The Plaatmobile

The older I get, the more I realize how rich memories are. They’re a treasure known only to the one that carries them, made richer when they’re shared with the ones you love most.

Joy tends to toast itself with the past, which is full of priceless memories.

I’ve found a lot of memories which I’ve come to appreciate as an adult that weren’t as clear to me during my childhood or [especially] teenage years. “I’ll never do _____” was usually accompanied by a look from my parents that realized someday in the future I’d eat these words with a healthy side of humble pie.

As a young teenager, I did my best to ‘fit in’ with the other kids my age. It was a bit difficult to fit in with others, as a homeschooled kid, when I was devoid of interactions one would find through a more traditional school system.

There were many nights I’d cry myself to sleep, because I felt lonely and friendless. Most of my interactions with peers involved my siblings, or the kids I’d meet each week at church – most of which who attended a small private christian school in the area, resulting in yet another clique that didn’t want to include a homeschooled kid.

As an adult, I find some selfish satisfaction in looking back on the number of graduates from this school who never left Ohio – or their parents basement. Regardless of where these individuals landed with their lives, I desperately wanted to fit in with them during my middle school years and made every attempt to do so.

My ego thrived in middle school and strongly believed I needed cool clothes and possessions to fit in with the other kids. This proved very difficult, as the Plaat family lived off of a single income provider (Dad) and didn’t have a lot of extra extra money to invest in our wardrobe.

Pass-me-down clothing was accompanied by old cars, often bought for less than $2,000. With six kids, our family needed a vehicle large enough to carry us around town. An example of this involved a Ford Econoline 15-passenger van with a grotesque white ‘hump’ on the top, which allowed for standing room.

The “Plaatmobile” as it was lovingly dubbed, had a ‘school bus’ door, which opened through a handle, operated by the driver. As you stepped into the vehicle, you were greeted by an overhead sign which read “PLEASE WATCH YOUR STEP” before walking between the rows of vinyl seats.

I remember a middle school version of myself, mortified to be dropped off at a high school football game in this behemoth. The Plaatmobile stuck out like a sore thumb in a parking lot, where all I could notice were cars much nicer looking than the senior citizen transport vehicle, which was older than me.

Each week, my Mom would invite members of our church to step inside the Plaatmobile and write their favorite bible verse, using dry erase markers, on the inside walls of the vehicle. I’d sit in the very back seat, doing my best to hide myself behind a book while these interactions occurred.

I swore those memories would scar me for the rest of my life. For many years, I resented them and made it a point to have a nice car as an adult. Oddly enough, I dubbed my first BMW the “Plaatmobile” because it had PLAAT on the license plate.

As the years went by and my car payments added up for my own Plaatmobile, I began to see the value in having more affordable cars that went from Point A to B. Wisdom comes with age and usually brings its friend, humility, along with it.

Many years later, I found myself attending the infamous Burning Man in Black Rock City, NV. In a sea of ‘mutant vehicles’ I realized the Plaatmobile would have been the perfect vehicle to take to the playa for the week – which cost only $1,500; less than the price I paid to share an RV for seven days.

I’ve learned some things only become clear when you add time to the equation. My adult self, sweating in a dusty RV in the middle of a desert, can now look back on the embarrassed middle schooler, desperately trying to fit in with the ‘cool crowd’ and tell him that someday that van will be one of my fondest memories.

If I had the opportunity, I wish this version of me could have a sit-down chat with the middle school me, wearing Aeropostle clothing and donning a bucket hat. I’d tell myself that someday, things will be clear and I’d soon appreciate the sacrifices my parents made to invest in memories, rather than expensive cars that break down just as frequently as the cheap ones.

Someday, kid…you’ll understand.

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