Today we emptied out my beloved Toyota Sienna so it can become a trade-in for Forest’s new (and yet to be named) used car. Cleaning out the plastic door pockets, under the seats, the glove compartment, I came across years of small trash and treasure: a nickel with a hole in the middle, a triangular-shaped black stone from Lake Superior, pennies stuck together with mud, many manner of writing instruments, pieces of maps. For close to a decade, I basically lived in this vehicle by day, hauling to school and back little kids who morphed into teens who exploded into young adults.
The van ferried us great distances: to the Rockies many times for camping disasters that ended in all of us rushing into that van in the middle of the night to escape a tent in which two of our three children threw up on each other. It took us to The Farm in Summertown, TN for a bioregional congress that brought together people in love with the earth from throughout the Americas. We drove it far north and south, east and west, diagonally too, especially during my poet laureate term when it carried bundles of poets around Kansas.
As a rite of passage van, it’s what I drove after delivering Natalie to her college in Minnesota, crying so hard in my navigation of the Twin Cities that I kept confusing which city was which. It’s what we had to get back into, nervous and heartbroken, while Daniel waved goodbye to us when he started college in North Newton, KS.
The van was famous for many things, not the least of which was hauling couches. We brought a large red couch up to St. Paul for Natalie, stuffed an extra-large futon couch (and futon) into it to the amazement of our friend, who sold us the futon. The van easily carried an extra-long and super-heavy tip-top condition couch I found on a curb (and loaded on top thanks to strangers who came to my aid).
I have cried in this van, laughed so hard I cried again, changed my clothes in it a thousand times (usually not while driving), and eaten hundreds of meals at the driver’s seat. Kelley and I have used the van to haul her piano, guitar, our clothes and sundries for a week and all the Brave Voice supplies to Council Grove and back. I have loaded dogs and cats into this van, family members from near and afar, stray furniture to take in and piles of clothes to give away. I’ve made big life decisions in this van on highways that rose and fell across expansive lands.
All the time, this van has been exceptional, “a magic car,” Ken calls it. Yet now that it will cost twice or three times what the van is worth to fix all that’s wrong with it, we made the sorrowful decision to let it go (thanks for the great assessment and car-transition-counseling, Slimmer’s Automative!). So on this cold and nearly-final day of the year, we say goodbye for good to a very dear old friend. I wish our old friend a new home with a lot less driving and hauling, spanking new brakes and a shiny new timing belt, and most of all, to find people who will see just how good one big, red, old but reliable car can be.