That’s grandma on the right holding yours truly, and my bratty big sister between her and our grandfather, circa 1970.
She’s 91 years old, lives in the same house she and her first husband purchased in 1942, and is as independent and feisty as hell. While visiting, Karen and I wandered upstairs and into basement, places we hadn’t been through in decades. We talked a bit about what memories have survived and what tangible items are still around. Among the many things I remember about the house is the Evel Knievel Scramble Van. My sister and cousins and I would play with this thing every time we visited. Grandma kept it on the floor of the front door entryway in front of a vintage glass-door cabinet. While walking through the second floor and basement, I kept an eye out for it among the boxes and puzzles and other items accumulated over the last 70 years. Unfortunately, it wasn’t stowed away in either of those places.
On a whim, I decided to look in the entryway before we left to see if anything from my memories remained there. As I turned the corner, that old familiar cabinet came into view. And once my vision cleared the little room, I couldn’t believe what I saw. There it was: The Evel Knievel Scramble Van! Right where it was supposed to be. Right where I had no right expecting it to be. It has inexplicably survived all these years in the exact spot I remembered it being in! I unburied it from a box of candles and other tchotchke and set it on the dining room table to inspect it.
The vinyl sides of the van had that old sticky feeling – that accumulation of decades-worth of being brought to life with a combination of little kids’ imagination and their grimy little hands. The back of the van opens, but one of the tabs was broken. I didn’t see the Evel Knievel action figure or his bike anywhere, but the blue roof ramp was there, along with some other random toys stuffed inside the van – some I recognized from childhood, some that were clearly of a newer vintage.
At some point I need to go back and inspect the van further, perhaps clean it up a bit, and also look for Evel Knievel and his gyro powered stunt cycle and launcher, but in that moment I just snapped a quick photo on my iPhone (as a validation of my memories as much as anything else) before returning it to the place in which it so clearly belongs.