Original print date July 3rd, 2012
Chariton Valley News Press
The first weeks of July always take me back. For most people, July brings memories of family bbq’s, fireworks, time spent at the lake, and vacations. I have one very fond memory dealing with July that has absolutely nothing to do with any of those things. I get a reminder in the mail every six months that allows me to relive that hair-raising day in July back in 1995.
Yes, I remember the year. Only because Jake was a tiny baby and didn’t mind riding in a car seat every day as we made our way to town. The girls on the other hand, had a totally different view of car seats. They hated them. Joni just complained all the way to town and the mother hen in her would chastise Jeana, aka Houdini, every time she managed to escape the restrictive straps and buckles that contained her energy.
This particular morning was not going well. I was late – again. Getting all the kids into the mini van that morning had been particularly nerve racking. We had moved the back seat to the middle and all three children were lined up, properly restrained (next to each other) and the girls were not too happy about it. Jake, on the other hand, really didn’t care. He was sleeping peacefully and nothing was going to wake him – his sisters had already conditioned him to be a heavy sleeper.
As I was making my way down Highway 24, I caught unfamiliar movement in the rear view mirror. I looked up just in time to see the bottom of Houdini’s feet flip over the back of the seat into the rear of the van. Mother Hen immediately started chastising Jeana about the evils of escaping the car seat. I sighed; looked up and realized the car coming at me could spell trouble; looked down and realized that as I was trying to make sense of the chaos in the back seat, my foot had gotten a little heavy; and realized that in the matter of mere seconds I was toast!
The highway patrol car lights burst into action. Joni burst into screaming fits. Jeana burst into laughter. I pulled over and was hoping to have the chaos in my vehicle under control before he made his way to my door. That was a pipe dream. I knew he had seen Jeana out of her car seat already. She was waving at him through the back glass. Joni was crying and screaming at the top of her lungs, “MY SISTER IS GOING TO JAIL”. Jake never flinched.
I was still trying to calm Joni and get Jeana at least back over the seat when he approached the door and I rolled down the window. He was a young man and fairly new to the area. From the shell-shocked look on his face – I would venture to say he did not have children.
I politely excused myself to turn in the seat and help Jeana back into her car seat. Joni had finally managed to quit screaming but she still had a look of terror on her face. After everyone was settled in and I could once again hear, I politely said “good morning”.
We went through the typical “do you know how fast you were going” question and answer session. He politely asked for my driver’s license and insurance cards. I opened the glove box and pulled out the insurance card on top. It was two days out of date. The new one was at home on the desk waiting patiently to make its way to the proper place in the glove box. I asked Joni to please hand me my billfold out of my purse under her feet. She quit chastising Houdini just long enough to tell me my purse wasn’t in the car.
At this point, I just wanted to go back home and start over. I took a deep breath, gave the officer the best smile I could muster and handed him the outdated insurance card. I efficiently rattled off my social security number since I had just gotten my CDL and at that time, they used socials as the number on them. He smiled, chuckled a little at the brow beating Joni was still administering to Jeana in the back seat and made his way back to his car.
Thankfully, he never made me leave my van. He probably thought Jeana would take off with it. He came back and politely handed me my tickets. I won’t lie and say I was thrilled with the pile of papers I received. I will say he was much nicer to me than he had to be under the circumstances.
The officer took a few minutes to explain to Jeana the need to stay in the car seat while Mom was driving. He assured Joni he would never arrest her sister at such a young age. He seemed impressed at Jake’s ability to sleep through the chaos. Then he extended his hopes that my day got better and went back to his car.
I made sure and set my cruise control the rest of the way to town. As a matter of fact, I refuse to buy any family car to this day that is not equipped with cruise. I said a prayer of thanks that in the few seconds between seeing those feet in the rear view mirror and seeing those bursts of red and blue, nothing happened that caused physical harm to any of the kids.
Every six months, the insurance company sends me a reminder of my insurance payment being due. Every six months I remember the day in 1995, two days after paying my bill, the young highway patrol officer could have had a hefty day end ticket total off one person but instead chose to take some pity on a young, frazzled mother.
Maybe I should use that reminder every six months to also say thank you to the highway patrol and other local law enforcement officers in our area. They seldom get the thanks they deserve for protecting our county and citizens. Many times they just receive a tongue lashing as they administer justice. Even as the officer handed me those tickets that day, he was protecting my kids, myself, and the people I met on the road that morning as I was distracted by the kids. A thank you seems in order for the service all law enforcement personnel extend to the citizens in Chariton County.