I was born and raised in Detroit. I married my high school sweetheart Chris, and we moved to California. He was a musician—signed to a record deal with A & M Records. I was a Legal Secretary for a small law firm in Beverly Hills. Not long after that, we started our family. Our first born was a boy. Three years later, we hit the jack pot with identical twin girls. We Home Schooled them until our son was in sixth grade—the twins were in third grade. Their social calendar was very active—even more than mine or Chris’s. They played sports on the YMCA’s youth teams and actively auditioned for commercials, television, and movies—whenever possible. A minivan was definitely needed and Chris began shopping around. He found a listing in the Auto Trader magazine. The ad read: Used van with low miles—good condition. It was a 1997 Chevy Silhouette—fully loaded with automatic passenger side doors. A deep hunter green color with black luggage racks on top. It was perfect. I could drive the kids to auditions, basketball practice and do my grocery shopping without that crowded feeling I had with our old Isuzu I-Mark. It couldn’t have come at a better time for us. Family situations back in Detroit really confirmed this.
My husband received a long distance phone call from his family that was very disturbing. At that time, we didn’t own cell phones so getting a call on your land line—long distance meant major news. A cancerous spot was found on his mother’s kidney and his niece had suffered a ruptured cerebral aneurism. The doctors induced a comma after surgery—for recovery. There was no need for conversation, I knew that we needed to return to Detroit. By the end of the week, we had loaded up our van with the kids, hitched a trailer to the back with our belongings and drove all the way back to Detroit. We really had a lot of faith in our van—back then. We arrived in Detroit and later purchased my in-laws house. My father-in-law had passed years prior. My mother-in-law survived the removal of her kidney and currently lives with us. I must admit, purchasing my minivan was much more exciting than purchasing my in-laws house.
It was a Tudor style home built in the 40’s—on Detroit’s Northeast side. The lawns on our block are so small you could cut them in less than an hour. Mature trees line the street—some have even fallen due to age and inclement weather. There are two mature trees situated in the back of our house. They also affect the three homes surrounding ours. One of the homes has been abandoned for many years and the other two were recently purchased. Two doors down from us is the party house. The two times of the year you can count on it are: the End-of-summer-party and the: Everybody-born-in-April-party. During the summer months—random parties were very common at that house.
On party nights there are cars parked on our street bumper to bumper. We have to put up with loud party goers and lots of drinking, cursing, and fighting. The party guests have a tendency to use the vacant house as a toilet. The men will fuss and fight then go take a piss against the back of the abandoned home—shielded by the trees…sometimes. If we are not being annoyed by the parties, then there are the neighborhood kids. They pass the time by running through the back yards of the abandoned homes. Occasionally, they will break out a window or two—just for kicks. Those kids grew older and their families moved away. Our kids grew older and having a smaller vehicle made more sense.
We began thinking about getting a small utility vehicle or a luxury car. There didn’t seem to be a need for the van any longer and one year before the twin’s graduation—our van stopped running. We were driving down the 75 freeway when it happened. The van began to slow down. I thought my husband was intentionally pushing the breaks. When I asked what was going on, he told me that there was something wrong with the van and began pulling over to the right lane. He took the Jefferson exit and pulled into the gas station. We called the Triple-A Road Service and had the van towed back to the house—it hasn’t run since.
For the next 30 days our minivan sat still. No more morning runs in traffic or breadcrumbs dropped on the back seat where the kids hastily finished their morning meal as we rushed to be on time. No more groceries behind the back seat after shopping for the best deals and sales. It looked lonely back there. One weekend, I sat out—on a lawn chair in the back yard reading magazines and sipping cold strawberry flavored iced tea. It was a lazy summer day and I lost track of time. I needed to get dinner started and in my haste, I put my lawn chair inside the minivan. It was very convenient and the next day, I had easy access to my favorite summer lawn chair. By the end of the month, that old minivan became a temporary storage for our summer fun equipment. Once, I even saw my husband put a bag of charcoal and lighter fluid in it. Our son’s roller blades and helmet was tucked under the back seat—passenger side. It felt good knowing that my minivan was useful to the family again. But not just my family—there were others.
One summer morning, I was getting ready for work. I went downstairs for a cup of tea and opened the window blinds for the house plants. As I walked away from the window, I realized something was odd. I went back to the window and saw the driver side door was wide open on my minivan. I remember wondering if my husband had gone into it to get something and didn’t close it. What if it was our son who had opened that door but forgot to shut it? Every reason why that door could be open went through my mind—except the most obvious. I wanted to laugh because a petty thief would surely have been surprised to see that there was only junk in that minivan. Then I was angry—realizing I had been violated. Lost in thought and contemplating all the “What ifs” I stood there until a wave of fear came over me. In that instant—I panicked. “What if the burglar is still lurking around the back yard!” I yelled upstairs for my husband to come investigate. He didn’t find anything missing except for an old crowbar—what a stupid burglar.
There was another experience I had late one night after I had finished the dishes. This was far more frightening for me. I walked out into the backyard to throw some garbage away. The trash can sat next to my minivan. It wasn’t extremely dark that night but the sun had already set. I lifted the lid of the garbage can to toss the trash inside when I noticed something. My minivan had passengers!
I didn’t know if I should run or scream. I wanted to yell for my husband. I was terrified—paralyzed. My eyes wouldn’t look away. All I could really see were the legs—more than two! This was not a new experience for me with …them. They are vile, sneaky, and now living on my property without permission.
I shouldn’t really care so much about a van that doesn’t run. It has a flat tire and the roof has rust spots and blotchy paint. Then there’s that hideous spider’s web attached to the top of the passenger side window, extending down to the side view mirror. None of this means my minivan is open to all the vagrants and vermin in Detroit!
Those passengers in my minivan are going nowhere. I don’t want to look any closer because I don’t like their kind. I just want to throw the trash bags in the trash can, walk back into the house and come out the next morning to see—nothing.
I know how to deal with the overgrown trees, boisterous neighbors, mischievous children, petty thieves—all the menacing elements of my life. However, I will not under any circumstances put up with very large hairy spiders taking up residence in my minivan—in clear view.