Let me tell you about a time it started to dawn on me that I was a stick-in-the-mud. I came out to my car late one night and saw a woman I know toilet papering our neighbors’ house with her kids. I didn’t break up their party or anything but I drove away thinking disapprovingly, “Oh, she’s one of those fun moms.” As I thought about it later I realized that was pretty hypocritical of me. It’s not like I’ve never gone toilet papering, and I even remember a time when my dad, worried about me wandering the dangerous streets of Willow Creek at night, drove my friends and me to our intended T.P. target. So why was I so judgy about this mom doing the same?
Maybe it’s because I know the feeling of stepping out in a hurry to go somewhere only to find a big mess of toilet paper high up in the branches, or eggs on my car, or plums thrown at the side of our house. And because I know that feeling, I’d hate to make anyone go through the same thing. Maybe it’s because I don’t want to set a bad example for my children. Maybe it’s because I balk at the idea of doing things that aren’t age-appropriate. Or maybe it’s just because I am a wet blanket.
So here’s a funny story: A year or so ago we came out of our house on a Sunday morning to find our yard had been toilet papered – nothing unusual when you have teenage boys who have teenage friends. We didn’t think too much of it, just cleaned up what we could quickly so we could get to church, no big deal. A few weeks later, one of our friends came forward to confess because he felt guilty. He thought we were offended by the deed since we hadn’t said anything to anyone about how funny it was.
Our friend (we’ll call him Jack Burton) explained that some neighborhood boys (we’ll call them the Little Rascals) tried to T.P. his house but he caught them and brought them to our house instead. It’s actually pretty funny. It also explains why the boys looked so shifty-eyed and suspicious at church the day of the incident. When I lead the children’s singing time I like to make eye contact with the kids. On that Sunday, any time I locked eyes with one of the Little Rascals, he’d say “What? Why are you looking at me?” That should have tipped me off, but kids are always weird so I’ve learned not to read too much into things.
After I heard what happened, of course I took every possible opportunity to threaten the Little Rascals with feigned fist-shaking, “I’m watching you” gestures, and promises of retribution “one of these days…”
Of course, I had no intention of following through because it seemed like a whole lot of effort. Empty threats are just as much fun as actual retaliation and much more in character for me because I am a fuddy-duddy. But this Friday was the last day of school, a day filled with possibility and a feeling of freedom and reckless abandon, and how better to celebrate than by stepping outside of my boring self and trying Fun Mom on for size?
The only problem was that my kids weren’t very cooperative. One boy didn’t want to get out of bed and another thinks toilet papering is lame, so that left just me and my fourteen year old. This was too important a mission to leave to chance. I decided we needed reinforcements so we grabbed some friends to join us, each bringing her own set of unique skills to the table. One friend is tall so I knew she’d help us out with the higher branches. My other friend has a black belt so I was counting on her ninja skills coming in handy (this was her first time ever toilet papering), and her daughter volunteered to be in charge of the bushes since they were just her height.
We decided to start at the Little Rascals’ house first and if we didn’t get caught there, we’d try Jack’s house. All the lights were out and no one appeared to be stirring in the Rascal house so we went right to work. It took us a while to really get the technique down and it seemed like we were making a lot of noise stepping on the rocks in their yard, but no one seemed to notice. It felt like we were there forever and that we left the yard looking like this:
But it was probably more like this:
We ran back to our car that was parked further up the street but then realized we’d left two friends behind. When they noticed we were gone, they came running towards us and we watched as my next door neighbor tripped on a bump in the sidewalk and fell straight forward. At first I thought she was just showing off her ninja skills but soon realized that she really had fallen. We all freaked out a little bit, but she said she had managed to avoid smacking her face on the ground and she seemed in good spirits, so we moved on to the Burton house.
We had driven past Jack’s on our way to the Rascals’ and everything was dark, so we figured it would be safe. When we returned to do the deed, however, the kitchen light was on, the blinds were open and Jack was standing in the kitchen right in front of a large window. At first we wondered if we should just give up, but then we remembered that we didn’t really care if we got caught so we decided to go ahead as planned. We thought it would be especially sweet if we could get away with it right under Jack’s nose.
My son and I did some sneaky army crawls past the window as my neighbor and her daughter got the front bushes and our tall friend got to work on the branches, all while Jack stood in front of the window looking at his phone. At one point my neighbor started decorating the front porch and accidentally bumped something, making a noise that sounded pretty loud to me, but Jack didn’t seem to notice. We even walked right past the window to get back to our car and he still didn’t notice. We felt triumphant! We actually pulled it off without getting caught!
The next day, my neighbor’s neck and back were in a lot of pain from her fall so then I felt really guilty and kept thinking stick-in-the-mud thoughts like, “See? This is why pranks are never a good idea!” and “How could I have been so reckless?” But she claims she’s feeling better now and that it was totally worth it. I’m still struggling with some feelings of guilt – not just because of her injury, but also wondering if having to clean up the mess ruined someone’s plans for the day or made someone late or made someone sad. But then I remind myself that they totally had it coming.
I was sure that once the Burtons and Rascals compared notes they’d immediately identify the responsible party, but so far I’ve heard nothing. I’m just going to assume that that means we pulled off the perfect crime and that only by reading this will they realize that I, wet blanket, fuddy-duddy, humdrum stick-in-the-mud that I am, finally exacted my revenge. And then I’m going to really, really hope that they don’t retaliate and turn this into a thing because, as fun as it was, I really don’t have it in me to do it again. Can we call a truce?