Middle age plus 5/29

Thursday, May 29, 2003

A great granddaughter spent the night with us recently and before going to bed, took a shower. That is not exactly newsworthy, but the incident that followed opened up a wealth of memories that gave me a chuckle. She didn't turn the shower control lever back down after finishing her shower and turning off the water. When I turned on the water later that night to test it for temperature before taking my tub bath, I got sprayed on the back of my head as I bent over the tub. I hadn't planned to wash my hair so I didn't appreciate the impromptu shampoo. When I mentioned this at the table the next morning, Lester laughed, then told Marilyn about his first visit to our home before we were married. We had the usual tub/shower arrangement that is still used in many bathrooms. Like Marilyn, Lester had not changed the water flow direction after he finished his shower. My mother had long hair, which she wore in two braids wrapped around her head. The next morning she began to clean the tub and got doused with water from the showerhead. It took her heavy braids quite a while to dry out. She never mentioned it to Lester, but told me about what had happened. I figured out that Lester was the last one to have used the tub, so he heard about it from me. It didn't dampen the relationship between him and my mother however. This conversation began other memories of how we cleaned up 'in the olden days'. When I was a child in our house in Washington D.C., we had a big long tub that stood on little legs. My bath times were Wednesday and Saturday nights and often I shared the tub with my sister Ellen. Always I shared the bathroom with one of my sisters since we had only this one bathroom for a family of ten. In the summer, back on the farm, we had a shelter built on the back of the smokehouse with rocks to stand on in the bottom. We hooked a long hose to an outside hydrant, and let it lie in the sun for a few hours before throwing it over the top of the shower house to take a quick shower before the warm water got used up and we were greeted with cold water. We had a running water system with a gasoline engine that pumped water into a large tank. However we did not have a hot water heater. In the house there was a small room with a tub, also on small legs, with a wooden rim around the top. My mother and visiting adults used this tub with a teakettle of hot water from the stove, but all the girls used the outside shower stall. The boys had a hose behind the barn where they showered. I was a grown woman before I could walk behind the barn without guilt because of the many warnings I got from my mother to stay away from that area! Later, houses in Washington introduced us to homes with more than one bath (and by then our family had diminished to only four), and at the farm a full bathroom with the shower/tub arrangement mentioned earlier was built onto the back of the house. After Lester and I were married I reverted back to the more primitive bathing styles as some of our earlier homes did not have running water, or in one case, during the droughts of the 50s, the well went dry. Now we have three full baths for two people, a rural water system, and two hot water heaters. A spray of water on the back of my head is a luxury I would have longed for at one time. What a blessing!