Ding Dong Ditch
Updated: May 19, 2020
The six of us crept up to the door, we knocked and we sprinted, just to be stopped by a black SUV around the corner. A man stepped out of the car. He didn't have to speak for us to know what he wanted to say. He was bald with a stern face, and sharp chin line. He looked like a stereotypical military dad that you didn't want to mess with. We weren't sure who he was or what he wanted with us. He didn't live at the house because we knew the family that did, but he was in the driveway and clearly had a reason to be there. He pulled a gun from his car, not in a threatening way, but to let us know he had one. Either way, at thirteen years old seeing a gun isn't reassuring, and I didn't really care to find out what he was doing with it.
I moved to Village Oaks when I was five years old. In the first few years there were neighborhood kids that came and went, but by eight I created a solid group of friends. There was Cory, who I spent most of my time playing basketball with. We played up until senior year of high school, and still to this day I will randomly play at the park with him when I am back home. Then there is Evan, the guy who lived three houses up the street and is still my best friend. We are moving into a new apartment together next month. Then there is Nick, Matt, Mady, and an assortment of others who came through from close neighborhoods. Together, we created an unforgettable childhood.
Evan, Cory, and I flashing our Village Oaks signs at my high school graduation.
I look around now of days and see the amount of kids sitting in their rooms playing video games, phones glued to their faces, and not enjoying what they have outside. I tell myself it wasn't like that when I was young, but I don't think it was far off. I just got lucky, my group of friends were unique. We had imagination, adventure, and rebellion built into us. All things I am grateful for. Every week was a new game. We'd go from football to basketball, tennis to marco polo, hide and go seek tag to some random game we made up. I Picked up skills like how to make a state of the art skateboard ramp, how to sneak out of the boundaries my mom set for me, and how to eat junk food but somehow burn it all off in the next hour.
Of course the group had its tough times, but nothing that permanently broke us apart. One time specifically, we set up a sabotage for one of my friends older sisters. For privacy reasons, we will call her Lisa. Our plan was to throw soapy sponges at Lisa when she walked around the corner onto the driveway. After she was distracted we would wrap her up in duct tape, and then our plan stopped there. I'd say it was bullet proof. I can't recall all of the details, but I know that she ran home crying. Her phone also cracked into a lot of pieces. I wasn't able to hangout with that friend for a while, as ruled by his not so happy mom. I knew this wouldn't brake us up though. We were stronger than that.
One day we decided to go ding dong ditching. I'm sure everyone is familiar with what this is but just in case, it is when you ring someone's doorbell and then run away. Most people in our neighborhood knew who we were, but there were some random people who didn't. We started at the top, near Baylands drive, and worked our way down, near the start of Village Oaks Drive. Most houses just played along or tried running after us. We were use to it, because we've done this before. It was the way to get our adrenaline pumping. Honestly, If I was a parent and the worst my son was doing was ding dong ditching then I'de be pretty damn happy.
We walked up to a house, "beware of dog" written on the gate, and started to approach. There was an older woman in the front window who saw us and frantically waved us away. Was she seriously afraid of six thirteen year old boys? Maybe we were more frightening than we intended. The joy was lost because she saw us and we continued on. A few houses later the six of us crept up to the door, we knocked and we sprinted. Around the corner we were met by a man. I was scared. I knew what we were doing was harmless, but a part of me started asking myself if I could get in trouble for it. He pulled out a gun, and then next showed us his badge. He was an off duty police officer from a nearby city. He was on his way home. He was also the husband of the woman who fearfully waved us away from her house.
Evan and I at the Jungle.
Apparently there were a few sixteen year old murderers in the city he policed, and he had told his wife about this. We just went from ding dong ditchers to accused of being murderers. He told us to get in his car. My mom taught me better than that. It wasn't a police car, and I wasn't going anywhere. A few of my friends got in the car but I refused. I told him I would call my mom. As we were all making our phone calls I started pacing. "Hey! are you trying to run away?" I wanted to, but I wouldn't have gotten far. He seemed angry. Next, he looked my friend Matt dead in the eyes and asked, "have you been to Juvi? Because the way you are heading you are going to end up there." We were thirteen! Who was this man joking, he clearly had some problems that needed to be worked out.
My mom eventually came to pick me up and I told her all about what happened. I expected for the wrath of God to come down on me, but instead she was angry with the cop. Angry enough to call our local police department and complain about this police officer. Next thing I knew I was sitting in my house, with yet another man in uniform, explaining what I have just explained to you. We stopped ding dong ditching after this. Not really. We kept doing it. We just stayed away from his house.
When I think back to this situation, I think of memories. I think of friendship. I think of pointless activities, like ding dong ditching, that bring you no long term benefit besides having fun. It reminds me that not everything I do has to help me take a step forward. Sometimes it is fun to just explore where you are at, with no intention of growth or progression. To live in the moment and have fun. As simple as that sounds, it is sometimes the most difficult thing for us to do. I hope my stories and thoughts continue to encourage you to not forget about the childlike part that is always with you.