Sunday, October 30, 2011

Mischief Night

 I come home around 9pm and see 4 rolls of toilet paper and an egg carton near the front door. It's common for a neighbor to drop a carton or 2 by our house, since we have chickens. I absently wonder if Carol next door got such a great deal on Charmin at the grocery outlet she frequents that she was inspired to share. I say hi to the stepkid, talk on the phone for a little while, then take Alice out for a walk. I notice that the household supplies have gone away, and finally realize that it's Mischief Night.

Where/when I grew up, after the little trick or treaters had called it a night, older kids did the requisite marauding on Halloween, their pillowcases filled with eggs and spray paint cans instead of candy. Houses were egged and toilet papered; Jack-o-lanterns were smashed; mailboxes were knocked over with baseball bats and shovels; headstones were graffitied; sugar was poured into gas tanks.

Around here, teenagers make some mischief that seems pretty white-bread in comparison the night before Halloween.Which is tonight. Better yet (if you're 14), school is cancelled tomorrow because of a freak 7 to 10 inches of snow that fell yesterday, which is mostly melted but left widespread power outages.

I knock on my stepkid's door, wondering if he actually sneaked out.

Stepkid: "Yeah?"

He's playing xBox, talking with his friends online through his headset.

Me: "So...where are the toilet paper and eggs?" Teenagers have highly attuned bullshit detectors. I'm still refining my updated-for-high-school parenting technique: straightforward and respectful, and under no circumstances trying to be cool. He looks up for a moment, a near-smile.

SK: "I put them away."

Me: "Huh. What changed your mind?"

SK: "I don't know."

Me: "Sounds like a smart choice. There could be consequences you wouldn't want if you got caught." I don't mention the ethical import of leaving other people's property alone, as much as it kills me not to.

SK: "I might still go."

So, do I shut down that option? Do I in effect condone it by recalling my own high school Halloween exploits? Do I wait and see what he decides to do? I don't know so I don't say anything, just go about cleaning up in the kitchen. He comes out a little while later. I often wish we had an upstairs/downstairs floor plan, but I'm thankful tonight, as I know I will be for the duration of high school, that his bedroom is off the kitchen, a spoke of the household hub, and that he is forced by proximity to interact with the rest of us, all the while having his much-needed privacy respected.

I tell him whatever he does, I don't want him to use our eggs. The hens are laying less with the shorter days, and it's a waste of food.

SK: "Seriously? It's not a waste -- other animals will eat them. It's better than toilet paper. I mean, that's littering."

It was a long time ago, but I'm pretty positive I wasn't pondering the ramifications, ecological or otherwise, of my near-future actions as I headed out with my fellow Hallows' Eve vandals. All I could think of was sweet revenge on a mean neighbor, and later raiding my baby brother's candy stash. (I had a notion of myself as a nice girl, but there's quite a bit of evidence to the contrary.)

It's 11:30pm and he hasn't left yet, and I need to go to bed but I'm stalling. He just came out to use the bathroom. On his way back into his Man, Jr. Cave, I ask if he's going to bed. (The stepkid does have a bedtime, just to be clear. But with a 6am wake-up and 3 hours of football practice every day, it's not something we ever need to enforce.) "No, no school tomorrow." "Are you staying home?" He looks at the clock and laughs, at me. "Obviously."


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