Toilet Water

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When I was in my early teens, I was digging through my mom’s “junk” and found an empty bottle labeled “L’eau de Toilette.” Of course, the only word I recognized was toilet. I had to know what had been in this bottle. I asked my mom who laughed and explained that it was a French term for scented water, or cologne. Rather than expensive parfum or perfume. It had nothing to do with the English word toilet. But it reminded her of a funny story from her own youth.

She had nine brothers, and two sisters. There was one bathtub in the house. Needless to say, it was a fight to get to the tub first especially since her brothers were all older than she was and they worked outdoor jobs. The money earned by her brothers was given to their mother. So it was understood that my mom always had to wait. 

One evening she was going on a date. It was her first date with this young man. She wanted to look nice. It was 1933, so her outfit needed to be morally tasteful, including undergarments, stockings, jewelry, and a hat. She spent a lot of time putting together the right look. She had everything laid out. Then she started the water running in the tub with a capful of bath salts. She had already washed her hair. It was done up in curlers. She went back into her dressing room to get her bath cap. Then she heard the stomping and commotion that occurred each day when her brothers returned. 

She ran quickly to head them off and found the bathroom door already shut. Her brother shouted through the door “Thanks for running the water, sis.” “No!” She was pounding on the door. “I have a date. That water is for me.” To which her brother just laughed. One after another, the brothers used the tub. It was getting late. She was desperate. 

There was a second room in the house that only had a toilet. No sink or tub. She paced and waited until she couldn’t wait any longer. She entered the second room. She made sure the bowl was clean. She flushed it a few times. Then she added some bath salts and used a washcloth to give herself a bird bath in the toilet bowl. YUK! I said, “Mom you didn’t?” “Yes, I had to!” she said, “Besides, that water is just as clean as any other water.” She and I laughed and laughed. I loved her even more for being real with me. She added that when her date arrived he told her she looked beautiful and smelled heavenly. Since then, whenever I hear or use the word toilet I remember that day with my mother. It brings back to me the sweet, lingering fragrance of her love.

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