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Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Everybody’s Good for Something

By Ann Berger

In 1960, in a sweaty huff, five-year-old Jane blew through our front door in Chandler, Arizona and flounced into her favorite rocking chair declaring, “You’re right, Mommy, everybody’s good for something - even if it’s a bad example.”

I tried not to smile as she let off a stream of steam about Marjory, her best friend down the street. Jane rode that rocking chair with stern purpose. After a few cooler huffs and puffs, she sighed, slid off her perch, smiled and headed back to Marjory’s.

There should be a Nobel Peaceful Prize for whomever invented rocking chairs. Beginning with my sister Helen’s birth on July 29, 1918, my eight sisters and one brother each began life feeling the peace of a rocking chair as Grandma Krumdieck ladled sugar water between our tiny lips.

She sat at the foot of mother’s birthing bed on our Minnesota farm. It may well be Grandma’s fault that when life finally brought indoor plumbing to our family, a rocking chair became a standard fixture in our bathrooms along with tub, sink and toilet.

Oh, that today’s bathrooms were that roomy!

Actually, outdoor plumbing on our farm sported a three-holer - two adult and one child - setting our pace of restroom sociability as soon as each of us was out of diapers.

Indoors, rocking chairs make for a pleasant ambiance while waiting for turns to use your choice(s) of the facilities. Suppose we sisters can be blamed for starting the universal habit of women visiting the restroom in droves? Visiting is just what we did while rocking and bathing away our secret sins and sharing dreams.

We savored having someone handy to scrub our backs followed by the luxury of body lotion artfully applied to that spot between our shoulders. We taught each other how to shave legs and underarms, to do manicures and pedicures. We set and combed out each other’s hair into latest styles.

Two or three faces being made up at the same moment in the bathroom mirror sometimes let me believe I really was the one with long eyelashes and naturally curly hair.

When we moved to St. Paul, we girls painted the bathroom. The robin-egg blue looked so inviting on the walls that the rocking chair got a coat of paint, too.

our father called up the stairs, “How soon can I have the bathroom to clean up and shave?” mischief overtook us.

After a few minutes, we opened the door calling, “Okay, the bathroom is ready for you to clean up and comb your hair - both of them.

He grinned at his smart aleck daughters, walked through the bathroom door and howled with laughter looking at the mirror painted blue.

During our growing up years, and before automatic dishwashers, we easily fell into lovely tell-all gab sessions while washing dishes up to our elbows in soothing hot, soapy water. What a pity that automatic dishwashers took away this togetherness that had kept us communicating in a comfortable space until the washing and drying were finished. The fun of snapping towels was not allowed, “You could put out someone’s eye.”

In May of 2010, that long-lost sister intimacy came back when 88-year-old Donna, 13 months older than I, and Lilas, four years younger, were my houseguests. I wanted a bath and a shampoo. The rocking chair doesn’t fit in my Oakmont Village guest bath. Inviting Donna to sit on the throne lid and Lilas on the tiny table housing toiletries served nicely for our chance to get back to the good old days.

Neither has lost her touch for scrubbing a back and applying lotion or giving a pedicure.

Our individual talents and inclinations were in plain sight during childhood and have continued during family reunions as kitchen assignments still fall in place without fanfare. Cleanup duty is assigned to me since that first time I suggested Jello on the Half Shell. Cooking charms my sisters, keeping us well fed. However, not-too-subtle hinting always had steered our late sister, Bee, to please “stay clear of the coffee pot.”

Everybody’s good for something, be it a bad example - or building rocking chairs.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


After we angrily decided whose turn it was to wash the dishes my step-sister and I used to harmonize while doing the dishes. You brought back memories both pleasant and unpleasant. Our fights over whose turn it was to wash were sometimes loud and got us in trouble.

But visit in the bathroom? I don't think so. Not in my family.

Rocking in a rocking chair is very good therapy, I think.
Thanks for a good and interesting story.

Ann - Great story!

But I'm surprised that you and/or your creative siblings didn't invent and build rocking seats that would have fit over each of the stations of the 'three holer'! - Sandy

Charming story. I have an essay about my life with outhouses--maybe I'll put it on here someday!

Ann--Very enjoyable. Couldn't be more different from my family with only myself and a little brother and indoor plumbing--even though we lived way out in the woods in Michigan. Enviable togetherness. Looking forward to more of your stories.

What a wonderful story representing the sincere togetherness that siblings girls and their families once indulged in. Thank you for a historical memory so well described and beautifully penned!

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