1.) This entry will be lengthy. I’m a wordy blogger already and this is a long story.
2.) This entry includes mention of an inappropriate magazine that I do not endorse, but was exposed to as a child. Unfortunately, these things did happen, so I decided to leave it in.
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I’ve shared with you already the dumbest thing I’ve ever done.
This runs a close 2nd.
I grew up in Fairfield, AL.
More specifically, I lived in the “Glen Oaks” community in Fairfield, AL.
I moved there before I turned 3 and lived there until I was 12. So my entire childhood is made up of memories from living on Park Avenue.
Yes, we lived at 824 Park Avenue. Sounds like a cool address, huh. Well, it was.
The neighborhood I grew up in was typical suburbs. Houses very close to each other, lots of kids riding bikes in the streets. I loved it.
One of the things that I loved most about it was that most of my good friends lived within bike riding distance. One of my best friends through the years was Tony Thomas. Tony lived in a cul de sac that was just across from our house. (Back in the day we just called it a circle. As in… “Mom, I’ll be riding my bike in the circle.” In the pic above, my house was the one with the black roof at the bottom left of the screen indicated by the “A”. Tony’s house is top right, at the end of Park Circle.
Most of the time Tony and I spent together when we were younger involved riding bikes, playing with G.I.Joe’s and transformers, and basically just playing in the yard. As we got older (11 yrs old) our discussions changed dramatically. Tony was a year older than me. Now, every guy I know had a friend when he was little that had “the gift”. At least we considered it a gift at the time. Tony had this gift. It was that he could find porn (this was way before the days of the internet). Even at 12 and 13 years old, Tony somehow knew how to get his hands on playboy magazines. And never from his Dad. They weren’t from his house. I once heard Joseph talk about a friend of his who had this “gift” as well. He could be walking through the woods, and as if he had “porn radar” he would look over and say “Hey look! There’s a playboy magazine in the ditch.” Once we discovered this publication our discussions moved rather quickly from which G.I. Joe’s we liked to which bunnies we liked. I could write multiple entries documenting the many goofy attempts these 11 year olds made to hide their shared magazine stash. I say all that to say, that Tony and I didn’t always make good decisions. We were young and dumb.
When I was 12, my family moved from Glen Oaks all the way out to Woodstock, AL. It seemed like such a long way. I was sad to leave my friends. But of course, my parents were understanding of our anxiety to leave and allowed us to spend the night with them from time to time still. This entry is about an adventure Tony and I had one of those times.
One of the things that I loved about hanging out with Tony was his room. His house had an unfinished basement. It didn’t have any windows, and was basically surrounded in cinderblock walls except for the areas where his parents had put up wood paneling. This room was cool because it ran the entire length and width of the house. So Tony’s room was as big as their entire house. He had a living room area, a bedroom area, and a play area. It was what we might think of as a loft apartment now. Just one big room with no walls to separate the different areas. Having a room that big, with no windows led to hours upon hours of playing hide and go seek in the dark and laser tag (a very cool game from my childhood.)
So there we were (a great beginning to any story) playing in Tony’s room as usual. Since we had already moved, it had been a couple months since I’d seen Tony, so he had changed his room up a little. One of the coolest things he changed was the lighting. He realized that colored bulbs would be so much cooler than white bulbs, so he asked his mom if she would buy him colored bulbs. Of course, she said no. So that left him to figure out his own lighting tricks. It didn’t take him long to discover that if you color a white bulb with a magic marker it will work just as well, so he began to do that. He colored most of the bulbs in his room. I say most, because his parents caught him in the middle of this project and promptly put a stop to his artwork.
So we stood there talking about how much better his room looked now, and how much girls would like it when they came over. (No girls ever came over, but we had a plan that we should be prepared in case they did. Remember, we were 12.) The only way it could look better would be if all the bulbs were colored. But sadly, his parents put a stop to the coloring, so we needed to figure out a way to get more bulbs, so that we could color them and he could swap them as necessary with the white ones so his parents wouldn’t be mad. Hmmm, where could 2 12 yr old’s with no money get light bulbs?
Eureka! I had an idea. When we moved, we moved into a new house that we had built. As part of the payment for the house, the builder took ownership of our old house and was going to fix it up and re-sell it. But it had only been a few months, so he hadn’t touched it yet. And guess what! When we moved we forgot to take our light bulbs. So surely some Stinson needed to go get our bulbs, right? This thought process was mistake #1.
We had it all planned out. I knew where the hidden key was. We’d get the key, go in to get the bulbs that were rightfully mine, and head back to Tony’s to continue making his room a perfect place for impressing girls. The closer we got to the house, the more we started to talk about old times and memories of growing up together. There were a lot of memories in that yard, in that house. One of those memories involved my bedroom window. My window was right beside the back porch, so it didn’t take me long as a child to figure out that I could climb in and out of my window very easily to get into the back yard. So that became a regular route for me to get from my room to the back yard. In room, out window, onto porch rail, onto porch, into yard. And vice versa. As we approached the house and headed to where the hidden key was, I said “Hey, I’ve got a great idea (This was mistake #2) let’s go through the window one more time for old times sake.” And what do you know it was sunlocked. So in we climbed. Imagine now, if you will, the image of two 12 yr olds climbing into an empty house through a rear window. I’m sure it was quite a sight.
So we’re in the house now, and getting all the bulbs we can carry. I do recall stopping for a minute and looking at the door frame where we marked me and my sisters heights as we grew through the years. We spent a little time looking around the empty house where I grew up (We’d only been out of it for 2 months. I’m not sure what I expected to find.) And then decided it was time to go. So we headed out the back door (Mistake #3). Not the front door like a normal person might do, but the back door. I’m not sure why. This is where the memory gets a little fuzzy. I remember us laughing as we headed through the back yard and toward the gate. We paused to open the gate and ‘CRASH’ tony dropped some bulbs (Mistake #4). Ugh.. Should we go back for another? Nah, we decided to head on back and come get more if we needed them. Then time froze. Seriously. We walked through the gate, turned to close it back then turned back toward the front yard and that’s when we heard him “FREEZE! DON’T MOVE!”. We glanced up and that’s when we, two 12 year old from Glen Oaks, Alabama, carrying light bubs, were staring at two police officers, their guns were drawn and pointed at us. I can remember thinking how big the barrel looked from that angle. I don’t think I’d ever looked directly into a real gun barrel before. They asked us what we were doing.
I’m pretty sure my answer went something like this… “Weeeee (shaky voice)…… uuuuhhhhh… were geeeetttttinnnng…(voice getting shakier, lips beginning to quiver)….. some light buuulllbss… f-f-f-from ….m-m—myyyy …hh-h-house. (stuttering wildly, Trying to hold back tears.)
“We’ll see about that. Come with us” He said.
As we rounded the corner into the front yard, I was amazed. I’d never seen so much blue and white before. There were 4 police cars with lights on in the street. There were 6 additional police officers in the front yard. They had their hands on their holsters as we rounded the corner, but once they saw us, it was as if they immediately thought we were not a threat and quickly headed back toward their cars to go back to whatever they were doing before they got the call. That is, all of them left except for the two that had already spoken to us. They sat us down on the porch and began to grill us . I can remember having to tell them over and over that “this is my house, or well.. it use to be my house. I even know where the hidden key is.” That was not enough proof for them. I took them in and showed them where everyone’s room was and showed them the height chart in the door frame. They began to believe me, but at this point I was so frazzled I couldn’t contain it any longer, I began to wail. Crying, boohooing, sniffling, snotty crying. I just couldn’t help it. I was afraid I was going to jail for stealing my light bulbs. Apparently my tears didn’t prove my point either. So one of the officers said to me “Do you know your neighbors?”
Me: “Well, yeah, I know all of them except for the people that live behind us.”
Officer: “That must be why she didn’t recognize you when she saw you climbing through your window”
Me: Internally (Ugh, that’s how we were caught?)
Remember now that visual of the 12 year olds climbing in the window. My neighbor saw that and called it in. Looking back on it now, I probably would have too.
Officer: “Do you know this neighbor”(pointing to the house to our right).”
Me: “Of Course, that Mr. Turner. He’s known me my whole life.”
So off we went to Mr. Turner’s house.
I should probably pause to tell you about Mr. Turner. You know that guy that every neighborhood has. “Stop shooting fireworks!” “You kids get off my lawn!” “Why do ya’ll have to make so much noise?” That was Mr. Turner. He was the meanest man I’d ever met. I can vividly remember the day (when I was 7) that I was riding my bike down the hill beside my house and decided to “bail out” like I’d seen “Bo Duke” do in an episode of the Dukes of Hazard on TV the night before. So I’m moving along at a good clip, I jump off my bike and watch it expecting it to roll a few more feet then fall over. Guess what? It didn’t. It went a long way. It went all the way across our yard, down the hill, and WHAM! Right into the side of Mr. Turner’s house. I ran and hid as fast as I could. I realize now it might have been a good idea to get my bike first, then run away. But I wasn’t that smart. There were conversations between my parents and him and I had to apologize to him that evening. No damage was done to the house, it just made a lot of noise. But it definitely shaped my opinions of Mr. & Mrs. Turner. I don’t recall any kind words between us after that.
So, back to the original story. Here was Tony and I walking with two policemen from my yard to Mr. Turners. I remember expecting him to peek out the door and say “you cops get off my lawn. “ But he didn’t . Instead we rang the door bell. And he answered and said “May I help you officers.” I was so glad he was nice to the officers. It was now just going to be a few more minutes and this whole ordeal would be over. He would confirm that the house next door had been my house and we’d be let go. As they filled him in on the situation I was so relieved. Then they asked him the final and important question… “Do you know this young man?”
His answer… “No officer, I don’t.”
"What the...? Are you kidding me?" That’s what I was thinking. What I actually said between sobbing crying was “Mr. Turner, it’s me Shawn. I lived next door for 10 years until we moved a couple months ago.” He still looked at me puzzled. At this point I knew that he was either really the meanest man ever to walk God’s green earth or he was senile. Either way, I was getting no support from him. Then an Angel of God spoke. Mrs. Turner peeked over his shoulder from inside the house and said “well yes, of course we know him. We watched him grow up living next door to us.” Hallelujah. My identity had been confirmed.
So, this problem was over. Right? Well, not exactly. The police made us put back all the light bulbs. We had to call my parents at work and let them speak to the officer. Then of course I got in a ton of trouble that night at home. I don’t recall exactly what all my punishment entailed, but I do remember that it involved buying new light bulbs with my own money to replace the ones that got broke. I then had to take them to Mr. Wright, the actual current owner of the house and tell him the whole story. I’m pretty sure I cried again when I told him the story. (I cried a lot as a child. It was my response to being embarrassed. But this was the last time I remember crying like that.)
I felt like such an idiot that day. And my feeling was right. I was an idiot. That was, without a doubt, one of the dumbest things I’ve ever done.
Can you top this story?