The Yellow Banana Van

I saw this advertisement for the movie "Little Miss Sunshine" and childhood memories immediately flooded my mind. Why you ask? Because the Volkswagon Van in the movie was basically what I grew up in.

I remember this van so well. It was not what I call weatherproof. In the summertime, the brown vinyl melted to your skin; in the winter, the seats felt like blocks of ice. I was always afraid to sit down in that car.

Because there are six children in my family, money was tight growing up. Note all six of us in what is one of my favorite family photos. [I am the one in the very front with Summer's arms around my neck. Sara is the beached whale my dad is holding] So my oldest sister Cami never had a car in high school. Needless to say, my parents would drop her off at school -- in the yellow Volkswagon bus. This car might have been cool in the 1970s, or whenever they were made, but in the 1980s, this car did not raise Cami's "cool" factor. She was always embarrassed about getting out of the van in front of everyone at school. It didn't help that it was so easy for this van to stand out, what with its screaming yellow shade. Eventually, Cami's friends at school nick-named the bus "The Yellow Banana Van."

Mostly I remember the van because I encountered my first near death experience in it. I never wore seatbelts as a child because the strap choked me and cut off my air supply, the metal clip thing always burned my fingers so I avoided touching it, and it wasn't a law then. Well, I remember riding in the front seat of the Volkswagon with my dad one sunny day in Oklahoma. Naturally, I wasn't wearing a seatbelt. I remember we came to a stop light and for some reason, I either needed to open the door to re-shut it better, or I just wanted to see if the door would open if it was in its locked state. Either way, I slipped my little fingers underneath the handle and opened it. Just as I opened the door, the light turned green and my dad accelerated. While my dad was turning left, I was swinging out of the van on the right. Next thing I know, I'm outside of the car, holding on as tight as I can to the handle, feet dragging on the concrete in the middle of an intersection, and knowing this was not a good situation to be in. I wasn't yelling or crying; I was in complete shock for a brief moment. I didn't know how I was going to get back inside the van. All of a sudden, I felt my dad's arm. Somehow he reached over while he was still driving, grabbed my body and returned it safely to the hot seat inside. I remember so clearly feeling the strength of my dad. Sure I was light, and in intense moments your strength is heightened, but at that moment, I sensed the strength and protection of a father. I will always remember my rendezvous with death in the Yellow Banana Van.

Huh. I wonder what the people behind us thought? That would be an interesting sight for someone to see.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

1) I want to see that movie.

2) I had never seen a VW van until we moved to the SF Bay Area.

2) Wow! Six kids in a family? I have a hard time even imagining three! Despite the financial woes, was it nice?

August 01, 2006 4:06 AM  
Blogger Sara said...

Hey - I don't appreciate the "beached whale" comment. But even if I was, I'll have you know that fat is good for babies' brains, and that's probably why I'm so stinkin' smart!

Lexi, this is my favorite post you've ever written. Of course I like it for the memories -- I remember walking around in that van while dad was driving. Do you remember that we had a toy VW van? I think it was orange, though. What I really liked about this post was the way you wrote it. It's very well-written. I luved it.

August 01, 2006 8:53 AM  
Blogger Nicole said...

It seems that all kids who grew up in Mormon families of more than four practically grew up in a VW or Ford van. That's fun--the vans abound in Germany, but it wasn't exactly necessary having one with just two kids... I always envied my friends with more siblings and big vans. I thought it would be so much fun to all pile in and go on trips, camp, etc. So, that's the counter to Cami's embarassment: Maybe there were some kids who envied you guys, too. As a matter of fact, I know there were--the picture screams happy family with siblings who had tons of fun together. Very cool. I also love this post!

August 01, 2006 10:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"All of a sudden, I felt my dad's arm. Somehow he reached over while he was still driving, grabbed my body and returned it safely to the hot seat inside. I remember so clearly feeling the strength of my dad. Sure I was light, and in intense moments your strength is heightened, but at that moment, I sensed the strength and protection of a father."

That should have Dad crying. Nice post number 5!

August 01, 2006 11:11 AM  
Blogger Lexia said...

Oh man, that was funny -- "walking around in that van" couln't have been more true. It was a house on wheels, afterall.

Yes a family of six was fun. It never seemed large to me growing up. Even now, when I think about each brother and sister, I don't think it's an overwhelming number of them. However, for some reason, when I think of the birthing process it seems like a massive amount. Go figure.

One day Sadie will have a story like that about you. Let's pray that it doesn't involve a big yellow bus of a van.

August 01, 2006 11:34 AM  
Blogger Lauren said...

Oh, man. That was a great post.

We had a big brown van (the kind with blinds and bucket seats in the middle) before I was even born. (And I'm the oldest.) Imagine my two twenty-something parents driving around in this huge brown van for fun. But it was because my dad was a youth minister at the time.

Then we got an Astro Van. I was so proud of that thing. We used to sleep in the floorboards on trips. Weird.

August 01, 2006 1:21 PM  
Blogger Side of Jeffrey said...

For us NYCBros, it was all about the Plymoth Voyager van, which broke, and broke, and broke, and broke. And broke.

P.S. the movie is awesome.

August 02, 2006 11:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I cried because I laughed so hard. Sara was "one-big-baby!" Her expression is what tops it off though. So Dad used to drop me off at the Jr. High in the van. What made it most embarrassing is that the muffler wasn't working so it was really loud, and then Dad would honk and wave sometimes just because he knew I was embarrassed. What memories!

August 04, 2006 7:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mom actually convinced me to buy that van even though it didn't have air conditioning and we lived in Oklahoma! Must have been a different Mom! :-) Not only did I grab you while I was driving and trying to avoid other cars but I jumped two tall buildings with a single bound, turned the earth on it's axis, did a reverse slam dunk, and . . . . . I've never forgotten that incident and think of it with a sense of gratitude, a quickened heart beat, and a little tear in my eye. Same things that still happen to me when I think of you--with a smile added. And for the record, I named it the "yellow banana van" and then told everybody! Love you!

August 08, 2006 1:47 AM  
Blogger Lexia said...

Just a crazy guess, but I think that last anonymous comment was from my dad. Glad you read my blog, pops. Love you too. Thanks for saving my life!

August 08, 2006 3:38 PM  

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