It is in the spring of 2003. My mother and father have stopped driving. We have not said anything to them, however I know my mother’s right hip has been bothering her and I am sure she has been critical of my father’s driving as she has become his constant passenger. I want a vehicle that will transport my entire family. Currently, I have six children: Lea, Ivy, Fritz, Daniel, Nina and Donna, my newest foster daughter who is eleven. Shari and her baby have moved into the Independent Living apartment and Donna shares a room with Nina. My current vehicle is a van conversion that very comfortably seats seven but now I am the only driver in a family of nine. I have a nephew who sells cars and we go to look a van that he thinks I would like. It is virtually the same van we own, except newer. It only seats 7. I ask if there is anything with more seats available. A 15 passenger “previous daily rental” is brought out for me. The only extras on this huge passenger van are a CD player, an extra power outlet, and tinted windows. The driver’s side window and the front passenger windows are not tinted because this is illegal in California.
Our first excursion is a trip to the San Francisco International Airport. It is about 90 minutes from our home in Sacramento. We are taking Lea to catch an airplane to visit her Grandma Dottie in Florida. I have insisted that Ivy accompany us because Lea cannot recall ever being on an airplane or being in an airport and I want to go all the way to the gate with her to make sure she safely gets to the right place. I need Ivy to stay with my other children. Ivy agrees to come and wants to bring two friends. That’s fine with me, her friends are very good with my other children and they will be an asset.
My family loves a road trip. Its especially fun in our new high profile van. The view of the San Francisco Bay from the Oakland Bay Bridge is always spectacular to us valley folks, regardless of the weather. We arrive at the airport in a timely fashion, I find the proper exit easily, and enter the main boulevard of the airport, I am driving slowly, looking for our airline.
I see the lights of a police car in my rear view mirror; next, I am flanked by officers on motorcycles. I yell at everyone to be quiet and I roll down my window. A police car pulls in front of me. I hear directions to follow the car in front of me from a police megaphone. We are directed to a parking spot directly opposite the main entrance to the airport across the boulevard. My older kids are as still as statues. Fritz and Daniel are chattering away about what could be wrong with the car. An officer comes to my window and tells me to get out of the van. Another officer opens the side doors where passengers exit as another stations himself at the rear of the van. The officer leans into the passenger exit and instructs everyone to exit the van and show the officers the contents of their pockets. Nina is not hiding but balking at getting out. Finally, my three old climbs out, barefoot and clutching a toy. Nina holds out her toy for inspection.
Within a few minutes, the officers realize that although our white passenger van in some ways fits the profile of a van a terrorist may use, we are not terrorists. Nina asks for “skickers,” and a few of the officers fumble at their breast pockets for stickers. One officer has a dog eared sticker still on slick paper and he gives it to Nina. I notice two figures in white “hazmat” suits waiting nearby. They are dismissed. I share with the police officers that my daughter has a plane to catch and it is getting late. We are allowed to keep our parking spot directly across from the main entrance to the airport. I give Ivy some money to buy everyone a treat and it takes an hour and a half to get Lea checked in and for us to be inspected which includes removing our shoes.