a block away from that junior high school so that she would not have to be bombarded by fans. You know. The fans that would swarm that awesome van.

Or at least, that is what I assumed.

My dad always fondly tells the story of how I was not embarrassed of his method of transportation. Of how my sister was so mean to make him park so far away. Of how I was the good daughter that allowed the van to truly shine. Where it did not belonged.

In the bus lane.

Of course.

I did not have the heart to tell him it just never occurred to me to ask him to park elsewhere.

The thought just never came.

You can blame it on my immaturity. My true love for the van. My desire for fame.

But we all know the truth.

The real culprit was the magic confetti.

I snorted too much of it.

I became an addict.

And then it was taken away. Sold. Never to be seen again. It went to a dealer. And I’m not talking cars.

I’m speaking of nostalgic shrapnel. Flakes of time. Decades. Of. Laughter. And screams.

That must be the reason that whenever I see a van the color of the sky, I grin widely and rush forward to peer inside.

To get a whiff.

Of blue painted dust mote magical memories.

5 thoughts on “The Old Van

  1. Great story : ) You do have a way with words. I can envision the confetti and the magic van.

    I also fell out of a moving car as a kid…onto a gravel road. It wasn’t good. I leaned up against the door…(also no seat belts…who had them back then?) and as we turned the corner just flew right out as my brother watched….I believe and laughed. I think I was 3? Maybe? I had gravel imbedded in me all the way up to my waist. We were supposed to go to a picnic that day. Everything was cancelled because of me. I was disgusted. We still talk about it at family get-togethers.

    bisous
    Suzanne
    http://www.suzannecarillo.com

  2. Fun story, love reading yours. I too am a product of the non seat belt ’70s & ’80s! My husband actually fell out of their van when he was 2 also, & has a life long scar on his forehead to prove it!

    How are you? I’m struggling w/ work & headaches, etc….yadda yadda yadda, which is hard bc I’m a happy, positive person! I just remembered you’d been having blah times too, so thought I’d check in! Hope you & your family are doing well. I miss reading your comments & responses to comments, but I understand!

    Happy day to you friend!
    :)rebecca

  3. I loved reading this story. You are such a good story teller. I could just envision you and your sister riding in the van and fighting over the front seat. I think all kids fight over the front seat for some reason. I wish you had a picture of the van…would love to see it!! Some of the best memories in life were “as a kid”, right?!

  4. Your dad says he misses that van, and he is sitting here proudly admitting to parking in the bus lane. He knows who has it and wonders if it is still blue. Great story!

  5. I miss your comments too. I am sad things are rough for you right now. I hope they get better soon. I enjoy your blog so very much. Know you have a lot fans cheering for you. Really cool story today!

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