Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Outhouse: The Walk of Shame



 
If anal retentiveness could be taught, the classroom would be in the outhouse, the bane of the existence of any kid who grew up poor on a farm.
 
I am still traumatized by the 14 years or so I spent making the chilly trek to the stinky little lean-to we called our bathroom. I'm sure even Ma and Pa Kettle had a commode, but not us. We had running water -- bathtubs and sinks full -- but it wasn't until Granny broke her hip, and I was in high school, that Gramps finally agreed to build a proper bathroom in the old farmhouse.
 
 The outhouse brought early shame into my sensitive little bottom. No one -- not even my Auntie Alwyn or the Houtbys who lived down the road -- lived in a house where you had to put a coat on to do nature's little business. The lack of toilet facilities became my reason for visiting neighbors and gratefully going to school. (Although I must admit that I spent years resisting peeing in a stall next to another child. Therapy might help me out on this.)
 
It was bad enough we had to go to the outhouse, but why did it have to be so far away from the house? Winters in Canada are damned cold. Summers are rife with mosquitos, spiders and flies who lay their eggs, well, you know. So why not at least build it within steps of the house instead of behind all the other "out buildings"? The grandparents died before I was intelligent enough to ask this question.
 
Our outhouse didn't have a light in it. Nor did it have proper toilet tissue. If you needed to wipe, there was always the handy telephone directory next to your left hand. I'm surprised I didn't get a paper cut.
 
At night, mom would let me pee in the pot, bless her. But anything else, well, you just had to wait until morning or make the journey. Didn't help that little miss had werewolves in her head and was afraid they might leap out at her at any moment.
 
I admit to a bit of sneakiness as a child. There's a brilliant passage in Mordecai Richler's St. Urbain's Horseman in which the protagonist, who is a guest in someone's house, takes a dump in an English watercloset only to find that no matter how many times he pulls the chain, the damned thing won't flush. He resorts to wrapping the turd in his underwear and tossing it out the window.
 
Haha, you might say but I can relate.

My trick was to wait until the adults were drinking and playing cards until I did the nasty deed in the little potty, after which I buried my human remains in the garden. This trick worked for a while until my mother discovered Kleenex among the peonies. I got a licking for that one.

I hate to admit it, but darkly, I rejoiced when Granny broke her hip. She may have experienced elderly hell, but I was loving the new bathroom which had a proper shower instead of a scummy bathtub with water drawn for three kids to save money. Most of all, I loved the warm feeling of the 1960s squishy toilet seat on my tender ass.
 
To this day, I never take a toilet for granted. I'm an indoor kind of girl, what can I say? 

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