To make mention of the fact that our family also relied upon an outhouse for some of our toileting needs in my early childhood seems to scream “Red neck!” but I beg to differ. This diamond in the rough was gained when our family moved to the larger house next door,which formerly belonged to my grandparents.It was discreetly positioned in the back corner of the yard, nestled in between lilac and forsythia bushes,was functioning and well maintained from a sanitary point of view, and didn’t require the removal of boots or snowy winter wear before entering. It also prevented the chaos of kids, and friends of kids ,running in and out of the house all day long. In fact we actually preferred it to our indoor bathroom in the summer too, as it was sometimes quite grueling to run all the way upstairs for relief . Especially during games of Hide and Seek when the smaller seekers often wandered off unannounced to follow a butterfly or investigate a cluster of ladybugs.
Ours was also much classier than the usual rural outhouse, thanks to the cache of antique wallpaper remnants that Marsha and I found on a shelf in the big bathroom closet, while snooping there one day. On looking back, from an adult perspective, it seems that we unintentionally committed a great atrocity while expressing our abounding creativity. We inadvertently destroyed the only intact record of our old yellow brick house’s decorating history. For more than a century as each generation put up new wallpaper in the bedrooms, the parlour, the dining room and the kitchen,the pieces accumulated. I can imagine the lady of the house collecting the last remaining pieces of wallpaper together, after each room was papered or re-papered, and placing them on the shelf with earlier remnants placed by someone else before her. Initially they may have been saved for emergency repairs, but later on when newer more fashionable paper was applied the collection may have been saved out of nostalgia for an earlier time.
When we laid it out on the bathroom floor each piece looked as bright and beautiful as something freshly put away. Perhaps today it would be considered a treasure trove of frame-worthy pieces, but for an eight and a nine-year old it was simply material for an outhouse makeover! From it we created a patchwork collage of color, of nesting bluebirds on apple boughs, of golden scrolls and green garlands, of pink and red peonies, and almost believable blue and grey roses! All of this we applied with great gobs of flour- and- water glue, liberally brushing it onto each piece, and pressing it snugly onto the grey pine boards of our privy. It was so-o-o beautiful! Like no one else’s in the neighborhood’s ever was or ever could be!
When the wallpapering was complete, we searched out a few assorted tins of leftover paint in the basement and combined the white and brown ones to get what we thought would be enough to accomplish our mission. Then we went to work on the wooden bench with its one large and two smaller holes cut into it. We worked vigorously, with heavy strokes, using lots of extra paint on our brushes near the top edges of the holes. By doing so we could simply allow the paint to liberally drip down the rims, filling in the whole edge with a thick beige coating, avoiding the need to brush at all in the areas neither of us had any enthusiasm for. We got so many drips on the floor that we decided to paint that too. Shortly thereafter our Dad, probably fearful that tacky paint might eventually end up on the floors in the house, cut a nice piece of leftover linoleum to fit wall to wall over the painted floor, all 24 odd square feet of it! Mom and Dad told us that they were proud of us for giving them “the most beautiful outhouse in Caradoc Township!”
When the paint on the bench was dry, rather than use the indoor bathroom, everyone began to visit the outhouse again. It came as a big surprise that those who used the newly redecorated facilities for the first time even received a visitor’s gift! Sticky buns! But, sadly, not the cinnamon variety that treat- laden realtors sometimes pass around at open houses. Even though ours was indeed a model outhouse it wasn’t quite like a model home, and it definitely was not, and never would be, for sale! The evidence that all family visitors had received their own special gift was as plain as the clothesline in the yard. The regimented line of panties and jockey underwear, all arranged by category and size by my fastidious mother, all impressed with faint beige markings in odd circular shapes, instantly brought to mind a line of targets at a rifle range! This in the yard of a man who truly hated guns!
In reality it attested to my sister’s and my over application of paint in the worst possible places. The thick edge- coating goo around each hole, did eventually dry to a durable finish capable of enduring a good scrubbing from time to time. However, Dad, in the meantime, improved the outhouse even further by installing proper toilet seats with closing lids on them. He kindly said that it was just to add the crowning touch to a job well done. My Dad was always very generous with his praise.