My Uncle Joe and Aunt Sue (the parents of Rory, in case you were wondering) hosted their share of family parties when I was a kid – heck, even now: two years ago they had the reception for their daughter’s wedding right in the back yard… just like old times.
Uncle Joe and Aunt Sue are the oldest couple of their generation (at least on my dad’s side of the family) and also have the distinction of being double-cousins with my family. Uncle Joe is my dad’s brother and Aunt Sue is my mom’s sister. No, look it up, it’s not illegal.
In addition to being the oldest, or maybe on account of being the oldest, Uncle Joe and Aunt Sue are the most serious of all my aunts and uncles. Their house is usually dark, and always quiet except for the squeak of the old wood floorboards and sometimes Irish music. You walk carefully in their house, afraid of breaking something, like ancient dusty vases that always seem to sit too close to the edge of the piano.
When there were parties at this house, the kids were gently encouraged to get [and stay] the hell out of the house. Weather didn’t matter – that’s why you have snowpants.
But writing your name in the snow doesn’t fly in mixed company, and when nature calls, even at Uncle Joe and Aunt Sue’s house, you had to go inside. The bathroom was located on the north side of the house, through the library (yeah, exactly – it’s the kind of house that has a library). This room was usually occupied by older teenage cousins, who are basically the most frightening people in the world when you’re six years old.
The worst part about a trip to the bathroom, though, was the doorknob on the inside of the bathroom door. It was a miniature knob, which was unfortunately missing some crucial screws. Opening the door required a jiggle left, pushing in while twisting, and then pulling out sharply while applying strong pressure upwards. Or something. No one knew, really. You just jiggled and jerked and twisted and sometimes it would open.
Fortunately, the door also had a lock, a simple deadbolt, and what you could do, if you were really careful, is just barely close the door so that the knob didn’t engage, and secure it using only the deadbolt. Then, when you were ready to go, you just unlock the door and push it open – no knob-fiddling necessary.
I had set it up just so one night, had finished at the toilet, and was washing my hands, lathering up with white foam, when someone knocked on the door. I was already nervous enough, and my gurgled response died in my throat.
So whoever it was tried to open the door, shook it twice, and horror! The hasp clicked into place. Immediately, without thinking, I sprang to the door and grabbed the knob with soap-covered hands, crying “wait, wait wait!” and twisting furiously in vain.
And there I was, scrabbling with a slick knob, scared and alone and trapped. I unlocked the door, and tried every combination I could think of. I rinsed the knob, dried it, tried the knob, cursed it. I considered using the shower-curtain rod to pole-vault out the window, but it wasn’t flexible enough.
Eventually, I just started beating on the door and, I think, crying. I’ve blotted out most of the memory successfully, thank God, but I think they had to take the hinges off the door, and for about twenty minutes, everyone thought I was too stupid to unlock the door and kept yelling at me through the inch of wood to “unlock it! UNLOCK IT!”
“Fuck you!” I should have yelled, but I didn’t know that word. I think instead I went with “Mommm!” And that damn bathroom still makes me nervous.
And just to let you know, right when I thought going over all these bathroom adventures would get it out of my system (ha!), this past weekend, I did the following, in this order:
Exposed myself to strangers while intoxicated
Shit my pants while napping
Exposed myself to strangers while sober
Ate a snack
Got drunk of high-end liquor at the downtown Hilton
Nearly had a coronary watching the US Open
Found more shit in the work garbage cans first thing Monday morning
Aahh. Bet you can't wait to hear about it.