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What’s it take to break in the family van?What’s it take to break in the family van?

Home Front: “Breaking in” can mean several different things, especially when it comes to the family minivan.

John and Kendra Smiley

December 31, 2018

3 Min Read
father and son standing in field

The English language can be tricky. For example, there are words and phrases that can be used as nouns and as verbs. The phrase “break in” is an example. When it’s used as a noun (as in, “there was a break-in near the fertilizer plant last night”), the thought of a crime scene comes to mind. When someone is speaking about “breaking in” farming equipment, the idea is the driver getting used to any differences from the previous tractor, combine, auger wagon, etc.

A few months ago, I overheard John telling a friend about the things he’d learned when breaking in the new-to-us combine. His words reminded me of another breaking-in situation, which had nothing to do with farming.

Kendra’s referring to instructions she gave our three sons years ago. We had just purchased a brand-new van. At the time, our sons were 10, 8 and 4. Being known for their ability to inadvertently make messes, Kendra announced there would be no eating in the van until it was broken in. If I remember correctly, she specifically mentioned no French fries. Obviously, those lunchtime delights had been big contributors to the mess.

The boys reluctantly agreed to the order (as if there was any other option), and the van’s interior remained sparkling clean. This was especially nice since Kendra had agreed to drive several of her friends to a ladies’ retreat. The day they all climbed in, the interior looked as good as when we bought the van.

The boys had done a good job. The van looked and smelled like new, with no fries on the floor nor on the seats. My friends and I crawled in, buckled up and headed to the event.

The three days we spent together were a roaring success! We heard great speakers and enjoyed inspired singing. When it was time to head for home, we tumbled into the van with smiles on our faces. Little did we know those smiles would soon turn into frantic prayers.

As we approached the city limits of a small town in Indiana, I took my foot off the accelerator. At the same time, I saw a car on my right approaching a stop sign ahead. The driver was not stopping but was pulling out into the path of my car. Everyone in the van saw it too and started praying, aloud, aware that within seconds there would be an unavoidable collision.

And there was! We ran into the driver’s side of the car, but our van had slowed enough to hit the back door and not the front. As soon as I caught my breath, I called the local police, who arrived immediately. After following the police car to the station, I filled out paperwork and ultimately called home.

I answered the call and listened to the details of the accident. The boys all gathered near me and soon figured out what the call was about. Finally, the eldest broke in and asked, “Is Mom OK?”

When I nodded my head, he asked one other question — the same one on his brothers’ minds, too: “Is the van broken in now?” I nodded my head again. “French fries, here we come!” 

But at least he asked about Kendra first.

John and Kendra Smiley farm near East Lynn, Ill. Email [email protected], or visit kendrasmiley.com.

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