The van, the myth, the legend

How my car has impacted my life thus far and taught me valuable lessons along the way.


by Maggie Hart, Photographer

There is a 1993 Dodge Caravan parked in the student parking lot. It is blue, white and rusty with some bullet hole stickers and peeling window tint. My four older siblings and I have all had the privilege of driving this fine van.

This van is not just a van, it has become a member of my family and her name is Babe. There are endless stories that go along with her and many have left visible marks on Babe. My parents purchased Babe as a used car in 1995. My brothers, who were five and three at the time, decided to name her Babe after Babe the Big Blue Ox in the story of Paul Bunyan because Babe was completely blue at that time. Since then, we have put over 223,350 miles on her, and each mile is a memory.

My very first memory in this car was at the age of three when we took a family vacation to Colorado. With a family of eight, flying is very expensive so we drive everywhere. In 2004 we went on a road trip to Colorado. The reason that this is my first memory of Babe is because at about 2 a.m. in the middle of Kansas her tire fell off. We pulled into a Walmart, got it fixed and I went back to sleep and woke up to the sight of the Rocky Mountains. After that it was smooth sailing for about four years.

My next memory might just be the scariest experience I have ever had in Babe. I must have been around 8 years old, and my brothers drove my sisters and I to school one day when we missed the bus. I remember this so vividly because my brother, James, not only was a teenage boy driving his four terrified sisters, but he was speeding down Gregory as fast as he could…while playing air-guitar. We were swerving all over the place but luckily I made it out alive.

Both of my older brothers went to Rockhurst for high school and they also drove Babe to and from school every day. My brother Mark won a parking spot in the front of the school one year in a raffle. Every day Babe would be parked next to some of the most expensive cars in the parking lot. Mark somehow kept this spot for two years in a row, and he often tells of the numerous kids who would wait for their parents to pick them up, passing time by peeling the paint off of Babe. Since then, Babe’s paint chipping condition has only gotten worse. Now she is not just blue with a few white chips, she is mostly white with a few blue spots.

After Mark, my sister Mary was next in line to drive this fine minivan. She drove it to and from school every day just like our brothers. One particular day Mary left the windows down, and it rained. When it first began to rain she asked her teacher if she could run out and roll up her windows and he said no. Now if any of you have ever left your windows down when it rains, you’ll know that it smells terrible for the next couple of days. The next day Mary and her friends complained to their teacher about how it smelled like a wet dog, and he felt so bad that he got her an air freshener. On the first day of school, this teacher mentioned this incident to me and I not only remember Mary being mad at him, I also remember that air freshener because it stayed in Babe even after it was all out of scent.

Mary’s advisor was Ms. Taber, who is also my advisor. Babe has been prominent in both advisories and is even on the 2017 Taber Advisory shirts. For me, Babe is almost like a bus. I take three people to school every day and up to five people home in the afternoon. I also nanny, and my kids either love or hate the car. Some kids will get inside and peel the tint or stick things in the hole in the ceiling. One of my kids told me once that, “this car looks like it’s going to break down when you turn it on.”

Babe is now 24 years old, and my Dad’s only goal for her is to have her stay alive until my 13-year-old sister is old enough to drive her. Some of Babe’s features include a missing radio, a broken emergency brake, a weird sound that is heard when you turn right, white smoke that spills out of the exhaust and windows that have to be manually rolled up.

The point in me writing about my nothing less than iconic car is to prove that you do not need a brand new Jeep Wrangler to have the coolest car in the STA parking lot. Babe is probably not worth much money, but she has immense sentimental value and more character than any other car I have seen. So just remember, even if you do not have a really nice car or if you have no car at all, you can still make endless memories.