Crow's-Feet Chronicles: Mama was a potty animal
By Cindy Baker Burnett
Mar 25, 2019
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A clean public restroom was the Holy Grail for Mama, and it was just about as elusive.  Her reactions were horrified breathing, bugged-out eyes with eyebrows yanked up to her hairline, and a voice that gasped, “Merciful Heavens!”

Mama always went into a public restroom ahead of my sister and me to survey the territory and devise a plan.  The object for Kathy and me was to relieve ourselves in the blighted facilities available without actually touching any surface in the area with any part of our anatomies.  We could not touch the doors, the walls, or the receptacle that held the toilet paper---only the paper itsveryself.

But first, Mama would go into the stall and cover every visible surface with miles and piles of toilet paper.  With the toilet paper armor in place, we couldn’t see the water in the toilet bowl.  We were expected to master the advanced yoga posture when we were “engaged” in the purpose of our trip to the restroom.  Afterwards, we were not allowed to touch the door handle of the stall, lest we contract some hideous, painful, disfiguring, deadly, and socially embarrassing disease.  If Kathy or I had ever disobeyed Mama and sat down on the toilet, Mama would have shot us on the spot.  “YOU SAT ON THAT NASTY POT, SO I’M GOING TO HAVE TO PUT YOU DOWN!”  Finding the pistol in her cluttered purse would have taken a while.

The touching taboo, of course, extended to the flushing handle of the toilet.  No matter how high above the floor it might be situated, we were commanded and expected to reach it and somehow push it down with our foot.

If we accidentally dropped something---anything---Hope diamond, the actual tablets containing the Ten Commandments, or our little brother, it was gone.  Into the trash it went.  But not with our bare hands!

If Mama happened to be preoccupied with her own thigh-throbbing, hovering performance and was unavailable for personally handling the disposal of the floor-poisoned article, she would holler instructions to us on the proper method to be employed.  As if she could see us reaching bare-handed toward it, she would bark an echoing preemptive “Don’t touch it!” from inside the stall.  No, we had to first roll off approximately 2.65 miles of toilet paper (she could tell from the repetitive sound as we spun the roll of paper when we had amassed a sufficient quantity to make an effective germ barrier) and ball it up, over and around the now-ruined-beyond-reclaim item on the floor and then pick up the entire mass, with our hand extended as far out in front as physically possible, and carry it over to the garbage pail, the swinging door of which we had to somehow not touch with our naked hand as we made our deposit.

Our lives struck the perfect balance because our dad wasn’t as persnickety as our mom.  Yikes---what if she had married Howard Hughes?