We have a new van. New to us, anyway. It’s a 2007 silver snub-nosed Pontiac Montana.
Back in June, our previous 2004 Montana went to the place good vans go. I confess it had been a money pit for some time. The final straw was a fuel pump, but it could’ve been anything. Every month had brought a multitude of expensive surprises.
Declan Flanagan and his new ride to St. Bon’s forum. — Photo by Susan Flanagan
Regardless, I was sad to see it go. It had safely carried all of us Flanagans across the continent from B.C. to St. John’s six years ago.
It had transported furniture and recyclables; Christmas trees and thousands of boxes of cereal.
And like all people and things that go before us we tend to romanticize their existence.
I tend to forget that every time someone climbed in through the side doors, they’d whack their head off the DVD player mounted in the ceiling. Or that the stereo tended to swallow CDs. Or that the wipers only worked in hyper mode. Despite its faults, I maintained a strong bond with that van.
I think it was No. 2 who dubbed it the Flanavan and gave it Facebook presence.
“The Flanavan can take you out, show you a good time and get you home safely.” That’s what his Facebook page read, or something to that effect.
And No. 5, well he had his very first ride home from the hospital in that van. That’s something to write home about.
Up till June, he had only known the Flanavan. So when we switched to a Honda Civic for the summer, he quickly noted his new seat in the car wasn’t as well appointed as in the van. He responded by throwing up every time we had to go farther than Quidi Vidi.
“Can we go visit the van on Sundays?” he asked after I confessed a tow truck had taken the dying Flanavan away.
Sure, I said, not admitting that I had already made an excursion to Shea Heights to catch a glimpse of it. But alas, no sign of the Flanavan. Perhaps it had been purchased and was living a second life on the west coast somewhere. It could be parked at Marble Mountain right now, chock-a-block full of bubbly children and ski gear. More likely, says my husband, it’s the size of a coffee table and on its way to a red-hot furnace in close vicinity to a steel plant.
Anyway, it’s been a long six months since I said my goodbyes to that van. I know I sound entitled when I complain about having to use a small car in the interim, but try as I might, I couldn’t form a positive relationship with the Honda. We just didn’t click.
First of all, the stiff clutch aggravated my plantar fasciitis. And try fitting a slew of children along with their entourage in a Civic and heading out the highway to a swimming hole. Try jamming even one teenager between the two car seats in the back. And forget about bringing anything to the cabin besides a change of underwear and a carton of milk. And hockey bags, don’t get me started. No. 3’s goalie gear filled the entire car.
I know a van isn’t the be all and the end all. Why, just last week we were stuck on the Parkway in traffic on our way to celebrate No. 3’s 17th birthday at Montana’s when a car (or perhaps a small SUV — it was dark and busy; very, very busy) honked its way in between the two west-bound lanes, emergency lights flashing.
As I pulled up onto the mountain of snow, I noted an ambulance doing the same on the other side. As fate would have it, the ambulance stopped immediately to our left and the beeping car was almost touching our back bumper.
The frantic driver of the car came rushing in front of Flanavan II towards the ambulance on the other side of Prince Philip Drive and was met by a paramedic who, thanks to the mountains of snow, was able to scurry right over the fence.
Turns out a bouncing baby girl named Julia was born in the back seat of that car. She didn’t need a van to come into the world. All the same, I’m sure the mother would’ve appreciated the extra room that a Montana like the Flanavan could offer.
Although the new van has a shorter wheelbase than the original Flanavan, the Flanavan II still has place for eight seats and some storage.
And it has automatic locks, something the Honda inexplicably did not. I spent six months cranking my torso into unnatural positions in order to unlock the back doors for toddlers and then twisting again to do up seatbelts around booster seats.
Now that Flanavan II has been customized with a bobble-head moose on the dash and emergency gear in the hold, No. 2 has deemed it worthy to present to the world on his Facebook page, like you would a new cat.
“It’s been a long wait, but the Flanavan 2.0 silver surfer edition is finally here.”
No. 2 was with me and never really took to the car. So he’s delighted that we happened to spot this van buried underneath a mountain of snow behind a car dealership on Kenmount Road. Truth be told, part of the allure of this Montana was the fact that I felt sorry for the poor thing, abandoned since some previous Pontiac owner had traded it for a new Toyota.
Plus Toyota Plaza advertised a sale on more than 50 used vehicles on its lot. For every day a vehicle didn’t sell, the price decreased by $100. Since the start date of the sale, the silver Montana with the insect guard had been sitting there over a week.
That’s a pretty good marketing trick. The decreasing price increases demand, creating a heightened sense of urgency. When my husband realized my happiness was more valuable to him than a game of pricing poker, he put a down payment on it so we could get it inspected.
Alas, we found out the price only goes down on business days. Plus storm days didn’t count, so after a week, our new van had gone down by $200.
Still $200 is $200 and I was happy with that.
But then my husband was told that Toyota charges for the privilege of buying a vehicle off their lot. Guess how much the administration fees came to?
You guessed it.
After a thorough inspection, we became the proud new owners of the Flanavan II.
Driving around town like I’m behind the wheel in a brand new Hummer, I can’t help but wonder if this van will provide the same type of memories as the original Flanavan.
Like when it rained so much one April when we were camping on Vancouver Island that the Easter Bunny had to set up the egg hunt in the van.
Or when No. 3 and his friends locked in the keys on the ferry on the way to Bell Island. Funny, I seem to have blocked out whether or not the van was running at the time. But did you know those marvellous ferry employees possess a slim jim? Or when my lovely husband transported something home from the cabin that had been sharing space with a mink.
It’s very difficult to clear the smell of mink out of a van. I wouldn’t recommend experimenting.
And just for the record, we evicted the mink. Even tore down the porch where he had taken up residence.
I can’t say I’m hoping the new van will provide the same memories, but it has already found its place in our family history.
Last Sunday it transported No. 5 to his first ever hockey session. And all I had to do was simply click the handy-dandy unlocker on my keychain, pull open a beautiful sliding door and pop him and his gear comfortably in through the side.
Susan Flanagan is a journalist and mother of five who recommends Big Al’s
on 37 Mundy Pond Rd. if you need a
vehicle inspection. Susan can be reached at email@example.com.