Last month, the prompt for our writing group at the Palo Alto church was this: Write about a time when you got into trouble as a child….
The old Hodgman farm was sold, and the road for the new development went in during the summer of 1965. A year or two after that, they started building a a house or two down the new road. The kids in the neighborhood would ride our bikes by where this one house was being built. We knew that when the carpenters were working on the house, we would not be allowed to set foot on the lot. But in the evening, or on the weekend, we might walk a little ways up the driveway to see what progress had been made on the building.
One day, a bunch of us were looking at the house. I know my sister Jean was there, and a couple of other kids her age, perhaps eight or nine years old. There were also a few younger kids closer to my age, perhaps six or seven. I can’t remember who the other children were, but at least a couple of them were members of the extended Hodgman family.
We looked at the house. The walls and rafters were framed up, most of the plywood sheathing had been nailed on, but there were no windows or doors, no siding or roofing. You could see that the stairs to the second floor consisted of nothing more than stringers with some boards nailed on for rough stair treads. It looked very interesting, and very inviting.
I’m pretty sure it was the older kids who decided to go inside the new house. The older kids pretty much always decided what we were going to do. Of course we all knew that we shouldn’t go into the house. We knew that if any of the carpenters were on the job, they would have told us to keep out. And I’m pretty sure there was a sign telling people to keep out. But we ignored all that. We wanted to go in and explore, so that’s what we did.
They hadn’t finished backfilling around the foundation yet, so you had to walk across a board to get across the trench around the foundation and in through the front door. We had gone into the house at least once before, probably before the second floor had gone up. I had been scared to walk across that board, even though the older kids all went across. One of the other younger kids and I stood in front of the house, watching the older or braver kids playing inside, until at last we screwed up our courage and walked across that board, too. I was still a little afraid of crossing that board, but at last I did.
We were all inside the house, running around, trying to figure out what the different rooms were going to be. It was lots of fun. We went up the rough steps to the second floor, and we were playing around up there when the police car drove up the driveway.
We knew we had to get out of there, or we were going to get in big trouble. We all ran down the steps, and most of us started to run out into the woods behind the new house. We knew our way around the woods pretty well, and we knew we could circle around and and get home without the police seeing us.
But two of the older kids, including my older sister, decided they would not run. We heard them saying that they were going to stay and not run away from the police. The rest of us just ran pell-mell as fast as we could out the back of the house and into the woods. Once we were hidden in the woods, each of us ran separately to his or her house.
I was already home when the police arrived with my sister. I remember looking up at the big tall policeman in his dark blue uniform talking to my mother and father about how no one should go into that new house. I don’t remember much beyond that. I remember we got into trouble, and I’m pretty sure we were grounded, probably for a week. The funny thing is that I don’t remember being mad at my sister and the other older kid for turning themselves in to the police.