By Betty Adams
It was one of those vehicles, belonging to one of those moms, in one of those towns. You remember them. The rigs that came out a decade or so back, just before the explosion in chassis variety really took the market. They weren’t a car, or a truck, or a van despite having vague resemblances to all three; and heaven help the poor soul who called them a mini-van in front of their elegant driver. You remember her too. She was that mom who showed up to the game with a full team in the not-a-mini-van. She was fashionably dressed, her hair was perfectly coifed, and she was in no way a mini-van mom. Not yet. Not ever. She was the duchess of her little town; a social butterfly glowing with personality who was desired at the head table at every gathering. No community event was considered successful if she didn’t grace it with her presence.
What exactly she called the rig you really don’t remember. The model didn’t take. It was too big and over-powered for a family vehicle, it wasn’t sexy enough to become a classic, and it didn’t have the torque or cargo room to be a viable work vehicle. It didn’t survive the efficiency cuts at the beginning of the millennium that birthed the hybrids and reinvigorated the station wagon. You don’t see them on the road any more. The last one you spotted was sitting forlorn in a large used car lot with clearance sticker covering most of its windshield. It is a sad end because back in the day they were prized. The not-a-mini-van-moms who drove them kept them gleaming and scratch free. They had paid top dollar for them and the choking grasp of rising gas prices had yet to foretell how little resale value they would be able to command.
So you knew she must have loved that kid; the one who sat ramrod straight in the driver’s seat of the brilliant candy apple red not-a-mini-van. His curly brown hair was already damp with sweat despite the cool spring air and the fact that he was only sitting in the driveway exit. Through two windshields and traveling at a communal twenty-five miles per hour you can see each and every drop of perspiration that dripped down his face. His hands were gripping the steering wheel at the ten and two position so tightly that you see that his knuckles are white. His brown eyes are wide and dilated, darting up and down the street frantically. His mouth is a thin line that twitches in time with his turn signal.
Oh yes, his parents both trust him. A man, possibly the father, possibly an uncle, probably not an older brother –you can’t be sure in this brief and stunningly clear moment- lounges in the passenger seat. Maybe he is talking to the younger children in the back seats. You can only make out one of them. He is a lad with a twelve year old shape and a partly mischievous, partly vindictive grin on his face seated directly behind the driver. That and the plans forming in his head to kick the back of the driver’s seat the entire length of the drive are all you can make out. If there is any concern in the man who has placed the lives of the younger children in the hands of the older he doesn’t show it. He trusts the skills of the young driver.
The young driver clearly does not. The tension is so palpable that you can feel it vibrating the air around you. He is keenly aware of the lives in his vehicle. He wants to be anywhere but here taking on this responsibility. He wonders why, in the name of all things sane and safe, did he want to get his driving permit so badly. You see him take a deep breath…
And then you are past and a stop sign is looming ahead.