Driving was never part of our everyday routine when I was a kid. My mom kept a series of beat-up old cars that were insured in the summer so we could get out of town, but otherwise we walked, we biked, we sometimes took a bus.
My mom was broke and practical, but also an environmentalist. Driving was not to be taken lightly – it came at a cost, and had to have a purpose.
The van came into our lives when I was 15, for my mom’s courier job. It also opened up our world.
I learned to drive in that electric blue Ford Aerostar, and took on part of mom’s courier route. I dutifully noted the odometer reading anytime it was parked, to keep the meticulous records of how much the van was work-driven and how much it was pleasure-driven.
Within weeks I knew the dimensions of that steel box as I knew my own body.
I learned how to arrange the packages around the wheels, how to stack them to avoid the path of the rearview, how to back into tight spots and leave room for at least one door to open.
If I drove exactly 62 km/hr down Portage at the end of our run, I’d hit all the green lights. On the home stretch, the windows went up, the A/C went on, and Mom and I would smoke her hand-rolled cigarettes. We watched the other commuters’ incredulity as our little blue race-van sped past, looking like it was being hot-boxed for rush hour.
Anytime we hit the road in that van, I would take pictures of its blunt nose pointing out of campsites as if it was another member of our family.
We took care of the van, and we patted the dashboard lovingly when it got us through a sticky spot. It was like a large, semi-animate beast, but it was more than a pet. It moved us.
We’d drive out for ice cream on hot summer nights and Mojo, my little tabby, would sit happily on the dashboard.
We drove up into Northern Manitoba, camping out of the van and leaving it to stand guard in the parking lot as we turned to our feet to carry us as far into the backcountry as possible.
After 10 years of hard driving, the van was wearing out. The list of repairs was far longer than its potential lifespan, and they were getting more expensive as fellow Aerostars bit the dust.
Mom bought a little silver Echo, and we became reckless with the van.
Move as much as you can, but know that you could get stuck anywhere. Drive it, but don’t count on it.
We hauled a huge sander and wedged sheets of drywall into the back, ignoring the scrapes on the interior.
Then it died, and sat in my back lane as an oversized mailbox. When I wasn’t home to receive my grandma’s old organ, it was most helpfully delivered to the back lane and sheltered from the rain by a rusting blue roof. It was a tool and grocery drop-off.
I inherited my mom’s pragmatism, but I also felt for the van. I didn’t want to see it hauled away for scrap. It helped us move out of a government subsidized apartment into our own houses, and took us out of those houses to lakes and wide prairie skies.
But I also wanted to build a fence that would extend my tiny yard and garden onto the van’s parking spot. It was time to move on.
Thanks for all the love from the Yeah Write community, for voting me into second place, for the kiwi, and for all your comments. Hope to see you again next week and beyond!
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I wish cars lasted longer too. I enjoyed your touching story.
Such a great story! I love the image of you and your mom smoking and speeding home with the AC on. Glad to have you at yeah write!
Thanks! Smoking and speeding are great ways to bond, or something.
aww what a touching story! Hard to see any family member go… even if it’s a blue van.
Whoa, whoa, get out the way with that good inmiofatorn.
I bought myself a new Echo back in 2001. I can’t imagine life after that car. It’s taken me so many places and played a central role in a life-changing experience. We plan on running it into the ground, so I understand your fondness for that blue Aerostar.
I loved all of the details in this. I felt like a passenger along for the ride.
Thank you! I actually started writing this post about the Echo – I just got back from a 3000 km road trip in it with my mom and brother, but then the story veered further into nostalgia, so I followed it there. I’d love to hear your Echo story too!
I wrote a post a few years back that went on FOREVER, so I hope to rewrite and share it some day.
I used to have this 1994 Chevy Astro that my 4 year old son named Coco the Zombie Van. We had so many adventures in that van and I was so sad to see her go. I love the life your van had after her life as a vehicle. And I love even more the garden that became of her parking spot. It all seems so fitting.
Sometimes cars just *get* us, man! ❤
I think that’s the best van name I’ve ever heard – kids make the most creative names! And it’s true – they get us, and they are so closely tied to memories.
This is so well done! When I was growing up, my parents named our station wagon Moby (for Moby Dick). Somehow that made it more part of the family. I’ve never named my car. Maybe that’s why I’m not quite as attached to it (although I do like it! I just don’t get sad when it’s time for a new one). But I get this is not just about the car. Not at all!
Naming adds a lot! This van wasn’t named, but I have another (named) car now and she has quite a story as well. That’s a very apt name for a station wagon as well (which are, and I’ll stand by this, the best kind of car. Ever).
I love cars and trucks more than most people but not more than you love this van. I really liked your post a lot.
This is kind of how I feel about my current car. I felt so much affection for the inanimate object here. It seems incongruent, but it’s not.
I felt exactly the same way about my first car, an ’89 Honda Prelude that broke my heart when I had to sell it for parts and see it hauled off to the junk yard. Your way of telling this van’s story is a compelling way to share the story of your family. Moving on. We all have to at some point. Great job.