Growing up in a home with one bathroom and seven siblings was certainly a challenge, but not beyond managing. There definitely had to be rules. Some of them were laid down by Dad because he was the water supply management expert and the sewage disposal engineer. In crisis situations, when the ancient system which handled “water-in water-out” was not functioning properly, we had to ration water usage. That was when Dad really got vigilant about how frequently he heard the toilet flushing upstairs as he sat and read his paper or wrote out cheques in the dining room, below. For “Goodness sake Dad!” I always wanted to say, whenever he complained,”Five of us are girls! You can’t expect us to go and “check out the ant hills behind the hedge” like the boys always do. The poor ants must already think its monsoon season all the time!”
We actually did have an outhouse which served us faithfully when necessary,but nobody wanted to use it in either extreme cold or extreme heat (for obvious reasons.) Imagine the shock we five girls would have given our poor old Granddad, whose house was only thirty feet away, on the other side of the hedge, had we all suddenly turned into ant loving entomologists! (Just now, upon glancing back over my typing, I’ve seen the nutty phrase “an outhouse which served us faithfully.” What warped kind of brain have I got anyway? It’s not like we were ever so thankful that the outhouse had never gone AWOL on us or something, though if it had we could hardly blame it considering what we put it through!) Sorry; I’m rambling again. I stayed up too late last night because of the holiday celebrating.
Generally it was the water-out part of the equation that gave us the most difficulty in our old yellow brick farm house, as clean fresh water was plentiful enough in Caradoc Township for crop irrigation, and close enough to the surface that sand point wells were the rule. Some of the comic repercussions of our water-out problems are covered in earlier posts such as the following:
Sharing The Dirt, April 14, 2013
The Outhouse Gets a Makeover, April 15, 2013
One Of Our Family’s Dirty Stories, April 29, 2013
There were never really rules for toilet usage at home, just suggestions, such as being as speedy as possible first thing in the morning,when Mom woke everyone up at the same time. If you didn’t bow to everyone’s suggestions, then you had best be prepared for a mega- decibelled chorus of voices, accompanied by everyone frantically pounding on the door like flood evacuators at a Rave, until you came out— finished or not. There were actually rules pertaining to all the other uses of the bathroom and everyone knew them without them ever needing to be written down. They were as follows:
TEETH BRUSHING: As long it takes, and with whoever you want to share the sink with. “Decide carefully. Jimmy and Donny don’t spit too straight!”
BATHS: Shallow water only when Dad says so. Same-sex shared baths of close-in-age sisters or brothers til age 9 or 10. Jeannie and Keith get to bath alone. Mom and Dad bath alone too.(This might have been a suggestion not a rule, only Mom knows for sure and I’m not asking!)
WASHING AT THE SINK: Whatever necessary, whenever necessary. “Just don’t dawdle, and if your big sister tells you it’s necessary then it is!”
READING: Strictly forbidden. “The bathroom is not a library!”
RADIO: Never! “Someone might accidentally drop it in the tub and electrocute you!”—”What? And accidentally go and get an extension cord to help it reach the tub first?”
HAIR STYLING: Only quick combing or brushing. No curling or styling!
APPLYING MAKE-UP: Not in here! Find another mirror!
Because of the rules Marsha and I had to do our morning grooming in front of our bedroom vanities’ mirrors in situations when water wasn’t needed, or in front of the dining room’s large wall mirror where the light was plentiful from the room’s tall windows. If Dad happened to see either of us standing there putting on make up he would always say the same thing—‟ So, you’re putting on your war paint again, Eh?” and then he would laugh. Makeup wasn’t any laughing matter in our early teen years. It was strictly forbidden by Mom and Dad until we were in grade 11. So I’m sure it was rather amazing to all, how good the school photographer made Marsha and I look in all the High School pictures taken before that point. For that we owe a debt of gratitude to the large maple trees in front of our yard, where we waited for the school bus every day. Perfect lighting in the dappled shade of those trees, and a perfect screen from anyone looking out from the house allowed us to get mascara, lipstick and blush on, with the help of a compact mirror. I can still remember rubbing the lipstick and blush off, on the way home on the bus, but I don’t know why they never noticed the mascara. Maybe because our Mom had such beautiful eyelashes it just seemed natural to her and Dad that her treasured girls would have them too. Thank you, Mom for all the beautiful things in your gene pool that you passed on to me. And, as far as these fair, almost invisible eyelashes of mine are concerned, for that we’ll just blame Dad and his red hair!