The Paper Caper


The van rolled to a stop in the shadows, far from the spill of street lamps and the glare of nosy neighbors. Silently, stealthily, the van’s occupants spilled out, dashing into the dark, staying close to the tree line, creeping behind shrubs and hedges, hiding from prying eyes. It was late. Porch lights had winked out long ago. The van’s occupants embraced the cover of darkness for their mischievous deed. 

The bark of a dog broke the silence. In a well-orchestrated move, the first shot was taken — the weapon aimed at the target. Soon, the quiet was shattered by the well-planned attack. Like some macabre ballet, the van’s occupants took aim and fired.

The first unfurled roll grabbed a high limb of a front-yard shade tree. Roll after roll was lobbed at crooked, darkened limbs, sending streamers of white dancing in the dark. Hedges wore white like blushing brides. Porch posts looked like mini maypoles. The mailbox was wrapped, willy-nilly in Charmin, like a mummy.

In no time, the van’s occupants dressed the trees, the shrubs, the lawn in two-ply splendor. As quickly as they had come, their deed done, the marauders bailed back into the van, screeching into the dark. A red blur of taillights and they were gone before porch lights flipped on up and down the street.

Households would wake the next morning with families wondering why toilet paper rolls were empty, bathroom cupboards bare. It wasn’t unusual in this suburban neighborhood for morning to shed light on nighttime pranks. Usually, phone calls were made, teenagers corralled, the offenders brought to justice. Armed with trash bags and sheepish grins, they cleaned up the lawns they had so painstakingly decorated the night before.

But on this wild and wonderful night, it wasn’t teenagers who claimed the guts and the glory. On this night, a van full of middle-aged moms giggled their way through this paper caper. On this night, the moms reclaimed youth and flung responsibility — and paper rolls — like pros.

Admittedly, I was among those traipsing through the dark, tossing toilet tissue into the trees. I dare say, it might have been one of my finer moments — a zany departure from my normal responsibilities and sensible ways. I remember the night and all its madcap glory,  and it still makes me laugh. Armed with moxie and attitude, we elected to decorate a friend’s lawn because it was her birthday. It seemed a fitting tribute.

I used to play a monthly game of Pokeno with this mom group. Brought together by booster clubs, PTA and school fundraisers, we women met once a month to share dinner, and play this Bingo-like game. We booked ourselves out of the family calendar and gave ourselves one night each month to indulge in a gathering of girl talk and gossip. We traded recipes and news, swapped stories, offering each other advice and affirmation.

Months passed and friendships were forged as we bonded over bean dip and burrito casserole. At the monthly get-togethers, we shared news of our children, our spouses, our family reunions. We laughed over silly jokes; cried over lost pets, lost parents, found lumps. Through the camaraderie of motherhood, we became friends.

Many days have come and gone since that night we — in our mom jeans and tennis shoes —  piled into the van. Our grade-school children have since grown up and graduated, are now stashed in dorm rooms across the state and across the country.

The Pokeno pals are still playing, the gals still sharing stories and recipes, giggles and tears. The e-mail invites still pop into my IN box, faithfully, offering me a night away from the worries of my complicated life. But, my life these days is busy, demanding, cluttered, leaving little time to squeeze in an evening out or dinner in.

I have attended the Pokeno nights on occasion. Sporadically sneaking in for a snack before the game cards are passed out, I catch up with these ladies I used to know so well. Time marches on, lives change, and new players now huddle around the table. Still, I am grateful for the invitation; appreciate that I am still welcome at this communal table of womanhood.

I think of that madcap night from time to time; laugh at the ludicrous antics of middle-aged moms who let our hair down and threw caution — and toilet paper — to the wind. I remember the wild and wonderful nights when, in the company of these women, we dared to become more than moms; We became ourselves in the safety of friendship.

I think of them, these ladies who play Pokeno.  I wish them well. I hope their lives are full and happy, carefree, uncluttered and richly blessed. I think of them and I am grateful for memories, the nights we crowded around a table, passing plates and clinking glasses. I think of a hot, summer night when moms crammed into a van and acted like kids again. When I clean the bathroom, spin another roll on the holder, I remember.

I laugh. I remember. … I laugh.

And it is enough.



About barriepagehill

A former print and broadcast reporter, I am blogging to document my experience as primary caregiver to my mom, who suffers from Alzheimer's Disease. I find writing cathartic and find it helps me order some of the chaos of my cluttered life. My writing is reflective of my experiences with my mom and matters I find important as I navigate the New Normal of living with a family member tormented by this devastating disease. As my mom's condition worsens, I am grateful for the many blessings in my life. I hope my writing chronicles some of our experiences and documents this bittersweet journey.
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One Response to The Paper Caper

  1. wMw says:

    You…you….you…,YOU little Devilet, you ! The body of your ‘yewt’ may have started an ever so slight wave of “good-bye”, but that inner child’s enthusiasm still whispers in your ear…
    “Commando Raid”…”Let’s do it !”
    I love it…
    Thanks Barrie.

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