Monthly Archives: April 2015

Speeding Tickets with Benefits

Adopted sisters


It’s a rare time when a mother gets to say “I told you so!” to her daughter within minutes of giving some much needed advice. And perhaps ever rarer for that mother to only say it silently, which I did, and am still rather proud about that.

Helen, Rose and I were coming back from New Mexico after a spring break family trip. We were in one of those so-flat-you-can-see-forever (or at least the driver thought she could see forever) strips in the Oklahoma panhandle. I had just told Helen for the 7th time (I was counting, also silently) to slow down and she had then suggested that I take another nap when…..yes, a highway patrol pulled out of nowhere. He was polite, we were polite, and I have to admit when this kind of thing happens I’m glad I’m older, white, and a woman. But Helen still ended up with a $235 ticket and who knows what kind of increase on her car insurance.

Family Vacations aren’t known for bringing out the best behavior in anyone and this trip was no exception. Rose seemed more than usually skilled at finding ways to irritate Helen. For her part, Helen had a knee jerk reaction to anything her sister said, which was, “Shut up, Rose!”  And I….well, let’s just say I didn’t get especially high marks either. At one point Helen purposely tripped Rose who then fell into a trash can, followed by accusations and threats from all sides, followed by the “Can’t you two get along for even a few minutes?” It didn’t help that one night at dinner we were seated next to a table with a mother and her two daughters who were having this lovely and loving conversation throughout their meal without any snide remarks and certainly no shut ups. What was wrong with us?

I found myself feeling more and more down by this when I heard Rose and Helen talking about the tripping and falling into the trash can incident and they were laughing—both of them, getting the biggest kick out of that story. It made me think of a time when my mother said to my older brother and me, “Why can’t you kids stop bickering?” I was so surprised at her lack of understanding. Didn’t she realize that was the way we found to connect with each other—even to somehow enjoy each other? When we watched TV together and a commercial came on, my brother would get up, grab the arm of my chair and shake it as hard as he could. Every commercial, he’d do that. And every time, I yelled, “Stop that!” which just made him laugh harder. And then there was the head thumping whenever he passed me, not to mention bargaining me out of all the good Halloween candy and never letting me win even ONE game of ping pong and…..the list is too long.

But as that little sister, I much preferred the chair arm shaking until my teeth rattled and the oh so irritating head thumping to no attention from him. And I also knew, as sure as I knew anything, that this older brother of mine would protect me in a heartbeat if need be. In today’s language, he had my back.


After the speeding ticket, I decided that a nap might indeed be a good idea and moved to the back seat while Rose joined Helen up front. I drifted in and out to loud music and bits of conversation.  One was this:

“Do you like this song, Rose?”

“Yea, how do you get all those on your phone?  And, Helen, can you show me how to curl my hair?  And how do you get to be cool?  I want to be cool like you.”

“Well, first off, you’d have to be Helen to be cool like me……………You know, Rose, if something happened to you, I’d be there in a minute.”

“I know.”


It took a family vacation for Helen to learn that sometimes she should take my advice. And it took five days in close company with her and Rose for me to be reminded of some very important things. That if you step back and let your kids work things out, then generally they will. That any time together, any time, is what makes a family. That sometimes what seems like the worst part of a journey turns out to be the best (not to mention all that material for good stories). That knowing your brother or sister has your back makes up for a lot of crappy behavior. That you should never, ever, compare your family with the one at the next table. And, most of all, that really, I think my kids are doing just fine.

Adoptive mother, Kansas writer and artist