The first vehicle I can remember is a light blue oxidized truck. I’m not sure of the make or model but I am pretty sure the truck is at least twenty years older than I am.
We’re driving on a bumpy dirt road up by our home in the mountains. I gaze out the window at the field of purple clovers as my dad yells, “Jewel, hold the door.” I am four years old and have the responsibility to hold the door closed. My dad would eventually keep the door shut with a rope or a bungee cord but in the meantime it’s all on me.
I am kind of scared. Not scared enough to cry but at four, and living without television, my imagination has developed the ability to form remarkably vivid pictures. I think of a fierce wind swooping up from the valley below; a wind that I can not possibly match in strength. The door is pulled completely from the hinges and I am sucked from the blue truck into a tornado of dandelion dust. The ending to my imagination’s story makes me smile for I land in the soft field of purple clover but not before giving my dad a great scare.
Every hippy family needs a Volkswagen bus right? Ours again is light blue. We don’t have cool curtains or even an eight track but we must have a broken gas gage because we seem to run out most frequently. My mom’s favorite prayer is “Jesus, help us get to the gas station.” We make it and celebrate our answered prayer.
It’s raining, seriously raining and I’m sitting between my two year old brother and my baby sister. We’re with my mom and I can feel her panic as the engine sputters to a fateful stop along a dark and winding highway. Our prayers change to a different tune in an age long before cell phones, not that we would get reception out in the boonies where we live. Suddenly we see the headlights of a car approaching. A man braves the torrents of rain and asks “How can I help?”
We go to the man’s house, kept warm by a glowing wood fire. The man’s wife serves us hot chocolate and they give me a doll and my brother a toy truck. I think this is a great adventure.
When I am five my parents are able to finance their first vehicle. They purchase a brand new cream colored Toyota pickup truck. This is before crew cabs are the norm and all five of us ride around in this new truck together. My parents are proud and I can feel their happiness. My brother and I sit next to each other, me scooted up close to the dash and him back next to my mom who is holding my baby sister.
On longer drives of course my sister is fastened into a car seat and my brother gets to ride on the floor. But the truck is brand new and my parents love it and us kids love it too, even if we are a little squished.
Our gold station wagon has enough seats for all of us, until my baby brother is born that is. We’re moving to the city (going to "see Attle") and the back end is filled with blankets and pillows from our house. My brother and I make a fort and enjoy a cozy ride, making signs and pictures to hold up for drivers. Another adventure for us.
My baby brother is two and my parents sell the station wagon. The couple who buy it try their best to scratch off the Jesus bumper sticker and my parents laugh and roll their eyes when we see it drive by.
My dad and mom decide to buy another Volkswagen, but this time a Vanagon in two shades of blue. The van can fit us all along with all of our friends, as long as we double buckle. Over time part of the floor rusts out, but my dad puts a board down to cover the hole. We love to move the board and throw small objects through the floor, hearing the smack as they hit the pavement underneath and then we watch and whoop and holler to see them scatter across the road behind us.
The hole starts to grow in size and soon it is probably big enough for my little sister to fall through. This van also must have a broken gas gage and we have to stop and add water repeatedly when we take trips longer than half an hour on a summer’s day. My mom fears the engine will blow up and the reality sets real fear in each of us children, who now have television and have seen things “blow up”. That is not a fate we wish to suffer.
I’m old enough now to know that this is not a normal life to live. The van breaks down, not all the way and my mom is able to drive home as long as she stays under seven miles per hour.
I duck down low in the front seat, feeling every other driver on the road staring at me and laughing in their nice cars with automatic windows and no holes in their floors.
Either my parents start to become more financially savvy or they begin to realize that their eleven year old daughter would rather walk two miles to school than be dropped off and yelled to “be careful not to let the door fall off”.
They buy a string of minivans but we continue to have trouble with touchy doors. But we have automatic windows, a/c and tinted windows. Us kids miss making signs for people behind us but we appreciate our own seat belts and seats of real upholstery, rather than braided rug seats or sticky vinyl.
Celebrating an empty nest or rather four kids with drivers licenses my mom and dad buy the second brand new car of their marriage. For my mom’s fifty third birthday she picks out a gold Toyota Camry. After so many years of holy floors, touchy radiators and doors falling off she deserves something new and dependable.
And while I sit waiting for my husband to bring me some gas to fill my dark blue suburban I feel like all is right in the world and I’m thankful that all my kids have their own seat belts.