In last week's Flashback Friday, I brought your attention to my 'artistic rendering' of our family van. The following is a piece I wrote about this vehicle in 1994 when I was taking a creative writing course. So I guess this is really a flashback WITHIN a flashback... wrap your head around THAT one for a while...
The Family Van
For any family summer vacation, we had to leave before the sun itself was fully awake to warm us. Once again, our beige 1971 Doge Maxi van with the black-striped Turtle Top would be counted on to be our shelter for eating, sleeping, and for covering thousands of miles. Around town, the van was as recognizable as any of the seven of us, and being stuffed into its 866 cubic feet more than acquainted us with its good and bad points, as well as those of our fellow travelers!
Boarding the van, it was easy to see that every shade in the brown family was represented: from the sparkly gold Formica counter tops, brown flecked flooring, fake wood-grain of the mini refrigerator and cabinetry, to the sienna and orange patterned curtains. We provided the only snatches of color: a square of blue carpeting, the red and white dual battery, and one window like a page in a stamp collection, covered with stickers from every state we'd visited.
This early in the morning, our bare legs would wince at the jarring cold flatness of the vinyl mustard benches. (As the day warmed up, this non-absorbent plastic left us in a pool of our combined sweat, and the pattern of grooves on the seat's surface gave us temporary tattoos.)
The benches folded down to create a comfortable bed for Mom and Dad, but as seats, they were only slightly softer than stadium bleachers. One popular seating alternative was the squat Porto-Potty that had an accordion pump that once depressed sent a mysterious blue liquid whooshing around the bowl. With its brown cover, it made a so-so seat, but Mom was afraid the van's rocking motion would round its bottom, so time on the Potty was limited.
Another refuge was found between the two front seats. A black hump that jutted out of the dashboard served as an impromptu chair back. You couldn't sit here long either: the floor's pebbly rubber surface, directly above the van's engine, made for a true butt-numbing experience.
But complain as we might, the van took us to each destination safely, thanks to efficient, streamlined packing! This practicality led to the design of a wooden shelf, stained a thick brown, complete with prickly rope drawer pulls, to carry our tent and matching suitcases. A snaky green bungee cord, its head and tail hooked onto each other, prevented the hinged door of the wardrobe from constantly banging open.
The van took us on many well-organized trips in its tenure of loyal service, but it had become apparent that entire-family vacations were now a thing of the past. We gave the van away to a non-profit organization, sad to let such a familiar friend go, but knowing it was better to let it help someone else, rather than have it rust away in a dump.
Several years later, my brother and I were running errand when we yelled, "There's the van!" We were excited to see our old travel companion/provider again, and though it was weird seeing strangers inside, it was a comfort knowing the van was still on the road, where it was meant to be.