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••• The International Writers Magazine - Our 20th Year: Life On the Move

The Minivan Circle of Life
• Jennie Garman
Vans -- my stepfather has always driven minivans. They -- much like him -- were old and colossal with unsolvable issues he didn’t care enough about to fix.

inside minivan

When my mother met him, he lived in a red, Chevrolet Getaway camper van that eventually took my mother and me far away from my entire family. It was a van with extra storage on its top so when you visited the McDonalds’ drive thru, you weren’t sure if you would, indeed, make it “thru” in one piece. Shortly after they married, they loaded up that old van with the leather couch in the back for me (a mere three years old) to perch on and traveled from dusty, flat Kansas to humid, magnolia laiden South Carolina. The van was stuffy and uncomfortable, with no seatbelts in the back. Ironically, it was just as unreliable as he was.

A few years down the road, we got a “new” van, or it was new to us. It was a 2002 silver Astro van with heavy sliding doors, panoramic windows that would pop out, and third row seating to pick up the church congregation Sunday morning. Opening the door from the inside was, well, nearly impossible. I had to stand at an angle with my feet firmly planted just to tug those doors open.By the time I was ten years old, I had wrestled with the doors like Hulk Hogan on steroids, so I could close them easier than most grown men.

To say the van carried around a lot of my family’s baggage is an understatement. First, it took us away from the historic towns of Charleston, South Carolina, to the middle of nowhere North Carolina -- to this day I still don’t know what that town was called. There I abided in a new place where I did not fit in. We remained there only one semester of school before we moved back to Charleston, South Carolina, not where I had safely grown up, but in the sketchiest parts of North Charleston. That van took a real beating there. And so did we. Deciding that his calling from God as a pastor to be more important than ensuring the safety of his family, he trapped us there for three more years despite the van window being shot out and strangers randomly traipsing through our front door. With each move, I would watch my mother pack up everything we could keep, but eying the furniture and kitchen supplies she would have to leave behind. Mom and I would always have to leave a part of ourselves so that he could live the life he wanted.

The window of the van shattered as easily as my family did every time the argument of moving arose again. My stepfather used the van until its last breath and could no longer be repaired. He used everything to its full potential until there is absolutely nothing left of it, leaving it broken. If our van did die, we would sit until he found a new minivan to cart my mother and me around. The vans -- always bought used without a reliable battery or with a rattle you just could not get rid of -- ended up costing us much more than the van was worth. He spent more money and time on fixing vans than he ever poured into our family. My stepfather always had a van just like he always has issues he had to face. He’s looking for a new car...perhaps a new van? Perhaps a new family?

© Jennie Garman 4.8.19
garmanjr at

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