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No, I'm not talking about THAT Vanna White, the letter-turning blonde from television's Wheel of Fortune. As far as I know, she's alive and well. The Vanna White I'm talking about was a 1992 Toyota white van; hence the name. (A white van named Vanna White.) I know it's corny, but when we bought the van 10 years ago, my preschool children thought it was hilarious.

In December 1993, my wife was pregnant with baby No. 3, and we went car shopping. We were both sitting in a car designed for two petite adults in front and two legless torsos in back. We turned around at the same time and apparently both imagined three children sitting like sardines in the back seat, fighting all the way to Grandma's. We looked at each other and said in unison, "No!"

We then began shopping for a good used van and ended up buying "Vanna White." And, it was indeed a good one. We drove it until it had almost 260,000 miles on it, and we never had any engine problems. We had to replace the air conditioning system at one point, but other than occasional brake pads and a few oil changes (and I do mean a few, as I've been known to forget to change the oil for thousands and thousands of miles), we basically did nothing.

However, when she died, she died. She didn't linger. She didn't suffer. She just up and died one day. The children wanted to keep the corpse in the backyard as a memento of their childhood, and while it was no doubt would have made a unique playhouse, my wife and I decided it would be best to use it as a pittance of a trade-in on another van.

The children wanted to take videos of the van after it had been towed to where old vans go to die. While the site was only slightly reminiscent of an elephant graveyard, we cleaned out all our valuables (i.e., trash) and took still pictures (no videos) of dear, departed Vanna. Now we can always remember just how dirty a 12-year-old van can get when inhabited by three children.

Being so pleased with Vanna White, we naturally bought another Toyota van, only this one is silver. "Vanna Silver" just doesn't have the same ring to it. "Hi Ho Silver" is really dumb, and I won't even mention that the idea of singing "Silver Van" to the tune of "Silver Bells" actually crossed my mind. Maybe the children and I are all too old to name our vehicles, anyway.

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The new van is a 2002, and I fully expect to be driving it until the youngest child graduates from college, since I'm certain we won't be able to afford another until then, anyway. And, by then, with all the children grown and gone, we really won't need a van at all. My wife and I can easily fit into one of those small cars with the miniature back seats. Think of the savings in gas! Think of the ease of parking! Think of the peace and quiet, with no one yelling in back! Think how clean it will be! Think how we won't attract ants and other wildlife to all the spilled food in back!

Unless, of course, we have grandchildren by then.

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