The brilliant magenta of the crabapple tree in my front yard reminds me of the day I brought my daughter home, nineteen years ago on Tuesday. She was so small and helpless then, and today I like to think she and her sixteen-year-old brother are self-sufficient teenagers.
That is, until they locked themselves out of the house last Thursday.
You see, my son thought it would be a great idea to shoot off the remaining rounds of his little plastic cap gun so he could use it for a prop during a school play.
My daughter volunteered to do the deed outside on the deck, but suggested that her brother put the dog inside first.
Some of you know all about Chester the dog's neurotic aversion to loud popping noises – fireworks, firecrackers, bubble wrap and snapping gum. Popguns are definitely on our dog's no-no list.
After my son tucked the dog safely in the house, he firmly pushed the door shut, forgetting that the lock was engaged.
My poor children were stuck outside – in their bare feet, no less – and I wasn't due home for at least two hours. My husband was scheduled to get home in about an hour.
Since I was closest, they immediately tiptoed to our neighbour's house to phone me. The first words out of my son's mouth were, "We did a stupid thing."
My immediate thoughts were that they burned a pot of Kraft Dinner, or worse burned the house down, but I dismissed such fears. After all, he seemed bashful rather than hysterical.
When he told me they'd locked themselves out of the house, I said, "If you think I'm driving home right this minute to let you in, you've got another think coming. I have a deadline and can't leave in the middle of things. Besides, your father will be home in less than an hour."
He whined a bit, but didn't seem too distressed. After all, it wasn't winter (they'd forgotten their key one day, and spent a half hour on the back porch in their snowsuits) so I figured they'd survive an hour or so until their father got home. I heard my daughter chuckling in the background, so all seemed okay. Apparently, my neighbour offered to drive them to my office to get a key, but they declined with thanks.
My daughter told me what happened after I hung up.
Since a rescue was not immediately at hand, they decided they had to amuse themselves for an hour on our back porch. It's an enclosed porch with a screen door and windows all around. It's a nice haven when tidy, but now it's full of more crap than I care to admit.
They sat on the sofa and pondered what to do. If I had my druthers, they could have grabbed a couple of rakes and done a little work on the back yard, but since they were barefoot I'll give them a break. My daughter admits they thought of doing some tidying – briefly – then sanity prevailed. They're teenagers, after all.
They decided to play a game of I Spy. That got boring after a while, so they played a survival game. If they had to survive for months, using only the items they found on the porch, how long would they last?
"We could eat squirrels," Andrew suggested (apologies to Buffy Squirrel, but that's what he said). They could have picked the raccoons and skunks that regularly invade our garbage, but squirrels are tantalizingly close and available at all times. Sometimes they come pre-fried when they climb the power lines and accidentally touch the transformer, knocking out power for three hours at a stretch. (Don't send letters of complaint. I like squirrels, really.)
"How would we hunt them?" asked Beth.
"Use the saw." Andrew pointed at several saws stuck in the joists near the ceiling.
"How will we cook it?"
Andrew suggested the candles, then the Sandwich Snackster, but Beth pointed out there was a perfectly good barbecue just outside the screen door. They didn't know it was out of propane.
I don't know how long this went on, but when my husband got home, he called out and heard an urgent knock on the back door. He saw two heads pop up in the kitchen door window and he laughed until he cried. He was still chuckling when I got home an hour later.