Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A View from the Sardine Can/Van

By L.A. Kohl
August 12, 2007

(published in the Aug. 15, 2007 edition of "The Bullseye")

We have just recently returned from a family vacation. Well, it was kind of a vacation…kind of a family reunion…kind of a mission of mercy. Anyway I view it, however, it was most definitely a study in how sardines must feel once they’ve been packed into that tiny little can.

Our immediate family of nine decided it would be fun to drive down and visit my brother’s family, who live in Houston. Of course, we wanted to be able to take my parents along, as it has been several months since they’ve seen their son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter. And then, we also wanted to take some other extended family, whose mom and sister are currently spending several weeks in Houston while the sister has daily radiation treatments. Three of them were able to come along with us…making it a grand total of 14 people in our 15 passenger van. Oh, and let me not fail to mention, exactly half of those passengers were teenagers; six of the seven being female in gender. Lucky guy.

For those who have never been in a 15 passenger, allow me to explain: when all four bench seats are in place, there is about one inch of space between the back seat and the back doors. Thus, we had to tell everyone that it was going to be like taking a flight somewhere, and only taking along a carry-on bag. Absolutely no checked baggage would be allowed. We had to limit everyone to a bag that could fit under their seat. But then, everyone wanted a pillow…perhaps a blanket…a couple books to read…some snacks and drinks. We were packed to the rim by the time we made our final pick-up stop in Columbia, bright and early that first morning.

My husband chose that moment, before we had even reached the interstate, to make a very short and timely speech. I believe, if memory serves me correctly, it went something like this:

“We have a very long way to go today. By the time we reach Houston late tonight, many of you will not love each other as much as you think you do right now. And you will definitely think I am more annoying than you have ever before thought possible.”

Might as well tell it like it is, I suppose.

By the way, did I mention that we had seven teenagers along with us? When we would make a “pit” stop, four of those teens, who were all the way in the back, decided it took too long to wait for all the passengers to pile out of the side doors. They would get the back doors opened, and hop out over the top of the back seat. Watching them try to get back in the van in that similar fashion was quite amusing. I noticed a few odd looks as bystanders would see all of these people flowing out of every possible opening of our van each time we stopped. Once we arrived in Texas, I believe they were probably thinking something like, “And they’re not Mexican???”

Speaking of reaching Texas – that was tough to explain to the little ones. Before we even made it to Kansas City, our youngest uttered his first, “Are we there yet?”

The eight year old understood we weren’t there yet, but she was anxiously awaiting our arrival in Texas. She kept asking, “Are we in Texas yet?”

We tried to explain that when we did actually cross into Texas…we still had a large part of our journey ahead of us. It’s hard to explain the vastness of Texas to a youngster.

But ask me about the confines of a sardine can, and I can now explain that in full detail.