This morning *so* did not turn out the way I wanted it to. I thought it was going to be great -- it's a beautiful sunny Saturday, and we had plans to spend it with family celebrating my two-year-old niece's birthday in Illinois.
At 10 a.m., my niece's present was wrapped, I had a bag of tomatoes to share with family at the party, and I even thought to cut a big sunflower for my niece. We were ready to go.
Steve asked me to drive to Illinois, because he had homework for his music theory class and wanted to get it done in the car. Fine. I love driving. So we left. I wanted to swing by Fondy Food Center beforehand to visit their "Eat Local Celebration." We drove east from Tosa, zig zagging around to avoid construction on North Avenue until we finally made it to 17th and North, the location (I thought) of Fondy.
We couldn't find it! Since we were pressed for time on the way to the birthday party that began at 11:30 a.m. in Round Lake Beach, we decided to jump on 43 south and begin our journey to Illinois.
It was disappointing not finding Fondy, but I can always find it some other time. We cruised for about an hour on 94 south, got off at Grand Avenue in Gurnee, and were on the home stretch. Then, about a block and a half before we reached my sister's house, I heard a sound that always makes my blood run cold: a police siren. I Looked in the rear view mirror. Is that for me?
Yes. I pulled over and the police vehicle pulled over right behind me.
I really didn't have a clue as to why I was being pulled over. I didn't recall speeding. Was my license expired? Darn -- I must have forgotten to renew my license plate sticker.
A female police officer approached my car, asked to see my driver's license and registration and said (or rather, barked), "did you know you were going 42 in a 25?" She looked inside my car. "And your daughter is unbuckled!"
I looked behind me. Sure enough, my four-year-old was standing in front of her car seat, feet on the ground, seat belt swinging behind her, unclicked.
Remember, I have no voice. It's still barely stronger than a whisper nearly three weeks after having two neck surgeries, and the surgeon told me it could take weeks or even months to return.
We didn't argue with her. We just shuffled through our wallets looking for our new insurance cards, which we couldn't find. Must have forgotten to put them in our wallets this August when they came in the mail.
I've been under a lot of stress lately, and although I'd managed to more or less keep it together until that point, I couldn't help myself. Tears started flowing.
The officer went to her car and came back with TWO citations -- one for speeding and one for the seat belt. Adding insult to injury, I actually have to go back to Illinois on Oct. 20 for a court date because of the seat belt situation.
After the officer drove away I continued to weep, mortified that I'd have to enter a birthday party red-faced and share with all the guests my shame. Without a voice. And with a big scar across my neck. Nice.
But it got worse. We pulled into my sister's driveway and there were no cars in sight. The garage doors were shut. The house was dark. No one was home!
No one is home? Did we get the location wrong? Is my mom hosting the party at her house nearby?
Steve called my mom on my cell. "Oh, Heather, I'm so glad you're able to call me," Mom answered.
"Uh, no, this is Steve." He told her about the tickets. She told him that the birthday party is actually NEXT Saturday. This morning the family was at Grandma's house, having a gay old time.
I started crying harder.
We backed out of my sister's driveway. Steve and I switched places so he could drive and I could cry my eyes out.
At that point we were both dumbfounded at the police officer's accusation that our child was riding without a safety belt. After all, as Steve puts it, I'm the "Seat Belt Nazi." I'm always ADAMANT about my kids wearing seat belts.
It occurred to us that our four-year-old might have popped out of her seat when we had stopped, because she often does that when she knows we've reached our destination, and we were in my sister's neighborhood.
We grilled our kids. "Did Anya get out of her seat before or after the car stopped?" Various answers were shouted from the far back seat. Finally we asked the culprit herself. She must have heard me talking with her dad about whether I should plead innocent or guilty, because I swear I heard her mumble "guilty."
"Speak up, honey. Did you get out of your chair when the car was still moving?"
Great. Guess I'll be pleading guilty at that court date on October 20. And paying the great State of Illinois $130 in fees. Which totally sucks because money is so tight for us right now, what with all these doctor bills and the fact that I can't teach this semester because of my voice. Those two little traffic violations are going to hurt.
I wish I could say something hopeful and inspirational, but today I'm just cranky. My eyes are sore and tired from crying and I'm feeling emotionally drained. I have taken solace in cooking this afternoon, and not only am I looking forward to trying my hand at making calzones, I also discovered large carrots in my garden, so we'll now have carrot cake for dessert. I'll be using the bounty of tomatoes throughout my yard to make sauce for the calzones, and found two more large zucchinis in my garden that I'll be able to use this week. So I guess I am thankful that even on a day like today, the fruits of the earth can lift my spirits.