When my kids were 14, 11 and 6, we moved into a house that bordered the school district’s property. The middle school sat to the right of our backyard, and the high school sat to the left. Only a chain-length fence and a hedge of photinia separated its property from ours.
I called the school district to see if we could install a gate in the cyclone fence. The answer was a hard no. It seemed crazy for my oldest to walk all the way down the block to go to a school that was in the other direction.
I had the idea of building up the sloping corner of our lawn with a retaining wall, making our property tall enough for the kids to climb over the fence and down a ladder to the schools.
The gardeners built a wooden wall fortified with rebar up against the chain-length fence with about a foot of space in-between. Then we hooked a ladder to the other side of the fence and the kids could go out the back gate, swing their legs over the fence, climb down and head to school.
Before that would work, I had to cut a path through the piles of yard clippings and tree clippings that had been dumped there. That was a piece of cake compared to the pyracantha bushes, the nastiest of all California native plants, that were in the way.
Being a glutton for punishment, I went out there with my clippers and started cutting. The thorny branches pierced through my jeans and shirt sleeves, scratching my arms and legs.
I went back into the house, put on a denim shirt and tried again. Bagging up the sharp clippings was a nightmare, so instead, I dragged the green can to the back gate and filled it that way. The remainder had to wait for room in next week’s can. And the week after that. and the week after that.
The trash pile behind the fence was extensive. There were broken plastic lawn chairs, an old volleyball net that a deer got tangled up in one day, and other broken things, a soccer net, some dead basketballs, etc.
I cleaned it all up so that my kids wouldn’t feel bad taking the short-cut to school. One day, while coming home, my oldest happened upon two teen boys sitting at the top of the ladder, smoking weed. They were kind enough to let her go by, but she didn’t like it one bit and told me so when she came inside.
The house turned into an after-school spot for kids, which was great. I fed them all. The boys ran upstairs to play video games and to go to the bathroom. Nobody went to the bathroom at school. It was too gross.
I lived in that house for eleven years, long enough to get two out of high school and one more ¾ of the way.
My ex hated it, the noise and the random kids in his house. It was a great house, except it was way too big. We never should have converted the apartment over the garage to be part of the house. We had two family rooms, two kitchens, two refrigerators, and no reason to all be together anymore. It split us up.
And the damned pyracantha bushes. I will always remember those thorns with the scorn that they deserve.