October 16, 2008 7:00 am
One of my most vivid childhood memories is of our family’s Chevy van. It was poop brown with dark tinted windows. The five of us (my parents, brothers and I) made the move from New York to Florida in that van when I was three. My mom has pictures of us standing next to it on the day we left New York. I was only three at the time but I remember how sad we all were to be going. My Grandma stayed behind in New York and waved goodbye through the tears. We drove off on our two day journey toward our new lives in Florida.
I remember sitting in front of our house on the hot Florida asphalt while my dad and his friend painted a Rolling Stones emblem on the spare tire cover. We were driving in style. The van had a manual transmission and we’d all jerk forward with every gear shift. There were no seats in the back so my dad built a wooden platform and my mom fashioned a piece of foam to fit. We spent a lot of time driving in the van, forty-five minute trips to the BMX track three times a week. I can still remember how it smelled, like melted window tint and sweat (no AC in FL). My brothers and I would lay on the platform and do our homework on the way to the BMX track. On the late night trips home, we’d all three fall asleep in the darkness. There is something so calm and peaceful about riding in a dark car at night.
That wooden platform that I mentioned before? The foam mattress wasn’t attached to it so every time my mom slammed on the brakes, the entire thing and it’s contents (three children) would slide forward toward the front of the van. This happened a lot. A whole lot. It was especially bad if we happened to be asleep since being jolted awake by a windshield in your face is not pleasant. We eventually learned to hold onto something solid if we were drifting off to sleep because there might be a fast forward trip in our near future.
When our kids were born, we practically wrapped them in bubble wrap before traveling. We bought the best (safety rated) car seats and we use the LATCH system to secure the seats into the frame of the car. We have airbags and never drive unless the kids are strapped in. One time I somehow missed the middle buckle on Graham’s carseat and nearly had a panic attack when I got home and realized he wasn’t secure. How is it that we weren’t harmed as children when we weren’t even strapped in? Someone told me that they first came out with infant car seats back when their son was one and he’s my age. How did babies travel before that? In their parent’s laps? Did they make their kids run along side of the car? It’s amazing to me how different things are now. I know in some cases it’s overkill but I’m really glad to be living in these days when there are protections I can take to keep my kids safe. I wonder what they’ll think of next?
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