A man, a van, a plan.

January 6, 2013 § 5 Comments

Jeff wants a van, or as he calls it, an “Adventure Vehicle.” The pictures he shows me from craigslist look like a church van on steroids. Some have a lift. Some have extra toggles and buttons on the dash. He wants it to take our boys and their friends on camping trips, and he wants to carry canoes, boats, etc. on top. He missed his calling: he would make the world’s best camp counselor.  A van, he says, would change everything. I’m sure it would.

Besides the usual images of hippies in vans, or vans’ reputation as refuges for the seedy and deviant, the only thing I can think of when I think of a van is my grandmother. She had a burgundy Choo-Choo Customs conversion van, with a popped up top and striped designs on the sides. There were two rows of captain’s chairs in the back with a small table in between, and she could make the back bench seat into a bed and sleep there.

It used to puzzle me that my grandmother, my Gigi, would never spend the night inside our house. She wouldn’t get a hotel room, either. She parked in the driveway. She did this even when her second husband, A.J. was alive. They always brought two Pomeranians, Sugar and Bo, or Sugar and Prissy, depending on the year. The dogs were fat and had breathing problems, but they still had a lot of energy, probably because Gigi would stop at the Wendy’s for a Frosty milkshake and feed it to them, a true gesture of love from a diabetic. They’d spend the day with us—my mother, father, four sisters, two or three dogs and cats and me—then they’d retire for the van for the evening. I imagine now, with the strained relationship Gigi always had with my dad, this was a contribution to civility.

Gigi wore either a black pantsuit or a khaki pantsuit– actually, usually just the polyester pants and a matching sleeveless shell. There was a little monochromatic chic to it. Add big, rose-brown tinted sunglasses and a platinum bouffant, and you have her. Then put a brown pall mall in her bright red lips. Her lips were thin, like mine, but always hot pink or red. Even in the hospital, after surgery for congestive heart failure, she wanted me to get her her lipstick. Even a person with tubes in her nose looks better with lipstick, it turns out.

You could say Gigi liked control and this, along with her thrift, I’ve inherited from her. It’s true. But she was also wise; she knew that if she couldn’t handle chaos, or lack of personal space, she could always go to the van, smoke her pall malls, listen to the talk on the CB radio, and do whatever she wanted.  Maybe we do need a van: Jeff can have an adventure vehicle; I can have a mobile room of my own.



§ 5 Responses to A man, a van, a plan.

  • John Scott Durbin says:

    Steph, I just had to laugh because I remember those days. I can see your Gigi exactly how you described her and those 2 little dogs snorting and hair flying. And, yes….Jeff needs a van in the worse way! He should have been a camp counselor, camping guide, etc. Loved your article and thank you guys for allowing me to be part of that crazy family for years! Love John Scott

  • Betsy Jacks says:

    There’s something about men and their vehicles. My husband for years has been angling for a tractor. Not sissy riding mower — a serious agricultural machine. It would change everything. Our whole unruly world would be cleared, mowed, and maintained.

  • Barb Ulery says:

    Love it. Keep celebrating our humanness.

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