Disclaimer: These stories are a product of my memory. The parts I can’t remember are made up. The parts I can recall are completely fabricated.
It seemed the perfect vehicle. It seemed to offer a form of luxury not known in our previous fleet of compact cars. Those previous priceless gems worked for a while, if only to leave mother and children stranded on the side of the road with a load of groceries or the smelliest members of the soccer team. First, this minivan was new with no prior owner who modified the exhaust, lifted, lowered or rebuilt the transmission. Furthermore, this was a FORD. You know Ford, after all “quality is job one.” I was so proud to be a driver in our very own hoodlum transport vehicle. Our Astro Van was the most decked out version in the Ford lineup. What cinched the deal for us was the rear bucket seats. Now crazed child number one (age 7) would not be able to poke the eye of hysterical child number two (age 5). Headphones plugged into each seat so they could listen to their own music and more important, I could drive in most well-deserved silence.
We hadn’t even driven out of the car lot. The minivan had more mileage going in reverse down the ramp off the delivery truck then we had going forward. Then it happened. How could one of the hoodlums do it? Were they put on this earth to punish me? It was Jennifer, I’m sure. Maybe it was Jason? Who knows, it doesn’t matter anyway. They were guilty, no jury of their peers were needed to convict. Now safely in our driveway and after unstrapping the backseat occupants, removing more seatbelts and chest straps than NASA put in the space shuttle, they ran into the house. Removing juice cups, squeeze cheese and numerous other sticky items which travel with children wherever they go, I followed them into the house.
It was right there! On one of those beautiful back bucket child separation devices was a wad of GUM! Before my brain connected the dots a vein in my neck began to pulse. Being the calm, level-headed person that I am, I sat both hoodlums down at the kitchen table. This was not a discussion, there would be no debate. That’s it! NEITHER OF YOU WILL BE ALLOWED TO HAVE ANY GUM UNTIL YOU ARE EIGHTEEN! Do you hear me! Nod your guilty little heads that you understand!
The next few weeks passed with little to no controversy. Everyone was keeping a low profile. It was autumn and our house had the smell of the six pumpkins we’d just carved into cross between a drunken sailor or a one tooth monster. Tonight, was Halloween and it was my job to escort our hoodlums and seven of their little hoodlum friends around the neighborhood. Lillian’s job was to have hot chocolate ready for our return. As I discovered later, it was also her job to eat all the chocolate candy bars before anyone else’s hobos could get any.
My pack of wild children covered the gambit of all the costumed creatures anyone could imagine, we had the usual princesses, pirates, sharks and cowboys.
Then, on the FIRST street, at the FIRST house it happened. Jennifer ran back from the doorway and came up to me hysterical, her whole life in shatters. Tears in her eyes, tears flowing down her cheeks as she sobbed uncontrollably. Finally, she composed herself enough to tell me what happened.
“WE GOT GUM AND YOU WON’T LET US HAVE ANY!”
Next back from that life ruining house with the evil family determined to undermine my authority, was Jason. Jason’s cheek had a bulge so big he could have been a major league baseball pitcher with a wad of chew. Apparently all seven packs of bubble gum can actually fit in a young boy’s mouth.
I stared at Jason . . . he stared back. What? He said.
Nothing I said. We moved on.
A month after Halloween, after 27,000 total miles, the transmission fell out of the minivan. Lillian and I had a horrible argument. While I favored selling the children, she prevailed. We sold the damn van.