Tuesday, July 27, 2010

the orange vw pop-up van

I spent my early formative years in michigan and indiana, and my best friend in fifth grade was a girl names emily johnstone who lived a few blocks away from me in south bend, indiana.
she had two beautiful older sisters, some pet mice, and was going to be a veterinarian when she grew up. we would hang out as her mom watched jeopardy in the other room, sipping seven-up with a little grape koolaid mix stirred into it. we would create skits set to songs we'd play on the record player, most of them 45's we'd bought at ben franklin where you could buy everything from embroidery floss to greeting cards to penny candy to dishes.
the most memorable 45 to which we set a skit was Winchester Cathedral, and as I "google" this today I see that this song won the 1966 Grammy Award for 'Best Contemporary Rock & Roll Recording' . . . of course it was a good six years later I was lip-syncing into a hairbrush during our little performance.
you may wonder where in the world I'm headed, but just stick with me because I'm getting there.
emily johnstone is connected strongly to two things (and less strongly to hundreds of others) in my memory: Winchester Cathedral, and a pop-up volkswagen van.
her parents had a volkswagen van with a pop-up roof when we were great friends, and I spent more than a few nights sleeping in that van, up in the popped-up top where a bed lay, as the van sat in the johnstone's driveway. this was so cool; we were in heaven.
vw pop-up vans make me smile.

so yesterday morning as I was heading up emigration in the crisp and light-filled early hours, I rounded the big U turn away from the road to pinecrest, and glanced down the canyon to see what had been behind me for the past 35 minutes.
the sky was a pale morning blue, and the full moon hung heavy in the western sky, white-yellow and fat and happy. above and below it were thin strips of clouds, reaching south to north, and they were tinted pale lavender by the sunrise across the sky. my heart swelled and I thanked God I was out and about at that very moment.
I continued up, my smile hovering still, and approached the first little pullout where cars occasionally park. as I rounded the bend and the pullout came into sight, I saw that someone had parked there. not just anyone, but the owner of an orange, volkswagen, pop-up top van from a decade long past.
the top was popped, and as I quietly rode by I could see a body sleeping therein, and my grin grew so wide I almost hurt.

I was blessed with a happy childhood. we were fortunate, having always whatever it was we needed. not whatever we wanted, but those things that were necessary, along with splurges and surprises every so often. we were healthy, we did not struggle with great issues and challenges.
and so this pop-top van brought me nothing but happy, simple thoughts of a time in my life that everything was just fine.
emily, I hope you're riding a bike out there somewhere.
and mr. owner of the orange pop-top van, I wish you well, wherever your travels may take you.

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