Brendan and I were having coffee in a country farm house built in 1871 outside Vancouver, Canada. We were having a late St Valentine’s treat. It had a wooden veranda the kind you see in cowboy movies. There was a big chestnut tree in the garden and underneath was a long wooden carriage. We were enjoying the first of the spring sunshine sitting outside on the veranda, just as the original family would had done all those years ago.
I noticed a photo of the family who lived here on the wall inside. There was a note below telling us the history. A family with twelve children lived here.
The carriage has sat dormant through the years of change. Modern city dwellings are all around this old house. Modern four by fours speed past on the highway nearby. The city has overtaken the country. I imagined the family of the house going into town or going to church in that old vehicle. It would have been their version of a four by four one hundred years ago.
As our family grew so did the size of our vehicles. When Brendan and I had two children we lived in town and didn’t need a car. We travelled by bus or train. The only four by four I had then was a pram. We had a big Pedigree pram. There was space to put the groceries underneath and two children sleeping, head to toe. We had bicycles for each of us and the two children. Then our family became six. We had a child seat on each of the adult bicycles. We went for bike rides along the river, where we lived. Two more children arrived. There was no time for bike rides.
Brendan invested in his first car. It was a white Hillman Hunter. We called it Nimrod. That is the name of a character in the bible. He was a mighty hunter. Our children were very happy with the up grade. We felt so proud of ourselves with our first car. Back then wearing seat belts was not necessary. My six children packed into the back seats. We didn’t have to use a baby seat either. One of the older children nursed the youngest child.
Brendan had the opportunity to buy a Peugeot 505. It had three rows of seats with space for seven children. Number seven child arrived soon after to fill the extra space. I remember going on holiday with the Peugeot packed to the gills with children and goods. We thought we would be pulled in by the Garda as we crossed the border to the south of Ireland for being overloaded. Some of the children hid as we crossed. What a relief we weren’t stopped.
When number eight child arrived Brendan bought a Volkwagon van. We took out a loan to buy it. Our young children became teenagers and needed more space. We needed a van. Also seat belts for passengers became the law. It was our biggest outlay. I learned to drive in our new vehicle. I often took my children and their friends to the park and to the beach after school. It is surprising that not many children from the town get to go on holiday or go to the beach.
Unfortunately the power steering went on our beloved van. It was going to cost too much to repair. A friend bought it, but we still had to pay off the loan. We learned from the pain of losing our Volkwagon. Any vehicle we bought after that was older and we paid for it in cash. We would pray and ask God to guide us. One Ford van was an ex Police van. It had special protection underneath, so a bomb would not attach itself. That van lasted a long time. Another van had been used as a school bus and was in pristeen condition.
And so on it went. After the Volkwagon we got a Ford van which can carry fifteen people. We have our seventh Ford van at the moment. Even though our children have left home we still have a Ford van. The good thing about the Ford model is that the seats can be removed. We use it to help people move house, move furniture, take lawn mowers to get fixed, collect fire logs, take the dog for a walk and trips when my grandchildren come to visit.
A friend of my daughter called us the “Minibus” family. She envied us going off on holiday with everything but the kitchen sink packed. So we progressed over the years from having a pram to having a minibus. I think we will continue to have a van even though we are pensioners. We will remain “The Minibus Family.”
I said to Brendan, “That would have been the family van back in the nineteen hundreds”. We finished our coffee.