Toilet Paper and Leftovers

By Chris Erskine
Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES ~ Some kids TPd the house the other night, a dopey yet time-honoured American tradition that I had feared was beginning to die out. At least I assume it was kids.

All I know is that when I took the 300-pound beagle out at about 9:30pm – he likes to eat a nice shrub right before bed – the toilet paper wasn’t there. When we woke up the next day, the trees were streaming with white double-ply – ultra-strong, ultra-soft.

The yard was strangely beautiful in the morning light, nicer than I’ve ever seen it, a hint of Aspen in December. The reams of toilet paper blowing softly from the trees looked a little like Warren Beatty’s version of heaven.

“You could hold a wedding here,” my wife said.

I immediately got a rash and threw up. Morning sickness.

As it so happens, the toilet papering came on the week of our 27th wedding anniversary, an occasion my wife and I marked by not looking crossly at each other when one of the kids did something we didn’t like. That was our little anniversary gift, not blaming the other person for life’s disappointments. It is one of the founding principles of a long and healthy relationship.

Twenty-seven years of marriage – that’s nearly a record for Los Angeles. It is all the more remarkable for the fact that 26 of those years featured children. Even worse, they were our children. That’s almost three decades of:

– Wiping noses.
– Wiping butts.
– Rushing out to buy birthday presents for kids they met yesterday.
– Burying deceased pet frogs out near the tomatoes.
– Digging marbles out of noses.
– Finding head lice in your soup.
– Staying up past midnight carving race cars for Cub Scouts.
– Finishing a million half-eaten McNuggets.
– Wiping gravel out of scraped knees.
– Finding nail polish in the fridge.

Our youngest is now 6, a great age, “the age of reason.” He weighs 42 pounds, half of which consists of bug bites and Band-Aids. He is total mayhem. He is total joy. For Mother’s Day, he gave his mom a little clay flowerpot decorated with exploding bombs.

“Your little friends,” I tell him, “seem to have toilet papered the house.”


“Not cool,” I say.

“Dad,” says the boy.


“My friends don’t even drive,” he says.

Indeed, my bride, Posh, seems to think it wasn’t kindergartners who TPd the house and trees. She seems to think it was the little girl’s high school buddies, for toilet papering isn’t really vandalism. It’s more like sending flowers or a crate of holiday fruit.

“Teenagers would never do that,” I say.

“Sorry,” she says, “but that’s what I think.”

I have met several teenagers, and they all seem to be above such behaviour. Their fascination with themselves – and their cellphones – is almost a disabling condition. In that sense, I envy them.

“TPing?” a teenager would ask. “Is there an app for that?”

So, we are still trying to figure out who might have toilet papered the house, you know, so we can send them thank-you notes. That’s the way we were raised.

I know they are generous people, because the next night they came back with shaving cream – the boy chasing them off before they could actually shave the house.

If they come back, which I pray they do, I am hoping they bring towels and soap. We’re always running low on those two things. And we seem to go through a lot of air freshener, if you’re keeping a list. Posh seems to prefer the stuff that smells of honeysuckle. I like the stuff scented of beer nuts and pea gravel, which is harder to find.

It is a measure of where we are in our lives – counting every penny, saving every dime – that I kept the leftover rolls of toilet paper, some of which were unused and completely intact. It is a good brand, better than the stuff we usually buy (unless Grandma is coming).

Too proud for handouts? Not me. These days, I am like that taxi driver in the song by the great Harry Chapin:

“Another man might’ve been angry,

“Another man might’ve been hurt,

“But another man never would’ve let them go …

“I stashed the Charmin in my shirt.”

Erskine can be reached at

Filed under: Man of the House

Comments are closed.