There is either a shortage of entertainment, or a surplus of toilet paper. A lot of strange behaviors become fashionable each year around Halloween, and hanging streamers of bathroom tissue in treetops must be one of the more contagious, and addictive. First, you see a glimpse of it happening somewhere, then again, and again, and then all over the place. It starts slowly before Halloween, but by trick-or-treat time, it is a full blown epidemic. Then it tapers off a bit, but doesn’t stop altogether until right before Thanksgiving.
At one time I thought the demise of the sport was due to the oncoming of colder weather. But now I think it has more to do with a shift in attitudes related to the eruption of songs about being watched constantly by Santa Claus. I don’t know how many perpetrators actually believe in Santa, but I’m sure they are aware that to get caught misbehaving has a higher penalty in the weeks right before Christmas than they do at other times of the year. It’s simply an economic strategy.
Halloween is not the same kind of fun that it was when I was a boy. As children, we knew the tradition was based on ancient superstitions, and that what we were doing was all make-believe. Now, the board of education has decided to control it within the boundaries of good taste. To the best of my knowledge, there has never been a whole lot of “good taste” associated with the season at any time in the past, or with much of anything associated with the board of education.
In my time, the school said we couldn’t decorate with real blood, fire off cherry bombs in the toilet, or write words describing bodily functions on school windows with soap or anything else, and we had to use grapes for eyeballs. And though we could carry sabres, swords, hooks and nooses, we weren’t supposed to kill anybody. That seemed reasonable enough, and as with any other set of rules, we obeyed some of them if anybody was looking.
This year we faced a list of additional taboos that made the whole idea of a Halloween festival to entertain the children to seem like a complete waste of time. They would allow posters displaying fall colors as long as no images appeared other than leaves, the full moon, and maybe a haystack. The only image of an animal that could be used was an owl, but it had to be smiling.
There have been no reports of demon or devil worship in this county, and there has never been much practice of it around here except by those seeking office. Normal folk, who have sense enough to stay out of politics, don’t fool with it. Yet, the board of education seems fearful of an uncontrollable outbreak of it. Due to this irrational fear, they’ve set down rules to ward off any chance it might take hold, and undermine civilization as we know it.
So no child will be allowed to draw a picture of, or in any other way, display the image or symbol of any of the following on school property, or at any school related function anywhere at any time: jack-o’-lanterns; cemeteries, or anything resembling a grave marker or headstone, skulls, skeletons or any other bones, witches, black cats, vampires, bats, people with scars, stitches, sores, or a wart that might have a hair growing out of it, or anything that might look like a spirit or ghost.
A child would be admitted to the festival wearing a costume if it was that of a ballerina, Snoopy, or Winnie-The-Pooh. Otherwise, they were expected to dress in proper school attire, and masks of any kind were prohibited. Entertainment would be a game of musical chairs, and a cake-walk. But if you intended for your child to win a cake, you had to bring one. Outside of certain faculty required to be on duty, I think seven people showed up, and I’m sure they all brought a cake.
How very sad, and perhaps a bit unfair that the innocent fun of our children has been jerked around by such Medieval phobias of demons and witches. Still, I encouraged my sons to find a soft place in their hearts for these magnanimous dispensers of “truth and learning”. In return for such charity, these giants of selfless community service, these sisters and brethren duly elected and charged with keeping the lamp of wisdom shining brightly, will continue to display the soft places in their brains.
The rest of us will uphold them, no matter how justified it might seem to do otherwise. One official said this was a huge leap forward, and a big move away from old traditions of superstitious and uneducated people. Somehow I missed any such move, as the new edict seems saturated in some kind of Gothic mythology and irrational fear. By and large, I think the measure was less than brilliant. As a matter of fact I thought it was idiotic. In a couple of months these same said geniuses will be oblivious to the pagan rituals behind the history of the Christmas tree, but I will not bother them with facts.
We got past Halloween, ate lots of candy, and moved on to other things. But the mischief of the season lingered yet, unbeknownst to us at the time. Maybe there had been a little devil worship going on after all.
Both dawgs began to bark, growl and howl, and that alerted Brenda to turn on the flood lights. The light and commotion caused a team of young men in our front yard to cut short their work. They left in a hurry having barely finished decorating the third tree, and just starting on the fourth. Their clumsy exit allowed Brenda all the time she needed to get a good look at them and their get-away car which was a familiar pickup truck known to be associated with one of our older son’s friends.
Brenda ran quickly into David’s room, and forgetting that he does not wake up from a deep sleep easily, she yelled out:
“David! They got us!”
While David spun around and around in his bed not yet fully conscious or sane, Brenda continued in an excitedly shrill voice that caused David to pull the covers over his head:
“They got us! They got us good, too! Just look out that window! Look out there at that mess!”
It took David a couple of minutes to find the window, and I’m sure he expected by then to see the profile of a huge mushroom shaped cloud on the horizon, but instead he saw, if he saw anything at all, toilet paper. Brenda said he laughed slightly, but was trying to hold it back, and never once said a word other than: “wha-hmmph”. She was sure he’d know who all the pranksters were, and of course having seen them, knew who some of them were herself.
It was the middle of the night. I was out of town at the time. Since it was a Friday night, Brenda figured they would have plenty of time Saturday morning to clean up, and have the aid of the sunlight. She said she discussed it with David, and that he had agreed with her. But of course David did not participate in that, or any other conversation. It is quite possible that he never actually woke up at all.
After she felt they’d had a good talk and an agreement, and even though it only took place in her mind, Brenda said: “Goodnight,” and David said: “wha-hmmph.” That was it. Once she turned off the outside lights and went back to bed, Ashley Cooper and Cosmo Topper curled back up and went to sleep again, as if nothing had ever happened. Penny Lane, the cat, takes no note of any of this except to be aware that Brenda was running through the house. About the only thing a cat would have any thought of at such times would be to stay out of the way. Nathan and Mason never woke up at all.
Bathroom tissue is designed to absorb moisture, and it did. The dew settled in nicely, and loosened all the fibers so they would tear apart easily. Brenda, David, Nathan and Mason worked hard to pull down as much of it as they could, but bits and pieces clung to branches and treetops in a stubborn way. They could not get it all.
When I got back in town, there was still enough left for my entertainment. Often while traveling, I get to miss out on some of the family fun, but this time, they saved a portion for me. After being told that all that could be removed with a broom and a rake was already down, I went out there with a broom and a rake to show them how it is done. I almost fell off the ladder twice, but managed to collect almost enough paper for a spitball. From any angle that any bystander might look, there was no hint that I had done anything at all, and I hadn’t.
My sons were polite enough to not use the words: “I told you so,” out loud, but Brenda thought it wise to remind me that I’m not the only competent and clever individual at this address, so she used them. To make sure my family would be convinced of my level of stupidity, I got out the garden hose, and tried to spray the paper out of the trees. The result was that the remaining toilet paper wrapped itself firmly and wetly around adjacent branches and twigs so as to mummify them in casts of paper mache’.
Having finished all the adjustments to the decor I could manage, I wound up the hose, and put it away. It’s just as well, for winter is coming. At this point, I was providing little else to entertain the family, so they all got busy with other things. Nathan went to check on his new Guinea pig, Winifred. Nathan is kind to pets, and feeds them whether they need it or not. Brenda and I do the same for the children, but for selfish reasons: it’s hard to swallow even a piece of bread with them drooling and staring at you. It’s just easier in the long run to share.
Settling in, I caught up on all the news. Besides Winifred, and the paper hangers, I discovered Topper had torn down the screen door on the upstairs back porch. He probably heard thunder, and tends to lose his composure when that happens. Ashley had dug a new hole under the fence but that is normal. If you fuss at her about it, she’ll hide in a corner and try to develop a rash, so I left her alone. The cat was just running madly through the house for no reason in case a reason shows up. That too, is normal. I asked about school, and the boys confirmed that they still go there every day that it’s open.
It looks like our front lawn will remain fully decorated for Thanksgiving this year. Maybe with a little added color and some tinsel, the whole arrangement might look nice throughout all the rest of the holidays as well. I know you would enjoy seeing that. If you’re planning to be here to celebrate with us, don’t forget to bring the turkey. If you change your mind, and decide not to come, send the turkey just the same. It would be appreciated. I’d hate to be the only turkey here at a time when such birds get substantial attention. Maybe the board of education will ban turkeys this year. Though it would not make any sense, such a thing as that has never stopped them before.