we have had car trouble in our last two long-distance family vacations. the second instance left us stuck in sidney, nebraska for two days. technically we broke down on the highway twenty miles past sidney but it was the closest town with a aaa-recommended garage. as we were figuring out what to do, marty told me that there was a Cabelas there which is one of those big outdoor sporting stores like bass pro shops. when marty said cabelas i thought she said/meant Kabbalah, like the hollywood religion thing. this caused some added confusion because i thought she was warning me about going there for fear that i might get converted into the kabbalah religion (as it is one of the scant few religions that hasn't yet tried to entice me into their folds). but she was instead saying that the sign marked some semblance of civilization in an otherwise desolate landscape. we managed to limp back to that town and spent two surprisingly restful days there while waiting for our car to be recessitated.
upon successfully making it to utah and then back home, i told marty her car was dead to me and i would not trust it for another long-distance family trip (the vacation days are just too precious). a few weeks later marty and i went out on a saturday. we had two orders of business: to buy a dishwasher and to begin the search for a replacement car. please note the verbs used: BUY and SEARCH as those were truly our intentions. but, i guess the buying the dishwasher greased the track because when we showed up at the honda dealer we ended up buying a van on the same day.
as you would expect, the paperwork on such a transaction takes a few hours time. in-between active moments of talking and signatures marty and i wondered what the kids would think of our new wheels. it is worth noting that the replacement which was going to be a significant upgrade from the thirteen year old van our children had always known. for example, this new car was a "tv-car" which has been our kids most coveted feature since they learned such things existed. we used to joke with them that it would have been pretty funny to have a television in our car and not in our house (as was the case for a good number of years). they joked back that they were fine with it and would just ask to go to drive-worthy places more often. between agreeing to buy the car and actually buying the car, marty and i agreed that we could not squander this historic (for us) moment by just rolling up to the house and saying, "hey kids, look, we bought a new car--and it is a tv-car!"
so, instead we hatched the following plan. we had decided to keep the evil car because bella would be driving soon and we thought it would be better to have her wreck a crappy old car that needed a good wrecking instead of marty's new van or my very old, but special-to-me car (of course we won't have bella driving the old car any kinds of distance, just around town). per our plan, we met in the middle of our neighborhood by a friend's house and parked the new car there (after sharing the plan with our friends). we then returned home in the shit-mobile and went into the house as normal. we hung out for a few hours and then asked if anyone was up for some ted drewes (st louis custard). the kids all hooted and assembled in the foyer straight away.
we filed outside and piled into our 2003 odyssey. before even turning it on i started grumbling to myself about the car. the kids asked what was wrong. i replied that i hated this car, just absolutely hated it. annoyed and not interested in my grousing the kids in near unison said, "c'mon dad. just go." i started the car and set out through the neighborhood.
as we slowly moved down the street i pressed and released the gas pedal to make the car lurch and stutter. i added some under-my-breath but loud enough to be heard expletives. at the end of the block i pulled the car over and killed the engine. i said nothing. the other conversations and chatter in the car stopped and everyone looked frontward. finally bella said:
what are you doing? why'd you stop?
it's the stupid car. it's not running right. again!
c'mon dad. just go.
i can't. i can't do it.
what do you mean?
i can't keep driving this crappy car. i hate it. why can't we have a nice car?
just go dad.
i mean, we deserve a nice car.
other people have nice cars. why not us? what did we do?
TROY (pointing across the street at our new car)
like that. look at that car. that is a beautiful car. why can't we have a car like that?
dad! just go!
no. i'm not going to.
with this i furtively looked around and then got out. i ran across the street and around to the passenger side of the new car and crouched down so the kids couldn't see me. i fished the new keys out of my pocket and unlocked the doors. i then opened the passenger door and slid in. as i slid over to the drivers seat i spied the jaws drop of my kids as they were straining to see what i was doing. i then crouched down out of view again to fein i was hot-wiring the car. having just seen my kids astonished faces i was audibly laughing at how well our prank was playing out.
i started the car and sat back up into view. nine-year old anthony was outside the driver's door yelling at me. i unrolled the window to hear his calls of "don't do this dad--you don't have to do this". i tried to contain my smile and replied, "i got it started anthony. quick. get in!". he yelled no. i put the car in drive and pulled even with the suck-van. alex had slunk down in the passenger seat so no one could see him. bella was just staring at me fully transfixed. when the car stopped, anthony ran in front, putting his hands on the hood as if he was going to push it back where it was. effortfully and a bit desperately he called to his brother, "alex! lay down behind the car so he can't go!". alex crouched lower in his passenger seat. anthony returned his attention to me repeating his assertions that i didn't have to do this and that they, the kids, didn't care. it was during these pleadings that bella finally absorbed the happenings and dreamily said, "they bought a new car. guys this is our new car." marty and i could no longer hold our laughter back and started cackling. anthony ceased his pushing on the hood, stood up straight and said, "What? Wait. this is our new car?"
we re-lived the escapade all the way too the custard stand and through our frozen treats, people re-counting pivotal moments and taking in the car's posh features. it was a warm and smiley time and one that is sure to live long in the dearmitt-family lore. hard to ask much more from a saturday afternoon. and most importantly, no more cross-country trips in a might-make-it-there-might-not car.
PHOTO: the photo is from a recent camping trip marty, myself and the boys went on. we were able to set our tent up just a few feet from a large lake. marty woke first and fully un-zipped the large doorway of the tent. this picture is snapped seconds after anthony woke and took in the morning scene before him. as we all soaked in the sunrise and geese gliding into their floats marty told the boys that this was the image that was on the tent's label when we bought it. and yes, we did drive the new super-van to the campout.