We had just one bathroom when I was a little girl. That seems strange by today’s standards: there was never less than six people in my house. Even back when Uncle Merle and Dad were farming together, and later when there were renters, only one bathroom. Now that’s how people learns how to coöperate, negotiate, and just plain old get along.
The bathroom shared a wall and a heating register with my bedroom. Of course, I shared my bedroom with Deanna and Bonita. I always shared, from the time I was born. Well, some things were all mine, like my Easter basket, my place at the table, and any mistakes I made.
Late at night, or early in the morning Dad came a-harumphing up the stairs, before he went to bed, or before he went to work. I never knew which of those things it was, ’cause it was dark out, and I’d been sleeping awhile, and the Baby-Ben alarm clock was on Deanna’s side of the bed, and she got mad if I crossed over the middle line and got on her side. Anyways, I heard Dad let out a big stinker before he went #1. That’s the way he did it; the same way every time. A big loud butt-burp, followed by garden hose peeing. I guessed Dad had to let a stinker go first, kinda like a cork popping out of a bottle top.
Lots of times, us girls goofed around in the bathroom, ’cause we were always waiting for someone on the toilet or someone brushing her teeth, ’cause everything went on in there at the same time. I liked to pretend the bathtub was a trapeze or the high-wire at the circus, even though I never went to the real circus, just saw pictures in a book and on TV. I balanced pretty good in my bare feet or tennis shoes, but look out if I only had my socks on. I learned that lesson on my own; the tub edge was pretty darned slippery. Sometimes, Bonita and Vickie pretended the slanty side was a slide, and slid down singing the song that went “call down my rain barrel, Slide down my cellar door, And we’ll be jolly friends, Forever-more.”
Mom taught me that song. That’s how I learned about rain-barrels, and how people caught rain and saved it up for drinking water. I already knew about cellar doors because we had one, only we called it a basement door and we just ran down it, and that was against the rules. Mom said it was dangerous. No sliding ’cause that would drive slivers in my rear end. I wondered why Mom taught me that song, if she wanted me to stay off those doors so bad.
I knew how to be a trapeze artist on the bathtub. I sat down, grabbed the edge on either side of my legs, and kicked back and up, just like I did on the swing Dad made over the huge boxelder tree branch. You have to kick back kinda hard, getting some speed up, so you spring right back up again.
“Betcha can’t do this,” I said to Bonita who was brushing her teeth at the sink. I slid down and up fast as I could.
“Can too,” she said. I told her to prove it, because I thought she was bluffing. Darn-it. She did it with only a tinsy bit of trouble on the way back up.
“Betcha you can’t do it with no hands,” I said, ’cause I liked to be better than anybody. I never tried it myself. Bonita was a little bit of a scaredy pants, so she would never try something, unless she saw me do it first.
“Can too,” and Bonita kicked back super-hard ’cause it was going to be really hard to spring back up, no-handed. She didn’t know it was impossible, and that I never even tried it before; I was just mad that she could do what I could do and she was two years behind me in school. She cracked down so hard on the bottom of the bathtub, I almost felt it myself. Anyways, my mouth tasted like pennies and my teeth hurt when I saw her hit bottom. I felt my eyes get big and round and I grabbed for her. It was too late to help her, or to help myself for that matter.
Bonita thought I knew everything about everything, because I got all A’s and I was two years ahead of her. She pushed me away and cried bloody murder. Bonita was a tinsy bit of a cry-baby, but I when I heard that crack, I knew she was truly hurt, and I was sorry I tried to one-up her. Besides, Bonita had a whole new cry, that I never heard from her. She was angry as all get-out, ’cause she “knew” I did the whole thing on purpose. She pushed me and said I had to try it myself. I refused. I was no dummy; I knew how to learn from what other people did. I didn’t have to make all the mistakes myself.
There are a lot of things I’ve learned since that day: Even best friends can hurt each other; Forgive and forget is easier to say than to do; and Pride is the biggest trouble-maker of all. Bonita forgave me, even though she never did understand that I had no ill-intent. Still, she never did forget. To this day, she likes to tell that story. She laughs with her head thrown back and all her teeth showing, like it doesn’t matter at all. I can still hear her head crack against the porcelain, and I am still sorry.