Movin On Up

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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  1. MommyNamedApril

    I’ve often wondered the same thing… what did they used to do with the baby???

    MommyNamedAprils last blog post..The Ides of… October.

  2. Sprite's Keeper

    I asked my mom this one day. She told me people used to put some old t-shirts in laundry baskets and put the baby in there. No one liked to travel too much because strollers weren’t as convenient. (I have two in the back of my van now, the Caddy and the umbrella) When I was born, my sister graduated to riding in the front seat with my mom. My dad had to stop short one time and my sister ended up hitting her front tooth on the dashboard.

    Sprite’s Keepers last blog post..Well, the Holidays ARE just around the corner..

  3. DeeMarie

    I remember crawling from the cab to the back of our pick-up truck while we were driving!!
    It’s crazy. But I think there were less people on the roads, and no one went quite as fast. We also didn’t have purel and airbags and somehow we all survived. I’m so glad there are so many more safety options available now!!!

    DeeMaries last blog post..I’m So Psyched!!

  4. jenni

    I love this story.

    My mom borrowed a car seat from my aunt to bring me home because the wouldn’t let her leave the hospital without one. But, I belive she actaully carried me on her lap anyways. The horror.

    jennis last blog post..The Dog Ate My Face: A Story About My Mom

  5. jenni

    Oh, and I don’t think I wore a seat belt until I was ten, when they became legally required.

    jennis last blog post..The Dog Ate My Face: A Story About My Mom

  6. Katie

    My grandparents did the same as Jen’s mom said….laundry basket. There’s also several stories in my family about kids falling out of the car because they weern’t strapped in and the door came open…scary!

    So you’re the one buying all the shoes in my size!! I’m a 9 1/2-10 too and can never find cute shoes!! Thanks for the anniversary wishes. And for saying our wedding picts were nice, my dad actually took those. THe Photographer that we had sucked all the picts were crooked, like he had a peg leg or something. And he left between the wedding and reception to take pictures of his dogs (so no sunny outside picts–when he came back it was raining). And finally he left early because he ran out of film…no picts from him of me tossing the bouquet–the rat bastard.

    OOO, sorry long comment, bet you’re sorry you commented 🙂

    Katies last blog post..WTF Thursday…and a little more…

  7. Heather

    OMG! My family also had a similar van. My dad redid the back with a little table and seats that wrapped around the whole back like a restaurant booth. He even went so far as to put in a little sink. Ahhh…those were the good old days.

    Heathers last blog post..Trumpets playing

  8. mrsbear

    My grandfather used to travel with me as an infant sleeping on the bench seat of the Nova he used to drive.

    Growing up we never wore seat belts. I once cracked my mother’s windshield with my head because she braked too hard to avoid another car. To this day every time I get a headache, my grandmother swears it’s a result of my unchecked head trauma.

    I’m with you though, I never leave the house with a kid unbuckled. Although once, after cleaning my van I drove around the neighborhood with my baby strapped in to a car seat that wasn’t LATCHed in. Talk about guilt. One of my biggest fears is that one day my kids will travel in someone else’s car and think they don’t need to put on a seat belt for whatever reason. I’m constantly drilling it in to their heads.

    mrsbears last blog post..A Job So Nice I Did It Thrice?

  9. Debbie

    The van we had had a big ol painting of an Indian with the Crazy Horse Memorial (where the horse and Indian are carved into the mountain) in the background. You could see us coming from miles around.

    Then my stepfather decided to put one of those horrible horns in it … the kind that played Dixie louder than the sound of a jet taking off.

    And the inside had brown/tan/white shag carpeting all around … the floor, the walls, the ceiling.

    Oh, and growing up, I remember going on vacations and mom would put the luggage into the floor space of the back seat to build it up to the level of the seats – then she’d cover everything with blankets and make our bed.

    Debbies last blog post..Like you really want to know these 44 Things About Me

  10. Keely

    Our family had a big old bright orange GMC Suburban. The kids just rattled around in the back. Sometimes we had a foam mattress to sleep on.

    Once a woman of my mother’s generation gave me shit for leaving my (safely strapped in, in view the whole time) son in the car while I returned a shopping cart. I said, “Did you even PUT your children in car seats? Did you smoke while you were pregnant with them? Did you make them wear seatbelts?”

    No? Didn’t think so. So shut up, lady 😉

    Keelys last blog post..Brevity

  11. blissfully caffeinated

    It’s so funny to think about, but there was just no thought of car seats or seatbelts at all when we were kids.

    We would ride in the back of my Dad’s truck, or in the back of my Grandma’s truck that had a giant camper shell. We actually had a record player back there that we would listen to on trips. My mom said that she only drove with us when we were babies if someone else was in the car and could hold us. That way we wouldn’t roll off the seat and into the floorboards. So that’s OK. Safety first, you know.

    I wish you had a picture of the van with the Rolling Stone logo. That would be too cool.

    blissfully caffeinateds last blog post..Brat Packed Full of Crap

  12. HeatherPride

    I hear you, girlfriend. I used to stand up in the front seat and jump up and down when I was in the car. That was when I wasn’t sitting on my dad’s lap manning the steering wheel while my dad worked the pedals with his feet. Yeah, times sure have changed.

    HeatherPrides last blog post..Footsteps

  13. Krystal

    So totally going to show my age here! LOL

    Well, when I was younger car seats had just started coming out and yeap, everyone in my family had to have one. I never remember a time not having a car seat or a stroller.

    Even now I freak out if a seatbelt is not strapped right or tight. I haven’t done the latch thing because i haven’t figured it out yet but I will soon!!! As long as they are strapped by the seatbelt and by the seat itself I’m okay.

    Except sometimes Little Man unhooks Sneaky Monkey’s car seat and yeap, that is a funny sight to see!!! LOL

    Krystals last blog post..Thank You Thursday: Bloggy Friends

  14. steenky bee (jenboglass)

    You know, how I didn’t just get thrown out of our Monte Carlo when I was little is still a mystery. Did you put mag wheels on that bad boy when you were little? Awesome!

    steenky bee (jenboglass)s last blog post..The Spin Cycle: The Rhythm is Gonna Get You

  15. mags

    My cousins family had a brown van with tinted windows that sounds a lot like the van you described. We loved that thing.

    It’s funny you mention wrapping your kids in bubble wrap vs how our parents treated us. I remember sitting in the back of a pickup truck cab-the kind that is covered up-for HOURS on antique trips. We couldn’t even talk to the people driving b/c the window didn’t open. We’d slide back and forth and whack our heads on the metal. It’s amazing we never got hurt!!

    magss last blog post..Parallel Worlds, Parallel Lives

  16. steenky bee

    Just stalking and making a mags sandwich. Hey I said the weirdest thing on twitter about bananas and public urination today. Too bad you missed it. My fingers are gonna be in such good shame from all the tweets!

    steenky bees last blog post..The Spin Cycle: The Rhythm is Gonna Get You

  17. Toni

    It is soooo crazy how much things have changed. My brother and I used to fight over who got to ride in the back window!

    Tonis last blog post..Gal To Gal

  18. Miss Jack

    My mom said they use to just hold us as infants in the car or she said we had something like a carseat. But not elaborate. I don’t get it though. My brother and I were only 16 months apart…that means I was still way too little to keep my ass in the seat for maybe more than a minute. And what about crawling on the floor, heaven forbid if you put your hands near the driver. There had to have been a awful lot of yelling at kids back then to sit back down in their seats. Ahhhhh, those were the days!!!

    Miss Jacks last blog post..Do you smell something?

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