All kids have to be embarrassed by their parents in some way, shape or form during their childhood. It’s a requirement and until it’s accomplished that child isn’t allowed to progress in life. For my family this was tricky because I genuinely like my mom and I don’t think she’s embarrassing so to properly child-shame me she had to dig deep.
And oh did she ever accomplish it!
My family bought a van. My mom was a painter and my dad was a contractor so a van was practical, but it was also a crippling blow to my life. But oh wait all you skeptical-Sallies who already think I’m overreacting, because you don’t understand! They didn’t buy just ANY van: they bought a red, windowless Astro van! Now if you grew up in the 80s or 90s then you are familiar with the dangers of Astro vans. Every time a child got abducted it was by some crazy person in one of these vans. It’s as if they were giving them away freely to parolees with a bag of candy and a bottle of chloroform. The Astro van was the must have accessory for psychos and pedophiles for over a decade. It got to the point that the police were called if you even SAW one because you just assumed somebody was tied up in the back of it! The Astro Van, whose official slogan was “Astro by Chevrolet, because serial killers need to get around too!”
This new van of ours, which I believe we purchased from Buffalo Bill himself, was the worst thing I have ever seen in my life. Still skeptical? Well allow me to take you on a tour of the monstrosity that haunted my life for a time…and before you even ask, NO, I am NOT embellishing because I’m simply not twisted enough to make this sh*t up!
Let’s start with the fact that the back of the van was completely windowless. Do you know when that comes in handy? When you don’t want people to see the things and/or people stashed inside, that’s when! Oh, and the back doors ONLY OPENED FROM THE OUTSIDE!!! As in you cannot get out once you are inside! Creeped out yet? Well buckle up because I’m just easing you in…
Once those doors were opened (from the outside, of course) you were greeted by a completely empty space…because all of the seats in the back had been removed. Yeah, totally empty place for flopping bodies wrapped in plastic (or moving couches…oh Silence of the Lambs, you ruined my life you terrible, wonderful movie. “It puts the lotion on the skin!”).
And what else did you find in the back of this van? Shag carpeting! Now you relentless optimists are probably saying, “but Tracy, that van was made in the 70s and everything had shag carpeting”. But to you I say “NO!” You’re upbeat glass-half-fullness has no place here…abandon hope all yee who enter this van! Because this shag carpeting wasn’t JUST on the floor…it was also on the walls…and the ceiling…you know…like SOUNDPROOFING!!!
Now the shag carpeting had once been a dark red-brown color (because it’s classy as f**k!) but through the years it had become faded through time (and the salty tears of children probably), leaving it a dingy orange color. Yeah, bright red van lined with dirty orange hair-carpet…we were cool!
It also had no AC, but that’s not so much creepy as it is just inconsiderate.
I named the van Clifford…Clifford the Big Red Kidnapping Van! I mean let’s face it, have you ever met a Clifford that didn’t look like this…
Did I just ruin a childhood memory for some of you? Good, because those books are crazy. Where’s the book where the town checks the water for radiation?
But back to the van, because here is where the actual scarring happens. My mother, the woman who supposedly loves me, used to drive me to school in this contraption. And not just any school…MIDDLE SCHOOL! Well I couldn’t have that. I used to make her drop me off at the bottom of the hill outside the school entrance and I would just walk up, because it would be better for everybody to think I was a vagrant living under a bridge alone and homeless than for my mother to pull up in our nabbing-mobile, get OUT of the car and come around to open the door to release me as if I were some side show attraction who hasn’t figured out doors yet. Overdramatic? How can you say that, do you even remember Middle School? It was a f**king warzone where the casualties were your insecurities and self-respect. The van would not take those things from me!…my peers would.
And you know what mom, now that I’m thinking about it you totally owe me! It’s because of my stubborn tween insecurities that you weren’t arrested for driving that beast onto the property of a school littered with minors, because I’m pretty sure even PASSING the school in that thing is a misdemeanor. It’s because of me that you aren’t in the system. I probably saved your life because you are way too nice to make it in prison; you wouldn’t even know which gang to join and that is just embarrassing. So you know, YOU’RE WELCOME!
Now couple all of these things with the fact that I look nothing like my family. Growing up they all had dark hair and tans, then they have this random albino child in tow with white-blonde hair and scary huge blue eyes, making me look (let’s say it together): ABDUCTED! Imagine the looks when they rolled up in their van-of-despair and out popped a kid that didn’t match the adults. Wait, was I abducted? Nah, that’s crazy…but just in case everybody check your milk cartons because it’s possible that this post is actually a cry for help. You know what, come to think of it somehow my parents mysteriously “lost” my birth certificate and we had to order one…and then it was wrong and we had to get it legally changed…(this is all true). And I’ve never actually seen my social security card… Is anyone missing a child? Who am I?
Luckily for us we didn’t have the van for long, probably because we lived in a neighborhood overpopulated with children and my parents were tired of the Homeowners Association coming at night with their torches and pitchforks.
So farewell Clifford. I don’t know where you ended up but I can only assume that you were either burned by a priest to break the curse or some man with a mustache and dirty tank top is now living inside you. But we’ll always have the memories…