Thursday, December 3, 2009


There are some awfully confusing signs during the teenaged years of the common American. Are you getting the sign to give a kiss at the end of the date, or are you getting the brush off? Do your friends like you because you are strong, or funny, or because you have the keys to your dad’s liquor cabinet?

In my house we debate whether having your house toilet papered is a sign of respect or the very opposite of respect. Otherwise known as disrespect. When I was a kid it was a sign of popularity. No one would spend the time and money festooning someone else’s front yard with strands of toilet tissue unless they liked the victim.

Kristin recalls that it was more of an insult, as in “normally I’d use this to wipe my backside, but tonight I’d rather scatter it willy-nilly amongst your foliage.” Though I doubt such hooligans actually used the word “foliage.” And since Kristin hearkens from very near the hill country of North Carolina, the youth there could be forgiven their ignorance of whether respect is good or the opposite of respect is good. They were probably too busy hunting for ingredients for that evening’s road-kill chili to attend school.

Our house was egged a year ago (yes, I am pretty sure an egg bombardment is not meant as a compliment) but we had thus far been able to escape the toilet papering. Until this summer.

I was going to bed one evening when one daughter or the other received an alarming call on her cellular telephone. A friend of hers had noted something odd going on around our property as he drove by, so he called to report it. (Why didn’t he just stop and intercede? I dunno. I asked the same question, and got no answer.)

There is, of course, no logical reason that he should be driving right there, right then, but such is the logic of teenagers. It was all just a big cowinky-dink, they both said, and they swear so to this very day.

I was much more interested in going to bed, but I decided to check the perimeter of the house, just to make sure we were all safe and sound. The friend had no details other than “shadowy figures.” The dog hadn’t gone crazy, as she does when she smells or hears or psychically intuits ne’er-do-wells on the premises, so I expected to find nothing before heading quickly to my slumber.

On the front porch I immediately identified strands of flowing white tissue draped across the yard and could tell that we had been papered. No worries, I thought, it’s a compliment. It only happens to popular people. I thought about which one of my friends might have done it.

Then I realized I wasn’t seventeen anymore. It had nothing to do with me. Someone who knows one or more of my children had pilfered the rolls from their own house and proceeded to decorate mine. In honor of one of the three youngest Baxters. For a moment I was proud.

Then I went to clean it up, and I saw what a terrible job they had done. It was really embarrassing, how poor their efforts were.

It’s true that we didn’t really give much for the offending morons to work with. The front tree was replaced a few years ago with a lovely maple Autumn Blaze that still doesn’t stand tall enough to serve such a thrashing. The only other front yard tree, at the end of the driveway, was chainsawed to a height of three feet just last year.

That doesn’t leave much, does it? The large oleander took the brunt of the damage, but it was cleaned up in about thirty seconds. Some was scattered over small bushes but it was really a pathetic effort. There were two benches they could have covered, and the basketball hoop was completely ignored. Bad, really bad, boys and girls. Next time, try a little harder, eh?

When the neighbors woke the next morning there was really nothing different about the Baxter property. The yard was still yellow and weedy like it had been one day earlier. I missed one two-foot strip at the top of the oleander but that was gone as soon as I saw it in the light of day.

As the so-called victim of this crime, let me simply say that it was much easier to clean up than the egging of twelve months or so ago. Thank you, boys and girls, for using a paper product rather than a protein-based food. I really appreciate it. But it doesn’t make up for the poor quality of your work.

In the final analysis, because I was outside shortly after the aerial assault ended, I gained four rolls of only partially used toilet paper that the youthful hooligans were nice enough to leave on my front lawn. They couldn’t even be bothered to use up their supplies. No one else in the house had any interest in using the free toilet paper, but I don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Seriously, the unrolled parts weren’t wet at all! Or dirty!

Everything worked out in the end, except I wonder if the lackadaisical manner in which the hoodlums approached this “job” is indicative of their future performance for the employer foolish enough to hire them.

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