For Sale: My Childhood

Awesomeness: Accuradio’s “Listening Post” channel. It’s pretty new, I think – I usually listen to “A Flock of 80s” and forget that they have a billion other channels. I just listened to this one song called “Astronaut,” by Cantinero, and it was really pretty. Right now it has some Wilco song going, and before that it was Beta Band, and ooh, update, now it’s Interpol. It’s a good variety of recent stuff.

red van

We bought the red van in the spring of 1992, just before we moved to Virginia from Colorado. We needed a good vehicle to drive across the country, and one of its selling points was the built-in child seats on the middle row. Jamie was about 18 months old and could use the full-on child seat, and Sammi, at 5, could use the converted booster seat version. It was also essential to have a vehicle that could transport all six of us at once.

Brand new, the van was so red it stuck out like a sore thumb around town. We kind of liked that – it was so easy to find in parking lots and such.

In the summer of 1992, we moved. Dad and Ginny drove the rental truck with the contents of our house inside it and our other car hitched to the back. The rest of us rode in the red van.

The rest of us included:

  • Mom, the driver;
  • Me, the navigator;
  • Reagan, our terrier mix, at my feet;
  • Sammi, in the middle row’s booster seat;
  • Jamie, in the middle row’s child seat;
  • Kitty and Fat Boy, our very originally named cats, each in a pet carrier; and
  • Pretty Boy, the cockatiel, in his bird cage.

(We were awesome with the animal names back then, weren’t we?)

Oh, and there was all of our luggage, and food and water bowls for the animals, and coolers, and Jamie’s diaper bag, and stuff to keep the little girls occupied on the trip, and any other random assorted crap that we’d forgotten to pack in the big truck.

Driving from Colorado to Virginia takes a long time, especially with two little kids, two cats, a dog, and a bird, but we are a road trippin’ family and my insane mother was up for the challenge. We had some relatives we could stay with along the way, but it was still three or four days of heavy driving. We had enough mishaps and crazy experiences during this trip that it deserves its own post one day, but for now, suffice it to say that this was Red Van’s maiden voyage.

Possibly during the moving trip, Sammi and Jamie named the middle row the Code Trody, or CodeTrode for short, and we have called it that ever since. The origins of the phrase have been lost over the years, but if you didn’t get shotgun, you definitely fought for the Code Trody. Opinions vary as to whether the inner or outer seat is better, but it’s still the best place in the van. No one likes riding in the last row, also known as the BackBack, because it’s hard to get in and out of, the air doesn’t flow well back there, and there isn’t much leg room.

We’ve been through a lot in the red van. I learned to drive in it, and if I’m not mistaken, Ginny did as well. I drove the red van to and from work for a while between wrecking my first car and acquiring my second. When Ginny began driving again after her wreck, the red van was what she drove. Mom and Dad and I drove the red van to Northwestern in the fall of my freshman year. Once, we got rear-ended at a red light in it. One other time, my family was driving it to Iowa for Christmas, and a wheel almost fell off. It worked out okay, though. Something went funky with one of the belts once, and every time it rained, it would fall off and the van would stop and Mom would have to get out and go put the belt back on before she could drive again. This may or may not still be true. It started to leak. A cat got trapped in it overnight once and trashed it. The back door doesn’t stay up anymore and whacks you in the head if you forget to hold it up while getting groceries. We have been to Chicago and to Iowa and to Florida and to Tennessee in it. It’s broken down, and it’s had lots of stuff replaced, and it has about a million miles on it, but we grew up in that van and we love it, quirks and all.

As sad as it is to say, we don’t need it anymore. We’ve had a Jeep Grand Cherokee for a few years now, and that’s my dad’s primary vehicle. My mom recently bought a Grand Am. It’s been years since we all needed to go anywhere in the same vehicle, so it’s not a big deal that both vehicles only seat five. Usually Ginny or I will drive separately. And in a few months, Ginny’s going back to college, Sammi’s starting college, and I’ll have moved out. Most days it’ll be just Dad and Mom and Jamison, and the Jeep and the Grand Am will do just fine for them.

So now, Red Van is for sale. And if and when it goes, it’s going to take a big piece of my childhood with it.

Comments 6

  • dude – I learned to drive on a van just like that…well it was tan, not red. When I was living with my dad, right before I got my driver’s license, a friend of mine (one of those bad influence-types) and I would sneak out in the middle of the night and steal the van and drive it to boys houses.

    vans are awesome.

    Maybe one day your dad will get another van.

  • i can’t tell you how much this sounds like the answer to my “how am i getting stuff to portland?” question.

    i kinda wish i had planned better, and just decided to live in a van.

  • I think Code Trody stands for Cool Trolly (like troll doll) though I’m not sure why. Also good features of the red van include that patented smell of Windsong and vomit that it never quite lost after that trip to iowa the year I got sent away to become a good kid and we all got food poisoning at the Taco Bell in Indiana, and the fact that you can pull the key out of the ignition without it turning off. And it’s never been just the Van, even when we had more that one. It’s always been “The Red Van” hasn’t it? And also remember when we were house hunting and had like 9 people crammed in it. Or when Sammi would pour together all the sodas into Jamie’s bottle? the Red Van. Oh and isn’t the front seat also known as the “back front”?

  • My dad bought a used tan Dodge Caravan back when I was in high school. I was ecstatic. For years, we’d tooled around in a string of beaters. I’d be embarrassed for my dad to drop me off near school. For some reason, in those days, minivans were completely acceptable. It was something that made me a little bit closer to normal. I could get out of that minivan in front of the school and blend in with all the other kids getting out of minivans.

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