Last February, my husband was bringing some trees down with his chainsaw when, against all odds, a tree decided to defy the laws of physics and gravity and fall, backwards AND uphill, smashing the cab of our 12-passenger van.
The gray van joined our family in February of 2007, about six weeks after the birth of our twins brought our family size to 10. Before that I was driving a station wagon that seated 8. All of us couldn't fit in it at one time, and two infant carseats made the interior uncomfortably cramped. I didn't even know my husband was buying this van until one evening I was driving his car one way down the street and I saw him driving the van toward me. He slowed down, rolled down the window, and called, "Wanna go for a ride? Pull that thing in the back and let's go!"
We called it Fluffy, on account of the first three letters of the license plate - FLF. It had rear wheel drive, which meant I was terrified to drive it in any kind of winter weather unless my husband put studded snow tires on it. It took us to Florida, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Ohio, Georgia. It faithfully limped to and from Washington, D.C. one year while having some kind of problem that involved overheating, stalling, and not being able to exceed 40 mph. We painted the windows purple and white for football games, loaded it up with bicycles (inside and out) to go on family trail bike-rides, took our oldest son to the emergency room in it, laid out on a rear seat, after he fell off our high porch. It sheltered us on that bitterly cold night when we had to evacuate our house due to a fire, and drove around aimlessly while we wondered if we'd have a home to come back to. A whole lot of living took place in that van.
Granted, it was a rusty P-O-S. Gray paint, gray vinyl seats, gray rubber floor. It only had the original AM/FM radio. The side windows didn't actually open, just propped out a few inches, and the rear blower didn't work. At one time, there had been A/C, but the system was not rechargeable. Thus was it roasting hot in the summer and an icebox in the winter. The cargo doors were rusting out at the bottom, and it had some kind of rear latch malfunction - once in a while the doors would randomly swing open upon acceleration. Its biggest draw was that it had vinyl seats and a rubber floor. Not the most attractive, to be sure, but I didn't give a rip if somebody was carsick, or careless with their coke, chicken nuggets or barbecue sauce. Any messes were easily taken down by removing all of our junk and whipping out the garden hose. Seriously.
Speaking of messes - boy, could it hold a lot of stuff. There were four rows of seats, with ample space between the front seats and along the side doors. If that wasn't enough space, there was a 4' by 6' cargo area in the rear. We could fit Dad, Mom, as many kids as we could find, and a grandmother or a friend or two, PLUS all of our stuff.
I know how terrible he felt about it, how painful it was to watch that tree come down despite his careful preparations. But even as it happened, he accepted that all things happen with God's own perfect timing, and that the van is just a thing. God would provide for our needs, and we had to trust in that.
|Scene of the crime. The upside is that the tree kept us warm for a month.|
After about 6 weeks of looking, we found a 9-passenger Suburban in our price range that would accommodate us. At first I didn't like it at all - not only did it not have nearly the room the van had, but it was too new and too nice.
Fluffy was something of an eyesore (the older kids called it the Clampett van) but I didn't worry if something happened to it. Heck, the first month I had it, I backed into every telephone pole in town. There was a nice dent in the rear corner panel where I slid into a pole trying to turn into our snowy alley. One time, in a Dollar General parking lot, I backed out of my parking place and punched into the rear end of the poor little car behind me - actually lifted it off the ground. The van's looks were not the biggest concern on my mind.
Now I had this pristine Suburban, waiting helplessly to be destroyed by my wild things. For the first few months I had a ban on food or drinks, but I couldn't keep up the resistance. It was about the time I caught the twins scribbling on the upholstery with crayons that I conceded defeat.
I am still not overly fond of the Suburban, but have made my peace with resignation, and of course I am grateful that we have any safe, reliable vehicle at all.
When the twins were learning easy words last spring, I realized that they could read all the sounds I needed - ee, an, ike, said, short vowels - to tell the story of Dad, the Tree, and the Van. And thus was a classic born:
Dad, the Tree, and the Van
Dad likes to chop trees.
A tree fell on the van.
Dad can not stop the tree.
A tree can crush a van.
The van said, "Crunch."
Now we have no van.
Dad is sad.
I did all the illustrations myself. Be jealous.