Having an attachment to an inanimate object gives me a little pause, but I have the attachment none the less. We’ve finally given the family transport vehicle, a 1994 black Suburban purchased in 1996, its walking papers. With one child in college and another soon to follow, we no longer have the need to cart six people around. We extended her useful life by picking up a smaller third car we called the life support system for the Suburban, but now that we don’t need a third seat, we don’t need three cars for two drivers.
It was quite the rig in its day. I distinctly remember being impressed with the two-zone heating system, noting that it wasn’t until my third move that I had such a feature in my house, let alone my car. Alas, the new features seem to have passed to beast by. There’s no DVD player for long drives, meaning that the annual, 400-mile trek to Mt. Saint Anne in Quebec could quickly try the patience of the driver, as children stuffed in against food boxes would quickly tire of staring out at the flat, barren fields shortly after getting over the border.
We solved the problem with a portable TV/VCR combination that sat on the console between the driver and front passenger seat. It was great for the children; however, the speaker on the television was on the rear left of the set, meaning it was loudest for the individual who wanted to listen to it the least.
This configuration likely shaved a few points off my license. During one year I distinctly remember coming up over a rise on 93, shortly after getting on it from 91 in St. Johnsbury, and casually passing a trooper going 90 mph or so, then simply putting on my directional and pulling over, to deny said trooper the thrill of the chase. My wife was certain I was a dead man, as was I.
The trooper sidled up to the car and looked in at three pre-teen boys at attention and a 3-year-old girl fighting back sobs with tears running down her cheeks. The trooper asked how fast I was going, and I managed to give him an estimate that was five miles in excess of what he had clocked me at on his radar, causing him to compliment me on my reaction time.
He then asked me if there was a reason for being in such a hurry. I am not sure what look I had on my face, but what I was thinking is not printable in a family newspaper, as to how stupid a question that was. I managed to maintain my civility and simply chuckled and said, “Well, we are coming from Quebec and are about halfway home. We had to pry my daughter out of the McDonald’s fun house kicking and screaming about 10 miles back and, frankly officer,” I said, tapping the TV/VCR that was my perpetual arm rest, “You can only listen to Thomas the Tank Engine on continuous loop for so long, you know?”
It got me off with a warning and a stern admonishment from the officer to my now-subdued daughter to be a good girl for daddy.
She didn’t listen to him, but I did use the moment as a chance to lecture my boys on the need to be respectful, honest and truthful when dealing with police officers.
Another classic moment came years later when said behemoth had been put into semi-retirement. Six of us were coming back from a week of visiting my brother’s family on Martha’s Vineyard. After shuffling through the hassle of getting off the island and snaking to a highway, I was eager to start making tracks. A son informed me he didn’t feel well.
When I asked how bad, my niece, who was in the front seat, turned to look at him and said, “Ewww, open the window, buddy,” whereupon my child emptied the contents of his stomach onto the highway at about 80 miles an hour. Or, more to the point, emptied it onto the side of the car, covering about 8 feet of sheet metal and glass. Seems he had become seasick on the ferry and then the gentle swaying of an overloaded Suburban, incapable of hugging the turns, did him in.
Past chaotic trips had ground me down. All I did this time was calmly pull off the side of the highway, see if my son needed any more assistance coughing up his stomach, and then looked at the side of the car, started laughing hysterically, took a picture of the car, and carried on.
There were many short jaunts, packed with presents or food for family gatherings. The ability of the children to maintain themselves never failed. The excitement of getting to the destination generally meant all hell broke loose inside the car about 10 minutes from the destination. It never failed.
There were also many trips with equipment bags for baseball, football or lacrosse games. And the old girl was also very deft at hauling a horse trailer through New England, necessitating the replacement of leaf springs a few years back that made her ride like a new car again. We never had a flat or had to call AAA, prompting us to cancel our membership two months before the car that was the life support system for the Suburban decided to die and I had to fire up the Suburban to go retrieve the family.
It could probably be made into a rolling McDonald’s Happy Meal Toy Museum, based on the number of on-the-fly meals consumed in the back of it. The upholstery’s original color is oftentimes barely discernible from the wear and tear it took over the years, but it always started. The past few times we’ve all climbed in it, we have recounted various recollections of this or that event that took place in the car over the years.
So, the old Suburban is for sale. There’s not a lot of demand for a reliable gas guzzler with 145,000 miles on it. To others it’s likely not worth more than a few thousand dollars, but the family transportation and the memories that came from it are priceless.