Herewith a tale of modern suburbia, of rage, betrayal, raw courage, (some might call it sheer folly) and blood. (If you want sex in your sagas of suburbia, you'll have to watch Knots Landing). Our hero is a suburban father who awakened one night to find that a group of teen-age girls had decided to cap off their slumber party by bestowing on our hero's sons the greatest suburban honor of all: They were tee-peeing his house. At two in the morning.
For those of you who live in the city, a brief explanation is in order: tee-peeing is the practice of hurling rolls of toilet paper (hence the term tee-pee, as in T.P.) into the air in the dark of night and watching them unfurl on the limbs of the largest tree in someone's front lawn. The toilet paper, of course, has to be unwrapped before being airborne, and one end has to be held firmly in hand while the other hand heaves the roll upwards. If properly executed, reams of toilet paper will be found hanging all over the tree in the morning by the suburban parents and their anointed teen-agers. Children, it is worth noting, are often more thrilled at the sight than are their parents.
The history of how this teen-age tribal rite evolved is not particularly reliable -- presumably historians either thought it was a passing fad and not worthy of note, or else no historians lived in the suburbs. As best as can be ascertained, however, the practice first began in this area in the 60s or 70s, which may be part of the problem. Since it is a relatively recent phenomenon, most adults never did it and therefore are less indulgent than they are to certain other rites of passage, such as drinking under age and sneaking peeks at father's Playboy. Chip off the old block, and all that.
The trouble with tee-peeing, though, is that the old block didn't do it. In fact, with the wisdom of age, the old block can tell you he wouldn't have dreamed of doing anything like that. Tee-peeing isn't a boyish prank. It is not, as each and every member of the teen-age tribe will swear, a great honor being conferred on a lucky teen-ager by a group of admiring peers. It makes a mess out of the front lawn (there being few higher crimes than that in suburbia), and it takes hours to clean up.
But, it turns out, not all adults understand this, which brings us back to our story. The way our hero tells it, he was fast asleep in his suburban castle one weekend night when all of a sudden he felt one of his teen-agers tapping him on the arm. The boy said people were tee-peeing. Well, it's important to note here that this was the second time our hero's castle had been invaded and he was not about to let it happen again. He leapt to his feet and raced barefoot onto the front lawn. He yelled to the culprits and the culprits started to flee. Down the drive he ran, into the dark of night he pursued.
But the chase ended ingloriously for our hero when he fell in his drive, making a bloody mess of his leg.
Early the next week, smirks in class gave the culprits away and before long our hero knew who they were. He also found out something that utterly astounded him: The mother of one of the girls had driven them to the scene of the deed! His "serious personal injury," as he later wrote in a steaming letter to his fellow parent, "was nothing compared to the word that an adult had actually helped in and condoned the act."
Meanwhile, his sons were wreaking vengeance of their own, telling the girls that our hero had been hospitalized as a result of the escapade and was going to have his leg amputated.
To the mother's everlasting credit she did not shrivel up and die as most of us are wont to do when a fellow parent catches us in the act of betraying the adult generation. She called our hero up, full of apologies, explaining that the kids consider tee-peeing to be the bestowal of an honor. Further, and you have to give her points for being realistic about teen-agers, she figured that if she drove them at 2 a.m. they wouldn't sneak out at 4 a.m.
Our hero's leg has mended, although he lost three weekends of tennis, which is not to be taken lightly. But he also, at least for awhile, lost faith in his fellow man. "It's not just that this woman took this astonishing attitude," he says. "Some people who are otherwise good citizens said, 'Relax, don't take it too seriously.' I took it very seriously." And, in words that ought to warm the hearts of all of us hardliners, he said with unshaken conviction: