Sister Mary Francis. (Another) Future Patron Saint of Travelers, working miracles every day. Lover of dirt roads and New Zealand vistas. Used to like staying home and reading in the garage, but now ready for a few adventures. Dislikes U-Turns. Her pet peeve is when someone leaves a door ajar.
If you have been reading the last few weeks, you may have read mention that our van is named Sister Mary Francis. Not Vanessa or Helga or any of the other equally awesome names proposed in the early phases of this trip. We tried them all on for size, and they just didn't seem to fit. Why might that be? Because she already had a name, she just hadn't told us yet.
Under the category of Enquiring Minds, you may be wondering:
Where does Leslie come up with this crap?
I don’t have an answer for this question, but I know it has been going on a long time. I name all the inanimate objects I love. Bikes, cars, landscape plants, and of course my polyester stuffed owl/protector/therapist, Osmond. The first inanimate object I recall naming was our old family truck. She was a fire engine red, faded to orange GMC Truck. We used her to pull a large family camper-trailer, usually packed to the gills with enough food, adult beverages, Twix bars and Capri-Suns for three months. Survival rations, you know.
The old truck only broke down once in my presence. We were heading an hour into Salt Lake City (the Big City) when she sputtered to a stop on the side of the highway. We were going to my cousin’s 6th birthday party, and I was loathe to be late. We had to walk a bit down the road, hitch a ride from some guy, and I don’t remember what happened next. I think we just went to the party, because I do remember the party. My Dad is a handy fella. He fixed her up, and we kept driving her. But this was enough to stick in my mind forever more; my trust had been shaken.
The next time we went camping, I climbed into the middle seat squeezed between my parents and my squirming little sister, the single lap belt strapped around both of us at the same time. (It was the 80s!) Stretching my neck, I peered up and over the dashboard. I was nervous about our truck’s dubious history. We chugged along, over several long hills toward our favorite family camping nook. The truck struggled with the incline and the weight it was pulling. My dad’s foot was clamped down on the gas pedal, flat as a pancake against the floor. We creeped along at a speed of 25 miles per hour at most (15 km/hr). I had a bad feeling this was going to be it. The engine would cut out, the breaks wouldn’t be strong enough to hold us and we would be dragged backwards and over a cliff by the trailer. It was a certainty.
“Surely, Shirley can make it!” I call out. “Come on, Shirley! You can do it!”
And she did. Hearing my voracious cheers, her spirit was bolstered and she climbed up and up until we crested the last hill and were safely escorted into slot number 22.
When I told my mom the van’s name, she just laughed. “What? But…why?!” I don't know!
I don't name my cars. They tell me their names when they are good and ready. It is a process of communing with the spirit of the vehicle. Sister Mary Francis is a used car with a long history. Obviously, she already has a name; I just had to figure out what it is. As we drove Southward on the North Island I asked her “what is your name, van?” “Sister Mary Francis.” She whispered. “Sister Mary Francis?” I asked. “That's pretty random."
But it isn't, really. Sister Mary Francis came inclusive of her identifying features. First, she is already equipped with a mini-rosary set hanging from the rear view mirror. When I first met her, I thought to myself: she must be Catholic.
She is shy, quiet and unassuming. And! Despite being manufactured in the year 2000, she only has (had) about 75,000 miles on her when we bought her. What has she been doing? Transporting little nuns about town for grocery shopping and prayer groups. It’s the only explanation.
With all this insanity, my real test of a name comes when I propose it to Andrew. If he embraces my nonsense, it must be on par.
"I think the van's name is Sister Mary Francis," I tell him. He chuckles a little bit, then agrees. By the end of the day, he too, is calling her Sister. Or, sometimes Mister Sary Francis -- because admittedly it is a mouthful.