Last summer, my minivan caught on fire. That was the luckiest day of my life. Not only was my children’s nemesis going up in smoke, but so were the sweaty socks, mildewed towels, petrified french-fries and broken pencils they’d discarded in it. I knew if a spark landed on the crumb collections in the seams of the seats, the combustion would be complete. The only things I would miss when the entire mess was gone were the sticky pennies in the cup holder.
Then someone dragged a hose over and sprayed water on the flames. He proclaimed my car and the day both saved. What kind of person does something like that? He even had the nerve to smile and puff out his chest like he’d done a heroic deed.
A minivan is the unshakable beast. A woman buys one when the kids are in car seats. Next thing she knows, she turns 40 and those precious infants and toddlers are grown, and the minivan is still in her driveway full of stinking athletic garb and half-eaten bags of chips.
God uses all things, even minivans, to his greater good. So I continue to put air in the tires and change the oil.
Now and then, I open the sliding doors and rake out the contents. Usually, the impetus for dump-everything-in-the-driveway day is potential embarrassment: Passengers other than family members are scheduled to ride in my auto. The dog loves rake-out days. The kids complain about shaking the crumbs out of their dirty clothes and carrying stuff in the house.
Before driving my daughter’s Social carpool, I cleared my minivan of candy wrappers, school papers, smelly T-shirts and mysterious clumps. What remained was a debris field of coarse granular material. Lack of time and quarters forced me to forego vacuuming.
I cringed when the girls in pretty dresses entered the minivan. They sat right down on the crusted seats and put their feet into the floorboard mire. Not one child flinched. Within seconds of seeing one another, their mouths moved faster than a high-speed rail train. Shoes, eye shadow, boys, lip gloss, dresses, purses, mascara, math class, teachers, shopping, snakes – no subject was safe from their undiscerning conversation parted only by periodic high-pitched giggles or a shrieked, “No way!”
Relieved that no one noticed the gritty remains of my four kids’ castoffs, I relaxed and lost myself in memories of what it was like to be 12. The faces of my best friends – Robin, Merry, Buffy, Jennifer – swirled in my thoughts, how we laughed, how we lost ourselves in juvenile displays, how we rode in the backseats of our parents’ cars with our mouths moving faster than a high-speed rail train.
Then my reverie was broken. One of my daughter’s mates exclaimed, “Oh my gosh. Is that a Reese’s cup on the floor?”
My heart fell at the discovery and announcement of my family’s slovenly ways. I looked in the rearview mirror and opened my mouth to apologize.
No words had yet escaped when I saw the young lady bend down and collect it from the floorboard. “I love Reese’s cups,” she said, opening the candy and popping it into her mouth, no questions about its age asked.
For a short moment, I appreciated my minivan and its abundance and that God had used it for his greater good.