Tag Archives: station wagon

My UFO — my story and I’m sticking to it

In middle school, our language arts teacher introduced us to — among other important topics and skills — propaganda (and how to recognize it), how to structure sentences, J.R.R. Tolkien, and unidentified flying objects (UFOs).
We thought Mrs. H was terrific because she always treated us with respect, was open-minded and encouraged us to read whatever most interested us — she had racks and racks of books we could borrow — and she was outspoken when it came to the subject of UFOs.

This was in the late 1960s, a good 17 years after the term was first seen in print, and there were frequently reported sightings of these unusual anomalies — sometimes referred to as “flying saucers.”

I never doubted that Mrs. H knew what she was talking about. She was wise and well-read. Not long after she first introduced us to UFOs, my friend, Karen, and I were sitting in the rear-facing back seat of our station wagon, feet stuck out the open window as we gazed up into the dark night. Suddenly we both screeched at my father to stop the car. We were sure we’d sighted some unusual phenomena. Fortunately, my dad, the scientist, acquiesced and in fact, joined us in our speculation.

Fast forward to December 2012…meteor showers were predicted for late night/early mornings. On our 6 a.m. run, my running partner and I counted four shooting stars. The next morning, I was alone and trying to keep an eye on the sky while avoiding bumps in the pavement.

And there it was…a slow-moving object flashing green and red. Moving so slowly that it appeared to be almost still. Over the next 20 minutes, I kept my eyes on it. At one point, an airplane flew directly over it — parallel to it.

And no…I didn’t see any alien green men. No one swooped down from the sky to take me to some unknown location. But for the rest of the day, I felt unsettled.

And this is where Facebook comes in handy…I sent out a message to my former 8th grade classmates and asked if they could guess what I saw in the sky that morning. Two of them knew exactly what I was talking about and that started a spirited discussion of our fond memories of Mrs. H.

And yes, I realize most of you are singing the “Twilight Zone” theme song right now. Go ahead and doubt. And snicker. I’ve got Mrs. H on my side.

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Dodging another bullet

I’ve never really understood the fascination that some people have for cars. I’ll blame this one on my parents. Unlike other families, we didn’t get a new car very often, nor did we have multiple cars….despite the fact that we had five kids.

The first car I really remember was a green and white Ford station wagon. (My brothers will probably tell me I’m completely wrong on this. They’re all older so they usually know more than me….at least I like to let them think that.) Later on, we traded that in on a brand new custom ordered Dodge station wagon. I remember our excitement as we drove to Pandora to pick it up.

Later, while I was in high school, there was a red Dodge Aspen sedan (our first), a pea green VW bug, and a Checker cab — my all time favorite. Its only drawback was that if you went over 50 mph, it began to shake. But boy, could it carry a lot of people!

My oldest brother, Phil, bought his first car in his early 20s — a Dodge Charger. I was probably just 12 or so, and once in awhile, he would take us for rides — keeping one eye on the road and another on us to make sure we didn’t do any damage.

Still as shiny as the day we bought it

My very own first car was my grandparents’ Hornet. Unremarkable. A few years later, I needed a new car, so my dad took me to visit one of his former biology students — knock-your-socks-off Tom Ahl. Tom’s dealership in Lima was considerably smaller than it is today. He sold me his wife’s mid-70s Opel Manta, a two-door gem with manual transmission that got great gas mileage.

When I married my husband, he had a classic red Pinto that guzzled oil. We sold it for $50 and gave them a can of oil. Then we bought ourselves a brand spankin’ new, fresh off the lot, burgundy two-door Monte Carlo. When you’re a young couple with no kids, two doors are great. But boy, add a car seat to the mix and you rethink your car dreams.

Lindsay and Anne and their favorite Monte

Thus began our life with the Dodge Caravan, the first of which lived for nine years. It served us well, accomodating two little girls who could pack their entire rooms into the van for a drive to Grandma’s. Then there was THE TRIP. We were driving back from Chicago on the absolutely hottest, most humid day of the decade. All was fine until the air conditioning died. You know that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when suddenly the cool air blowing through the vents turns warm…then warmer? It wasn’t pretty, especially when there was a typical traffic jam near Gary, Ind. The last thing you want to do there is open your windows and let the pollution filter in.

Soon after that, I think the transmission died for the second time and we traded it in on a shiny red 1997 Caravan.

It was the most comfortable car we’ve ever had. The seats in our new Prius come nowhere near the comfort of the van seats.

The van went through everything with us including two daughters mastering the fine art of driving (and parking), multiple vacations where peace reigned because each child again had her own seat on which to spread out her stuff, a traumatic collision

with a deer, and then a few years of living in Kent. According to our daughter, her grad school friends nicknamed it the “Mom van”. Last winter, it said farewell to Kent and traded places with the trusty Hyundai.

Today its odometer reads 150,000 plus miles, and happily acts as the family truck. The two bench seats have been removed to make room for whatever needs to be moved to Kent, Cincinnati, or the local dump. On a recent return trip from Cincy, though, it began to make an ominous sound that suggested a loose belt, so the drive home was slower than usual.  We were warned that if we were lucky, it would require just replacing the serpentine belt, but that it might also involve a broken thingamajig (my understanding of mechanics is lacking).

It wasn’t a question of whether we’d fix it or not…it was a question of how much it might cost. Turned out we got off easy…for this time. In the middle of the day, the girls and I got an e-mail from Fred saying “The van lives!” Phew.

Now if we can just keep it running as long as Karen and Gregg Luginbuhl’s green Caravan holds out…