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A Night Schooling #(228)

When my husband and I decided to live near a school, we expected kids and traffic. We definitely got kids and traffic, twice a day for about a half-hour.

We also got a huge, empty field that our big dogs could cavort on at 6 AM on the weekends. The school was almost never locked, and no one else was up at that hour. I brought a chucker. The dogs had a blast chasing the ball, each other, and birds.

But there’s a problem with an unlocked school. Even though it’s a misdemeanor, teens would sneak into the school at night. And by sneak, I mean park at our house with their radios blaring, bottles clinking, skateboards clattering, and mouths yelling.

At first, Andy and I were good little citizens, calling the local police department and letting them know when kids were sneaking into the school after dark.

The officer on the local desk always assured me they would send someone to “check it out.”

They never did.

Not even when I reported kids LIGHTING A GODDAMNED CAMPFIRE on the roof. Yes, a fire. In Southern California, tinderbox central, where building codes don’t even allow wood fireplaces anymore.

Maybe the police thought I was joking. Luckily, the teens weren’t Boy Scouts and their fire petered out. I had my hose ready, though, just in case.

The one time the police did show up, someone else must’ve called. I don’t know what the caller said, but the police pulled their guns on a bunch of tweens armed with nothing more than streamers (the middle schoolers were decorating for spirit week). The kids were traumatized. Their white parents went ballistic. The police were unrepentant. My LAPD neighbor said the kids were lucky they hadn’t sent in a K9 unit.

After that, I quit calling the police. No kid should get shot for skateboarding, let alone streamers.

Every summer, we ignored loud teens and even louder illegal fireworks.

Fences everywhere. Also dust everywhere.

When the school was renovated, however, the construction company locked up everything, including the fields. My dogs and I were sad.

So were the neighborhood teens when confronted with padlocked fences, although some of the younger, more athletic kids still made it into the school.

The drunk alumni?

Not so much.

Instead, they sat on the curb, or in their cars next to my house. Sometimes I’d yell at them to turn down the music.

Sometimes they complied and slunk away.

Sometimes they yelled back, then peeled out as soon as they saw a light go on and watched me pick up the phone and loudly say, “I’d like to report a disturbance—”

Perhaps they remembered the trigger-happy police and the spirit week streamers.

One hot summer night, I woke up when I heard a bunch of 18-20 somethings realize they couldn’t get into the school.

“Dude!” one moaned. “I really gotta pee.”

“There’s some trees over there,” said another.

I was out of bed in seconds, peering out the window. He was talking about MY trees.

“The trees are right under the streetlight,” argued the apparently modest Pee-pee Boy. He staggered up my lawn instead, heading for the flowerbeds while fumbling with his zipper.

“Oh, hell, no!” I hissed. “Fey, Woofie, come!” Fey was an obedient German Shepherd mix who lived to protect her turf.  She wouldn’t bite a human, but she had no problem chasing skateboarders and would-be burglars off her property. Woofie was a giant, blackish Labrador mix — utterly harmless, but scary looking.

I yelled, “I’m releasing the hounds. You’d better run!”

Either they didn’t believe me or alcohol had hampered their reaction time. Nobody moved.

So I opened the door. Fey charged, scattered the guys on my front steps with a snarl. Woofie made a beeline for Mr. Pee-pee Boy, who was about to urinate on the side of my house.

Alas for him.

Woofie had a special greeting for all men. He made a beeline for their crotch. Unless blocked, Woofie would shove his giant head right into the male’s scrotum. Then he’d flip his head back. I once watched him do this to an unwary college kid at the dog park. The guy nearly folded in half. But as soon as he caught his breath, he called Woofie over to meet a guy friend and then laughed his head off when Woofie rammed his buddy in the balls. (Guys are weird like that.)

Mr. Pee-pee Boy’s open fly looked like an open invitation to Woofie. Woofie undoubtedly thought, “Yes! Finally someone gets me!!” as he raced to say hello. He never even tapped his brakes.

Pee-pee Boy yelled, doubled over, fell over, and rolled down the hill. Woofie followed, prancing excitedly with – and possibly over – his new friend.

I collared Woofie, giving Mr. Pee-pee Boy (and his dangling member) a chance to scramble to his feet and escape. Hunched over, he staggered after his fleeing friends. “Wait! Wait! I think I peed myself!”

He peed more than himself. Woofie had to have a midnight bath, and since my husband was still snoring, I had to do the honors.

But that’s all right.

Woofie and I both thought it was totally worth it.

Not By Any Other Name (#227)

When I married my Chinese-American husband, we planned on hyphenating our names. Andy’s parents objected.

A multi-month battle ensued. In the end, Andy kept his name. I kept mine.

This means I lost. I don’t lose gracefully.

I lose grudgefully. I swore that if we ever had a kid, said kid would definitely be an Ashbough-Wong. Continue reading Not By Any Other Name (#227)

Red Flags (#226)

You know what I was excited about when Andy and I bought our house?

Putting up a flag pole. I couldn’t wait to fly seasonal house flags.

I envisioned a flag with flowers for summer, an autumn flag with falling leaves, a black cat for Halloween, and Christmas flag with a polar bear. Of course I would fly the Stars & Stripes for Independence Day. Continue reading Red Flags (#226)

Still We Reap (#225)

In my AP history class in Northern Virginia, we held an annual debate about the Civil War.

I know, right? What’s there to argue about? Slavery bad. Confederacy wrong. I thought captaining the team for the North would be a slam dunk.

I forgot I was in Virginia, Confederate flag central. Continue reading Still We Reap (#225)

Very Telling (#224)

No sooner had my husband and I returned from our honeymoon than my Chinese-American father-in-law called, demanding to know where his grandson was.

He called every week. In vain did I explain family planning and birth control to my husband’s parents.

After three years, Jay finally quit calling. Continue reading Very Telling (#224)

Try As You Might (#223)

I lost my mom when I was a teen. It was awful. It was untimely, a tragedy, etc.  She left six kids with a) a mentally unstable father/ stepfather and b) a ton of unresolved issues.

And yet.

I understood that it was better than the reverse. A mother should never outlive her children. Continue reading Try As You Might (#223)

Post-Memorial Day Post (#222)

Both sides of my family served in the military. My mother’s family went in the Army, all the way back to the Civil War (yes, fighting on the wrong side). Dad’s family went for the Navy, which was pretty funny considering they were from a landlocked state. Dad did one tour on ships, realized pilots had a better deal than anyone else, and wound up flying helicopters. Continue reading Post-Memorial Day Post (#222)

Lost & Found: Mom Edition (#221)

Every mother has secrets. Some are dark — a deeply buried history of domestic violence or mental illness. But some are light — generations of wisdom on everything from gardening to cooking.

My mother died before I was fifteen. As a “liberated woman,” she turned her back on domestic wisdom. She had no helpful hints to give me regarding makeup, stain removal, cleaning, sewing, or baking. She was, in fact, terrible at all those things. She had a hell of a green thumb with houseplants. Our neighbors exclaimed over all the hanging baskets of greenery in our D.C. dining room. At the time, I shoved errant leaves out of my hair and glowered. Now I wish I’d asked how she did it. Continue reading Lost & Found: Mom Edition (#221)

Of Cursed Birthdays (#220)

When I was a kid, birthdays were a big deal.

As an adult? Well, after your 25th birthday, when your car insurance bill drops, there’s not a lot to look forward to. Besides, no birthday could ever live up to my 10th, when I got a kitten and pierced ears.

My husband tried, though. Andy made me a cake the first year we were together. It was beautiful: nicely frosted, with my name written across it, even. Andy is a fantastic cook. I know it. He knows it. Everyone knows it, probably because I brag about it all the time. I expected the cake to be delicious.

I took a bite. The cake was moist. It was sweet.

Other than that, it had absolutely no flavor. Continue reading Of Cursed Birthdays (#220)

West Versus East: The Birthday Edition (#219)

In my childhood house of a thousand siblings, there was only one day more exciting than Christmas.

My birthday.

On my birthday, I got to sit at the head of the breakfast table and preside over a plate of powdered doughnuts with candles. Powdered doughnuts might not seem very exciting compared to the Krispy Kremes and Voodoo doughnut delicacies of today, but back then they were a huge treat. Especially to a kid in a big family on a budget. Continue reading West Versus East: The Birthday Edition (#219)