The End of an Era

I started digging into the nooks and crannies of the old van, needing to empty it out in case I find something to trade it for tomorrow.  I both chuckled and choked up as I found relics of the past fifteen years.  “US Govt Guide to Surviving a Bear Attack” from the Western Trip; the laminated Little League Roster that Meg Wright made for Anthony and Sean’s team; directions to Micah Rust’s mother’s Café and Bakery; a tax exempt form signed by Ken Nielsen; paperwork from Aunt Barbara’s nursing home; Cedar Point maps and parking permits; a “Today is my 7th birthday!” button (could have belonged to any of the kids; they have all turned seven since we got the van); old puppy biscuits (I went to pick up both Tillie and Tessie as puppies in that van)….

Why am I such an emotional wreck over an inanimate hunk of metal? Why is it going to be so hard to walk away and leave it at a dealership or a junkyard? Why do I feel like it is a family member rather than a transportation device?

Is it because I am a sentimental packrat? Is it because my minivan days have ended? Is it because it was the last vehicle I will have ever conferred with my dad about buying? Or is it because my kids grew up and left home in that van? Because it feels more like a sanctuary to me than a vehicle?

The kids were two, five and six when they rode along with me to Olean to buy this van.  They were so excited about it and helped to pick out which one we should get. It had eight miles on it when we got it, the other 267,000 have all been on trips to school, church, Houghton, New Wilmington, Fredonia, Odyssey of the Mind, AAU Basketball, Indiana, Cedar Point, Charcoal Corral, Molly’s house, away games, Buffalo, Letchworth, New Haven, Williamsburg….

It was so much more than getting from Point A to Point B. We talked and laughed and played car games; we debriefed school days; we ate fast food and made a mess of the van; we trick-or-treated; three-year old JonDavid shocked everyone by blurting out from his carseat “Oh my God, a cow!” in front of Grandma, apparently having heard it from his babysitter; we hauled home: friends, back-to-school purchases, presents and surprises, and freshly-chopped Christmas trees.  We watched movies at the Drive-In; and drove to meet and pick up our Swiss daughter who would join our family. We lived our lives in that van.

So tomorrow, or someday soon I will replace it.  I will hopefully drive away in something smaller, sportier, and more fuel-efficient and at long last with a working stereo.  And no matter how new and shiny and wonderful it is, I will still be crying.  Because I cannot escape the fact that this marks a milestone. The five of us will rarely, if ever, ride in one vehicle again.

Of course there are new and exciting family events still ahead.  We’ll be driving to the beach in Virginia, and to commencement at Yale in the spring, and to Mackenzie’s wedding in the summer.  If the next vehicle I buy lasts for another 15 years, it may well take me to meet my grandchildren!

But today I mourn the loss of an old friend and the end of an era.

Published by timnichols

First and foremost, I’m a dad. After that, by day I am a professor of Education at Alfred University, by night I'm a dog lover, a cancer survivor, and a daydreamer. Here are some thoughts and lessons learned from my journey…

7 thoughts on “The End of an Era

  1. Love it!
    I have only ever parted with one of my vehicles. All my cars from my Morris Minor 1000 to my current BMW have found their way to family and friends. My 1957 Morris Minor has now been resprayed Bright Red and is used for weddings in Ladybrand. She was the vehicle that we left Zimbabwe (previously Rhodesia) in and migrated to the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho. The trunk/boot was not conducive for much luggage and we used to travel down to my parents in Uitenhage, near Port Elizabeth, with apple boxes. Two fitted much more snugly than just one suitcase and hundreds of odd items.
    Always loved when we passed a 120kph (70mph) road sign. Then we could put our foot down on the accelerator! Heehee!

    The 1988 Volkswagen Golf we bought for the girls for College also provided much entertainment. She hated getting her feet (tyres) wet. One puddle and you were stuck on the side of the road for a while whilst she dried out. Later on she was used by my best friend’s daughter for her College escapades. A legend!

    Then my green Mazda 323 became my vehicle of choice. She was a beauty and had an AC installed. I was on my way up the corporate car ladder. She was later used by my niece as her first college car and run about. Her name became “Seipati” and to this day I wonder how my niece could drive so fast and brake on a tickey (dime) with her.

    Now I drive a German engineered vehicle. She is a beautiful, sleek BMW with an M3 sport engine. My very first BMW still graces the Eastern Cape roads and is used daily by my daughter. I still love the “feel” of her and remember the first time I had leather seats! Felt I had made the Forbes list of the richest people on the planet 🙂

    I know how you are feeling Tim! It’s gut-wrenching. Maybe you should be like my late US best friend’s hubby and just park all the vehicles on an empty lot on his smallholding and have the fond memories of the old girls as you mow the fields.

    Happy vehicle hunting!


    1. Hi Sandra! I’m so sorry, I am new to blogging and somehow missed your comment and wonderful story. Always nice to find a kindred spirit. Guess what? I ended up with a German replacement also. A cute little VW beetle convertible–red. I love it and it has eased the pain of saying good bye to my old friend. Thanks so much for writing!


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