Today I said goodbye to an old friend, a trusted companion, a treasured member of the family…our van.
Twelve years ago we brought her home, sparkly and new. She had a 17 inch drop down TV screen with a DVD player, pull down shades, mood lighting, room for seven people, and plenty of back end space for all our stuff. She left today with a dent in the back door, a crack in the windshield, well worn seats, a distinctive family smell, and a couple of nonworking shades; she was well loved!
We had another van before Bertha. It was the one we got when we discovered we were having quadruplets. We bought it from some wonderful church friends who were moving overseas and needed to sell it. That one was lovingly called, The Baby Boat. My kids have some vague memories of that first van, but Bertha is really the one at the center of all our family adventures!
Bertha was the van that I drove daily to take the kids to school, occupational and speech therapy, all kind of activities, and the doctor’s office. I drove her on lunch dates when it was each child’s special day. She was the vehicle where the kids would sit upside down and pretend they were astronauts. She was the one who always marked our location and told everyone when we were home. She carried us to the park to meet friends and all of our gear when we went camping. Her seat fit and molded to my butt, making her my most comfortable ride.
We drove her on several trips to Colorado for Summer vacations and Christmas celebrations. When the kids were little, we would eat an early dinner and start the seventeen hour drive hoping for long bouts of sleep until breakfast time the next morning. Then it was just a quick couple of hours to Grandma and Grandpa’s house where they would play and we would sleep. It mostly worked, except for Nick. He would sit in the very back middle seat with eyes wide open. It was enough to scare any parent awake for a few more hours!
It was on one of these trips that my kids learned a new word, preemptive. We stopped for gas and my husband told everyone to get out for a preemptive pee. As I looked at the kids, all I could see was confusion. I asked them if anyone knew what preemptive meant. In a chorus, they yelled, “No!” We all burst out laughing and told Jerry to stop using big words.
Bertha was also the one who took us to Disney World. We sat in her watching movies one night as Jerry tried to break into our rental house after we had inadvertently locked ourselves out earlier in the day. Fun times!
She faithfully transported all of us, plus pets, half way across the country, twice. She took us safely to a friend’s house as we evacuated from Hurricane Rita. She was always dependable. Plus, I could always spot her in the parking lot!
But now all the kids are gone and there are just three of us living at home. So for the last year, she has spent most of her time just sitting in our driveway. We occasionally took her for a spin if we needed to move something large or needed to shuffle cars when the kids came home. Mostly, though, she’s been driveway art and a constant reminder of days gone by and adventures past.
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We’re on a new journey now. Learning to be a couple again and parents to adult children with their own vehicles. It was time to let go.
So today I took one last look inside, took in a deep breath, and smiled. I’m so thankful we were able to have her all these years and make such wonderful memories. We will never forget her.