Mr. Charming and I are now the proud owners of a 1991 two-tone blue Dodge, 12-passenger van. The red vintage interior covers three bench seats and a console that rivals The Starship Enterprise. The stellar sound system includes FM radio and a cassette deck, and there’s at least three feet of luggage space in the back.
I know. You so wish you were us right now.
About three weeks ago we decided it was time for us to find a family-friendly vehicle that could fit our nine-member brood. Until this moment in time we had been caravanning in two vehicles whenever we all wanted to go somewhere like the library, the park or church.
We found this beauty on Craigslist.
Maybe the reason I love it so much is because it’s reminiscent of the vehicle from my own childhood: a 1974 powder-blue Ford van.
I’m the oldest of six children, and when there were about four of us my parents decided that instead of strapping kids into the back of our 1970 Plymouth Duster, they would secure a heartier vehicle fit for errands and road trips.
Upon purchasing the van, my dad pimped that ride, 1970-style. He took out the bench seat in the back and replaced it with a “bed” which was basically a wooden platform covered in blue shag carpet. As the oldest, I frequently rode on the bed, listening to cassette tapes my mother created in attempts to keep us entertained.
In fact, thirty years later I was watching Pete’s Dragon with my children when I inexplicably began speaking every line of dialogue with the characters. For a minute, I thought I had become psychic. Then I realized that Pete’s Dragon, along with Benji and The Apple Dumpling Gang, was one of many movies my mother recorded onto those cassette tapes that played for hours and hours while we traveled.
To make road trips even easier, my father would bungee a mini porta-potty to the back of the passenger seat. So when nature called we either did one of two things: 1. exercised tremendous bladder control or 2. balanced precariously and half naked, sans seat beat, over the sloshing blue water of our traveling toilet. Being six years older than the next child, I went with option one, thank you very much.
Year later I drove that same van, carrying a slew of teenagers, to a dance in another county. My younger brother ended up changing the flat we got on the way back. After I went away to college, another brother ran it up against a guardrail trying to maneuver the oversized van to a secluded parking lot by the river (after curfew, I might add). And a few years before the van was finally put down, the neighbor boy pelted the side of it with a bb gun, in what my mother still alleges to be part of an ongoing feud over the hedges lining our property.
Now we have our very own blue beast parked on the curb in front of our house. We’ll only drive it when all our kids are home, and we hope that years from now they’ll have fond memories of the vehicle that carted our blended family around (without the traveling toilet, of course).
So honk three times when you see the Belyoak Mobile. Because I’m certain that the last thing our children will ever be when riding in this vehicle is embarrassed.