Ashwood Cove apartment complex is as population-dense as a medieval city, a fact attested to by the amount of dog turds found on the grassy areas. The variety of dogs living at Ashwood Cove is as great as the varieties of people, and likely greater in number. It’s been said that it takes all kinds to make a world, and I have likely met them in my time as a resident at Ashwood Cove. You might not think this was the beginning of a story about how me and my family almost got blown up by a trash compactor, but it is.
The morning started out the way Wednesday mornings usually start for us, and that was the only thing usual about Wednesday for the next five hours. A loud pounding on our door heralded a man with a wild look in his eye who told us we had to leave our apartment immediately because of a bomb. I not-quite-slammed the door in his face. After a check for any police cars out front, my assessment of his probable sanity increased dramatically.
I picked the baby up from her crib still swaddled; my husband put pants and shoes on our toddler. Somehow I neglected to pick up the diaper bag. My husband, still in pajamas, never put on shoes. We all had on coats except the baby. And out the door we went, leaving it unlocked, just a minute or two later.
At first, I as team leader had us skulking around the back of the property on our side of the complex, wandering this way and that, shying away from any glimpse of yellow police tape, my reasoning being was that if I could see it, then flying debris could come at us from that direction.
At one point a woman came out on her patio as we were dithering around between buildings. We passed the time; I told her why we were out there. She said “Aaah.” I had the crazy desire to ask her if we could come inside and sit on her couch. I didn’t. She went back inside.
However, as the minutes wore on to an hour, the necessity of getting indoors increased so that our toddler, wearing regular panties, could use the potty. I was intensely grateful to have opted to breastfeed when the baby was born. For her, this was an odd morning, but not unduly so. For our toddler, it was slightly odder—we eventually found our way to the leasing office and its potty, and free chocolate chip cookies abounded. She never got a nap, but she got to mess with tasteful decorations, try to sneak sips of our equally free and abundant coffee, and run around with logoed koozies on her hands like mittens. Sure, peeing in your pants and having your mom turn one of your sister’s blankets into impromptu harem pants held together with office supplies (the other was being used as a backup cloth diaper) was weird, but what isn’t weird when you’re two years old?
For my husband and myself, of course . . .
Later in the day, before or after the bomb squad helicopter had left with its backpack full of mortars (I can’t remember), we went over a game plan for being more prepared. “No more lounging in our pajamas until well after breakfast, no matter what day of the week it is!” we swore. “Keep the diaper bag fully packed and in the car at all times!” As if our preparations could retroactively help us out, so that my husband wouldn’t spend half a day feeling naked in a public place, so I wouldn’t spend half a day trying to reverse-engineer pants and diapers or sitting on tasteful decorations pondering “send” or “discard draft” on an email asking for help from new church friends that might make us sound crazy. I chose “discard draft.” I wanted to wait until we “really needed it,” and the apartment office staff were very kind. We even ended up with diapers from one woman’s personal stash at home, delivered by her husband.
We only met one other family that had been displaced (either because all the rest of our neighbors were already out, or possibly had had the presence of mind to grab a set of car keys). They had kids almost the same ages as ours (presumably being watched by others at the moment)! They had just moved in yesterday—how crazy was that?! And then, amidst the din of the contemporary pop cable music channel and a cranky baby in my arms, the other dad says, “Something something he was lucky he didn’t have a gun to his head!” What? Something something gun something. I smiled a “We’re all in this together!” kind of smile and didn’t ask further questions. If I may presume, what I think he was saying was, “My family’s safety is a top priority, and I will take positive steps to defend it!” But who knows? I had a cranky baby in my arms, Taylor Swift was likely singing a song about how everything’s changed and, besides all of that, I’m not him.
A few minutes later, we were given the “all clear” to go back home. We went home. My husband got dressed. I picked up a pizza at the grocery store. We ate dinner. I sat on my husband’s lap and shivered. We went to bed. Later on, during the night, I decided that the true hero of the day was the maintenance worker who picked up the backpack with the mortars in it, largely out of a sense of curiosity, from beside the trash compactor and moved it to the maintenance shed and thus, coincidentally, away from the trash compactor and playground. I don’t know the exact effect a trash compactor would have had on a backpack with a live mortar in it (and after the episode was over it was revealed there were no live mortars involved at all), but my imagination is vivid, and for a few hours it was filled with images of airborne shards of metal. Suddenly, the surplus of dog turds didn’t seem so bothersome.