Autumn & the Schoolkids (#149)

When we bought a new house, the kids from the middle school across the street invaded. Every day at 3 PM, skateboarders, flower-pickers, and nose-pickers hung out on our steps. They played with the sprinklers and left trash.

My husband Andy declared war. He lost. He wanted me to continue the battle.

I couldn’t think of anything I wanted to do less than yell at a bunch of recalcitrant, hormonal tweens.

Just one of the houses that is regularly "rolled" in the area.
Just one of the houses that is regularly “rolled” in the area.

Especially since they knew where we lived. At best, I was sure they’d retaliate with toilet paper. At worst, outright vandalism.

But when they began skateboarding down my steps, ripping apart my rose bushes, and loosening the brick landscaping from its mortar, I barged outside with my dog Woofie at my side.

“What are you DOING?!” I yelled at the skateboarder. “You’re going to chip the brick!”

“Sorry! Sorry!” the kid grabbed his skateboard and ran off.

“And you!” I rounded on the girl playing “he loves me, he loves me not” with my Princess Elizabeth rosebuds. “That flower never even got a chance to bloom and you tore it apart! What is WRONG with you?!”

“Sorry,” she whispered, and fled.

The boys rocking back and forth on the bricks were next. “You two! Get off that brickwork! You’re loosening the bricks and if the one you’re standing on comes loose and you fall and break your heads your parents will sue me!”

The kids jumped down and scurried away.

Satisfied, I stepped back – and nearly tripped over a tiny girl petting Woofie.

“I love your dog,” she gushed. Woofie licked her face and tried to jump on her. He was bigger than she was. She just laughed and hugged him. “He’s so cute. I wish I had a dog. But grandma says we can’t have one.”

Woofie lay down, dragging me into a crouch next to him. The dog-loving girl patted his head. Two other girls went “Aww!” and dashed over to pet him also.

Within seconds, a gaggle of girls had gathered. Woofie’s tongue lolled. He rolled on his back and soaked in belly scratches.

Damned dog totally mellowed my harsh.

The girls peppered me with questions.

“How old is he?”

“What’s his name?”

“Is he the dog who went to science class?”

I said, “He’s about a year old, his name is Beowoof – you’ll get the joke when you are older – we call him Woofie, and yes. He escaped and went to science class.”

“Julia said he was scary, but he’s not scary at all!”

Neither was I, apparently. Kids spawned out of the ether for several minutes. Even the ones I’d yelled at returned.

Their numbers didn’t decrease until their parents arrived, ten, twenty, and even thirty minutes after the other school children had been collected or walked home.

Eventually only Woofie’s first and smallest groupie was left. She told me her name was Brittany. She told me that Woofie had gorgeous eyelashes. She told me that she — and all the kids who hung out on my steps — couldn’t walk home because they lived on the north side of the city. “This school has the best teachers,” she explained. “But it’s not full.”

I thought of how Andy and I were the only couple for two blocks under 50. Most of the neighbors were either the originals owners of these houses, built sixty years ago, or the children of those owners, now in their 50s and 60s. No wonder the school wasn’t full.

Turns out the school district had an open-enrollment lottery once a year. It was a chance for the kids from lower-income areas to get a spot at the best schools. And once a student made it in, they stayed in that area’s schools, going to the better high school as well. Vigilant parents entered the open enrollment lottery every year.

But not Brittany’s mom. Brittany’s grandmother had gotten Brittany into the good school. Brittany’s mother was a drug addict.

“She’s not a bad person,” Brittany told me, as she stroked Woofie’s soft ears. “She just…can’t help herself. So my grandmother takes care of us, but I have to wait for her to get my brothers and sisters before she can pick me up.”

Jesus. I felt like a white, entitled monster. Autumn, Abominable Snowman. Probably the other kids on my steps had similar stories. Brittany was white, but many of the other kids weren’t. I had kids of all ethnicities — Asian, Latino, Middle Eastern, Indian, and Black. They weren’t lazy for not walking home. Their parents weren’t neglecting them. Their parents – or grandparents – were doing their damnedest to give their kids the very best education possible. Some of them had younger kids to pick up, too, or were coming directly from work.

The next day, I was on the porch with Woofie at 3 PM. Brittany was thrilled. So was Woofie. So were all the dog groupies.

A skateboarder went by. Fey appeared at the window and barked at him. Brittany’s eyes grew wide. “You…you have ANOTHER dog?!”

“Well, yeah, but she doesn’t love kids like Woofie.”

One girl clamored, “But can we see her?”

I took Woofie inside and brought Fey out on a leash. The girls gushed over her pretty eyes, tiny ears, and scimitar-like tail. Fey cocked her head at them and thumped that tail. I gave her some treats. Her tail thumped harder.

Within a few weeks, both dogs sat on the porch with me at 3 PM. Both got petting. Fey got socialized.

And if a newcomer climbed on the brick planters, I said, “Hey! You can sit on the brick steps in the shade, but stay off the planters. You know why?”

The offending child would shake their head. The usual step crew would then chorus, “Because if you fall and break your head, your parents will sue her!”

Once, when I was on a phone call at 3 PM instead of outside, my doorbell rang. Two shame-faced boys admitted to breaking one of the flowerpots in the brick pillars that framed our walk. They helped me clean up, and their parents arrived before dark with money to pay for the pot. I was impressed.

Andy, who had to fit the replacement pot, was not. “I wish all the damned kids would go somewhere else!”

“They can’t, honey.” I explained the kids’ situation. And I reminded him how he’d been first generation latchkey kid, too, with his dad working early and his mom working late.

Andy grunted. I told him about Brittany, and how she couldn’t have a dog in her grandmother’s crowded apartment, and how she adored Woofie and Fey.

Andy grunted again.

Halloween came. Now that we had a real house instead of a half-hidden town house, I optimistically bought a ton of candy. We got less than a dozen trick-or-treaters.

Andy had the Friday after Halloween off. Usually, he ignored the kids. But that Friday, he was on our steps at 3 PM, offering the giant cauldron of leftover candy to the kids.

Brittany hesitantly took a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.

“Take as many as you want,” he told her.

She thanked him and grabbed a bunch of them. “My little sister loves these!”

Brittany stuffed her backpack.

So did the rest of the regulars.

When the cauldron was empty, Andy turned to come back inside. He saw me standing in the doorway.

He said, “What? I’m just getting rid of the candy. So we don’t get fat.”

“Good idea.”

Andy disappeared into the house.  He never interacted with those kids again. But there are two things you should know about my husband:

1) He hasn’t cared about his weight since we got married.

2) Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are his favorite candy.

Published by

Autumn Ashbough

WF writing about the humorous perils of life with Chinese-American significant other.

42 thoughts on “Autumn & the Schoolkids (#149)”

  1. Like Kate said, this was not the ending that I expected. Those kids were rather good after all. I do think they deserved all that candy. As a chocolate lover myself and someone who loves Reese’s, I symphatise with Andy. Then again, as you said, candy makes most of us weighty. But nice to hear that you now have an army of kids at the palm of your hand 😀

      1. It is nice to hear of a happy ending nevertheless. Some kids just need some chocolate to be happy and they will be nice 🙂

        Your response(s) to my comment here, and on the last schoolkid post, didn’t end up in my WP notifications. I don’t know what’s going on there. Hopefully a glitch :/

  2. Wow, what a lovely ending! And to think I was bracing myself for your war with the kids!

    Woofie has saved you from being the nasty old witch to the kind dog lady. Its such a lovely story, someone should make a film from it…

  3. Reading the first installment of your story, I thought you guys would have ripped the kid heads off by now :p

    I’m glad it turned out very well and the kid even cleaned up your place 🙂 I was very impressed about it.

  4. Beautiful ending! I also tend to think kids in Spain are annoying little pricks. Most of them probably are though, not like those nice kids of yours.

    Nico would love to make so many friends, but most people here are afraid of her. Some small kids even cry when she comes closer. Poor Nico…

    1. What? Oh, if Nico were here, kids would mob her. When I walked Fey and Woofie by the elementary school, kids were all over them. I have to remind them that not all dogs are friendly and they should ask the owner for permission first.

        1. Like a miniature or teacup poodle? They must not have standard-sized poodles in China, then. I grew up with Lord Peter the Poodle and he was about seventy pounds. But he looked much bigger because of the fur. A Chinese nightmare, I guess.

  5. Oh man, I wasn’t expecting this result (and here I imagined Andy pulling a Katniss Everdeen on the kids ala Hunger Games, I feel so bad! haha).

    What a heart warming ending… sniff.. I got misty eyed reading it! Do the kids still hang out on your lawn with Woofie??

    You’re such a nice person Autumn, those kids are lucky to have found your front lawn!

    1. Those particular kids have all moved on. The neighborhood changed rapidly — all the original owners either went into assisted living or died. 🙁 Their houses were sold or rented and now there are at least 40 kids on the block. It’s a lot noisier, and I heard that the local schools are so full that if a kid moves in during the school year, they may have to go to a different school!

    1. Well, Woofie loved it, and Fey only chased one skateboarder. So, yeah, it was not a bad thing. Although my neighbors thought I was crazy for “encouraging those kids!” But the kids were already there. At least I could try and make sure they didn’t destroy stuff.

  6. Oh! Such lovable kids. It only takes a little explanation of the situation from them to turn the whole thing around. And a little education from you on how to treat the pots and bricks. Fey gets socialized–everybody wins. Great story.

  7. Such a funny story with a sweet ending. I love this posting. Sounds like a movie script! 😀 I have to say most kids are good kids but some of them are just assholes and I think it’s the parents fault. I usually turn off all my lights during Halloween. Unfortunately, my wife is white and loves to give out candies. LOL

    1. I love giving out candy, too! And Andy HATES IT. That’s why I was so surprised when he brought it out for the school kids. Heh. I will have to repost the ones on Halloween from last year. Maybe they will get you into the spirit. Looking forward to seeing your daughter’s first costume on FB.

      1. I think it’s in the white gene to give out candies. LOL. Well, that further shows how sweet he is! Yeah, repost it! My wife actually kind of getting me into it cause we always have to wear matching costumes. We’ve been doing it for the past 3 years. She has already picked out little girl’s and her outfit. I am waiting for mine in the mail. LOL. I bet Andy hates to dress up also! are you gonna do it?!

If you liked this, let the white girl know!