Tag Archives: Swagwagon

Kleenex Alert!

I think the book’s title is appropriate for the kid.

I think the project’s title is appropriate for the kid.

Today is a red-letter day for my younger son: His senior legacy project, an English IV major grade, is done and ready to be handed in during fourth period. Whew!

The project required 12 essays, which is tough when you’re not a natural writer (easy for big brother, not so much for little bro). These, along with a collage page (helps to have a photo mom) and a to-be-finished graduation page, are the minimum requirements. Photos and/or drawings are necessary to enhance the writings. Topics could include your friends, songs, favorite TV shows, and more. The core of the project, which resembles a scrapbook, is a metaphor that each student identifies with over his/her four years in high school (such as a seed that eventually blooms into a flower).


He’s a native Texan, too!

The kid picked the Houston Texans and their slogan “I’m a Texan” for his metaphor. He did a great job with it, relating to the team’s freshman struggles, sophomore and junior improvement, and senior success. He nailed it!

My younger son also wrote well about his favorite superhero (the Green Lantern, which also is mine), the late, great Swagwagon, and, of course, disc golf. He really put a lot of thought into the subjects, and it showed. Let’s hope his teacher agrees!

Another requirement for the seniors is that they write a letter to their parents. Reading his to us made me cry. It really shows his sensitivity and caring. Here’s part of that letter:

Mom, you have brought so much joy into my life. You help me be optimistic about anything that comes my way, even if it’s bad. Also, you always know how to cheer me up. Anytime I am sad, you start to sing, and most the times I will join in. Even though we are always out of tune, and we forget almost all the lyrics, it always brightens up my day. Another big thing is that you help me stay on task and get my schoolwork done. Without your motivation I know that I would not be doing nearly as well in school. You have loved me every day for nearly 18 years, and I can never thank you enough for it. I know that sometimes I make your life difficult, but you have to know that I love you more than anything.

Dad, you have taught me so much about being a great man. You have taught me that if you work hard, you will accomplish a lot of great things in life. You have been in the work force since the early 1970s. You always went above and beyond the job you were given, and that is why you are still successful today. Even though you now own your own company, you still don’t slack off even though you could. I admire everything you do for our family and me, and some day I will make it up to you. I know that if I am even half the man you are, then I will make it far in life. Thank you for all that you’ve done. 

Where’s that box of Kleenex?!? Love you, kiddo! We’re so proud of you!

Farewell to an Old Friend

Despite the scrapes and high mileage, the Villager was a beloved car.

An old, much-loved warrior has died. Literally.

Our 1999 Mercury Villager no longer stands watch outside our house, ready, willing, and able to take us places. After 13 years of service and about 130,000 miles, Old Red has retired to greener pastures somewhere else.

Until I got my Honda Pilot, the Villager was my favorite car. It was more than a vehicle—it’s a symbol of my sons’ childhoods. The minivan was what they grew up with, transporting them all over the Houston area, as well as to Hebrew and Sunday schools, sports practices and games, and to friends’ houses. Plus we’ll never forget the long trips we took in it, ones to Carlsbad Caverns, Chicago, and DisneyWorld.

The kid manages a wan smile before driving off to school last semester.

Much to their dismay, both boys eventually drove the Villager to high school—apparently Mom’s hand-me-down minivan wasn’t cool enough for the parking lot, especially one like ours with plenty of newer cars. My younger son finally dubbed it the “Swagwagon,” a tongue-and-cheek reference to its lameness. But, hey, it was long paid for and extremely cheap to insure, which comes in handy with teenaged boys.

After we bought the 2006 Toyota Highlander for my older son to drive and the 2010 Ford Fusion for Mr. Swag himself, the Mister and I decided it was time to find the minivan a new home. Even though we wouldn’t get much money for it, we settled on selling it to Texas Direct Auto, which is where we bought the Highlander.

Hoping to eke out a few shekels more, I drove the Swagwagon to Mister Car Wash about 10 miles from our house. Not that clean and shiny would mask all the scratches, of course, but I figured it couldn’t hurt. All went well until I tried to start the Villager for the ride back home.

Oh oh! The engine wouldn’t turn over. One of the workers jumped the battery, and the minivan started once more. Whew, dodged a bullet, I thought.

Why in the world would I tempt the Evil Eye?!?

As I drove home, the Villager started to shake violently. The boys had complained a few times about this happening, but I figured they were exaggerating. Nope! This was the real deal . . . would the Swagwagon and I meet our untimely demises in a fiery explosion on the streets of sweet Sugar Land?

This is NOT a good spot for a dead car.

Well, one of us did die; fortunately, it wasn’t me. Even though that nagging voice of sanity in the back of my head said, “Just pull off in a parking lot and have the kid pick you up in the Fusion,” the idiot part of my brain thought, “It’s not too far; we can make it!”

Not only didn’t we make it, but the minivan sputtered to a grinding halt in one of the worst-possible places: One of the two early left-turn lanes in front of Hwy. 59’s feeder road on a very busy street. Nightmare time!

The car’s flashers really were on.

I quickly opened the windows, turned on the Villager’s flashers, and called AAA Texas. Then I waited in the 93-degree heat for a tow truck, as I waved cars that foolishly came up behind me to go into the next lane. One almost smashed into me, which is why I kept my seatbelt on the entire time.

A blessing behind me

When AAA Texas later told me they couldn’t rescue me for at least an hour, I was almost glad a city motorcycle police officer came up behind me (and confirmed that the flashers were indeed working). I say “almost,” because the Villager’s inspection and license plate stickers had expired; I didn’t want to get a ticket. But the cop thankfully ignored the infraction and called a wrecker, which had me moved off to a parking lot within a few minutes.

The tow truck driver, who works on cars, thought the fuel pump was the culprit with the dead minivan. There was no way we were going to put one more dime into our aging vehicle, so I called Purple Heart to make a donation. They towed it off into the sunset, and that was the end of our Villager saga.

When I think back on Old Red, I’m going to try my best to remember the good times we had and not the horrible experience at the end. Right now, though, I think a few years will need to go by first.