The outhouse and the shoe shipApril 28, 2011
I mentioned your dad’s personal outhouse in another post, and thought I should explain it a bit more than to say every little boy might want one. When the kids were small I spent a lot of my time trying to think up fun things to do that would also aid me in teaching life skills. Sometimes I used colorful props–often large ones. I liked to buy unusual things. I found the best unusual things at garage sales or final sales that businesses held before closing forever. They would sell shelves and display cases, and a lot of them were neat!
A garage sale item I bought for a neighbor’s children kept coming back to haunt me. I thought they would enjoy it, but it kept reappearing on my front doorstep every time I would sneak it through my neighbor’s back gate. I never understood why her girls wouldn’t want a four foot long, three foot tall stuffed, purple horse. Wouldn’t everyone want one?
The final time my neighbor returned the horse to the front step I put it in the basement with my newest find: a seven foot long, three foot high, red, yellow, blue and green, particle-board-built ship! With glass portholes! It had three huge shelves that had once accommodated displays of children’s shoes. I thought the shelves would be a great place for your dad and his siblings to store books and toys. It could hold a lot of toys. Grandpa Frank and I took off the top of the 250 pound ship and strung lights inside so the portholes would glow. The lesson of the ship (beyond its being way cool), was orderliness.
The lesson of the horse was never clear even to me; I think I was being obnoxious.
I saw the outhouse at a garage sale. I have a picture somewhere of your dad just outside of it; I will find it and stick it in this post. I don’t know who built it or why, but I hauled it home. It weighed about 100 pounds and was built with two-by-fours and a pine board bench with a hole in it to hold (ahem) a receptacle. It was a super souped up outdoor potty chair. Dark paneling covered it outside, and the builder had been considerate to build a slanted, overhanging roof so rain would run off. The door had a crescent moon cut into it like most other outhouses any of us have ever seen.
The lesson of the outhouse? There really wasn’t one. Buying it was an avoidance tactic for me. Though I had four brothers, I never learned how to teach a little boy to go IN the potty rather than around it. I could spray the outhouse with a hose to clean it up and your dad thought using it was cool, so during the summer of his second year he could go outside and not make me crazy.
I did finally insist that Grandpa Frank go into the bathroom with your dad to help him learn to aim, because Mommy was irked about the rusting heat duct registers next to the toilets. I stood outside to hear the first lesson. I heard a lot of giggling. I heard Grandpa Frank telling him he had to AIM. I heard your dad telling him nooooo, he couldn’t touch it, it tickled!
Later, Grandpa Frank told me the problem. Because he couldn’t touch it to aim, your dad would stand in front of the toilet, thrust out his hips, throw back his shoulders, and go. That is why the heat duct registers were rusting and I was constantly cleaning them.
Soon I will tell you how we came to learn that an unpeeled banana takes nine days, while stuck in the plumbing of the toilet, to break down enough so we could finally flush it away.