Little Things Mean A Lot

Before the blog proper, here’s an aside:

On the 29th of March, I was scheduled to do an appearance in Tucson at the international convention of FMCA—a gathering of RVers from all over the world. Obviously the convention was canceled, but they asked afterwards if it would be possible for me to do a digital version of my talk. We’ve all become accustomed to people speaking to us via our TV sets from the comfort of their living rooms. It seemed to me that it wouldn’t be all that difficult, but it took us the better part of three days to pull it together. For one thing, I’m used to speaking in front of living breathing audiences, so the idea of speaking into a camera was … well … terrifying.

But we got it done—all 58 minutes worth—with me in front of the camera and Bill behind it. During a break between filming sessions, I checked a newsfeed and saw a video of a news reporter in Sacramento showing a video of a self-administered haircut filmed in the privacy of her family bathroom. Unfortunately, through the magic of mirrors, she also offered us an unintended view of her naked husband taking what he thought was a private shower. I can assure you that no nude photos of Bill show up on our video, but at one point you can see Jojo intrude on the filming via the mirrored box on the table behind me. Also visible in the background is the carved wooden bowl I brought home to my mother from a Girl Scout trip to Disneyland when I was in high school.

FMCA just sent me a link to their website which includes the video presentation. Here’s a link to their newsletter: You’ll need to scroll down to find my presentation. If you’ve never been able to attend one of my events, this will give you some idea of the flavor, even if it happens to be about two of my older books. They happen to be two of my favorites. Enjoy.

And now, speaking of entertainment in this era of Covid 19, my grandson just sent me a collection of YouTube videos filled with pandemic humor. Unsurprisingly, several of the sketches had to do with toilet paper, or the scarcity thereof. Who would’ve thunk that some day in the future that we’d be ll be looking back fondly on the good old days when you could wake up in the morning and discover that the neighborhood kids had TPed your house overnight? Those were the days, right?

Also not surprisingly, watching the video with all the discussions of TP ended up sparking some long ago memories for me. After all since my head is full of what Professor Higgins would call “cotton, hay, and rags”, that’s exactly how my mind works.

The house I grew up in on Yuma Trail in Bisbee featured seven kids, two adults, and one bathroom—one only—that came complete with a clawfoot tub. Yes, you read that right. Nine people and only one bathroom. By the way, that clawfoot tub was original equipment in a house that was originally built in the 1920s. As a result of that bit of family history, I’m always astonished when people doing home renovations on Home and Garden TV go out of their way to install clawfoot tubs in their newly redone bathrooms. I’m always left with only one question about that: Why on earth would they?

Having only one bathroom in the house required some strategic planning in terms of scheduling. Fortunately, our mother operated on what our family refers to as a “drill-sergeantish” style of mothering. When it came to bathroom visits, we were encouraged to get in and get out—in a hurry! Except when it came to one thing—braiding hair. I wore my hair in braids for years. Once the braids came down, I always thought the waves looked exceptionally fetching. “Yes,” I remember my mother saying, “just like the waves on a slop-pail.” My mother had seven kids to raise, and ego-damage be damned. She didn’t encourage people getting “too big for their britches.”

In retrospect, it seems to me that I spent years of my life seated backwards on the closed toilet like in the bathroom while my mother braided my hair. When my locks grew too long, my mother would take me to Endicott’s Barber Shop on Arizona Street in Warren. Mr. Endicott operated his barber shop in the front of the store while Mrs. Endicott ran her beauty shop in the back. When braids needed to be trimmed, she would fasten a rubber band around the upper end of the braid and then use her scissors to lop off the rest, cutting just above the rubber band. The results were pretty much what you’d expect which is to say, not exactly beautiful. I believe Mrs. Endicott is one of the reasons I often refer to business establishments of that ilk as “adequate” shops rather than “beauty shops,” but I digress.

For years I carried those four foot-long chunks of braids around in a maroon tin container that probably once held cookies. I lost that container and the braids somewhere along the way, most likely during one or the other of my sojourns between Arizona and Seattle. As I remember them, all four braids were pretty much the same color as my hair is now—white. In that case the hair was bleached white by the sun. The color I have right now has far more to with being north of seventy than it does being out in the sun. But I digress, Again, and a digression from a digression is something of a record even for me.

My mother believed in French-braiding. After parting my hair down the middle, front to back, she braided the part above my ears into a braid that laid flat on on my skull, pulling it so tightly that I felt like it it put my eyes into a permanent squint. Once she hit ear level, any leftover hair from the top section got worked into the braids that reached down to my shoulders. Let me just say, that this procedure took TIME, three days a week. So as I sat there, facing the blank wall over the flushing tank, the only thing there was to see was the shadow of the toilet paper holder next to me.

I started telling myself stories very early on in life, so as I sat there, I made up stories about the ever-changing shadow there on the wall beside me. Sometimes, when the paper roll was full, the shadow reminded me of a Santa Claus with a very fat beard. When the roll was almost empty, it looked like … well … a skull, as in a skull and crossbones. And thus began my long checkered history with toilet paper holders.

I spent 18 years of my life with a man who never changed a toilet paper roll in his life! I’ve spent another 35 years of my life, this time with a perfect man, one who not only changes toilet paper rolls as needed, he also PUTS THE SEAT DOWN EVERY SINGLE TIME!!! Husband number one? Not so much on that score, either! Husband number two is the clear winner!

When my first husband and I moved to the hill west of Three Points in the late sixties, the first time I tried to change the spring-loaded toilet paper holder in the bathroom, the spring shot straight out and into … well … the toilet. Where else would it go? And guess who got to fish it out?

When Bill and I moved to this house in 2005, we chose it primarily because it had a ground floor master, a major requirement back then because Bill had not yet had his bilateral knee-replacement miracle. But one of the small and much appreciated side benefits of this house is that it came complete with bar-style toilet-paper holders. You slide the roll on and off a stationary bar with no potential for inadvertently sending something where it definitely shouldn’t be.

So here’s the deal. Buying this house was a good decision. Buying a house with the right kind of toilet paper holders? Well, that pretty much made it perfect.

So let’s just file this one under the heading of another old song from the Fifties, because little things really do mean a lot.

28 thoughts on “Little Things Mean A Lot

  1. Good morning and thanks for sharing your memories. I think your mom and mine might have been sisters. My mom put my hair up in curlers from the time I can remember until the 1960’s when I told her I wanted my hair long and straight.I give my mom credit for years of trying to make me pretty with curly hair but sleeping on curlers every night was no fun. Grandchildren are a blessing. I thanked my youngest granddaughter again recently for sharing the magic of Youtube with me. We smiled at each other and she brought something else to make us smile. Today is a grey day in my mind but you made me smile. Many thanks.

  2. We put in the bar type when we remodeled the house here in Greeley. A vast improvement.

    I re-read ‘A More Perfect Union’ this week ( third or fourth time? ) . Enjoyed it.

  3. Why do you not care for claw footed tubs? I remember growing up in the 60’s with one and when I was ready to come out of the tub, banging the side of it with my elbow to alert my Mother. I was not allowed to climb in or out on my own.

    I rented a place that had a claw footed tub that my landlord said came from the house in Denver where Buffalo Bill Cody spent his last days alive. So I would tell company that it was the last bathtub Buffalo Bill used. True? I don’t know but it made a fun story.

  4. Yes but which way do you have the toilet paper face? Inquiring minds want to know.

  5. I watched the video this morning. You’ve had such an exciting life and are continuing to do so. I really enjoyed hearing about your adventures. You were so lucky that serial killer left you alone. That was really scary.

  6. I just about fell on the floor laughing when you mentioned new bathroom renovations including those awful clawfoot tubs! I was a little kid during WWII, and my mom and I lived with my paternal grandmother and great-grandmother for 18 months while my dad was in Alaska. That house had one, and I really disliked that tub! These days, my husband and I (who attended U of A, by the way) are watching a multitude of home improvement shows. Each time I see the young, eager female decorator who is so enamoured with clawfoot tubs decide to put one in a spanking new bathroom, I groan and remember those days of long ago!

  7. I too lived in a house with nine of us sharing one bathroom. We also had a clawfoot tub, no shower. We didn’t have morning schedules, so it was first come, first served. I do remember trying to beat one of my sisters in, because she would drown herself in Jean Nate.

    When my parents bought the house, it also had a toilet with the tank high on the wall. Funny thing about that was, when the water pressure built up, it would flush itself.

    Thank you for bringing back some fond memories of the past.

  8. I was surprised to read that your mother took you to a “beauty shop” to have your braid cut off and that was it for the hair cut. She could have done that herself without having to pay anything.

    • Kristin, My sister and I had braids until we were in sixth or seventh grade. Mom had our photo taken so she could remember how we looked and then took us to a beauty parlor to have haircuts and perms. She saved the braids as she was going to make pin cushions with them. She never did. Looking at those awful perms we had I sort of wish we’d kept the braids.

      • Carolyn Ann,

        Thank you for your reply. I am sorry that your mom did not save your braids.

  9. I just finished watching your “talk” referenced in this blog on youtube. I absolutely loved and enjoyed it and so glad I finally got to “meet” you. Your children and grandchildren are so lucky to have you in their lives. I also loved your fur babies. They are also fortunate to have you as their care giver, and I sense that you feel the same about them. You are one of my favorite authors and I feel fortunate to have you “in my life” if only through the written page. You mentioned in an earlier blog that David Rosenfelt was a favorite author of yours, as he is mine. I’ve read every Andy Carpenter book and recently started re-reading the series. Fondly, Sue

  10. I had to laugh at the toilet paper story. In 1982 we went from Phoenix to Tustin, California, for a wedding. We took our 2 daughters, 12 and 13 with us and stayed in a motel. During the night the 12 year old,Laura, went to the bathroom. The door wouldn’t open as the handle mechanism stopped working. We were dead to the world and she couldn’t rouse us. She took the spring out of the toilet paper holder, straightened it partially, and used it to pry the door latch open. The next morning I discovered the stretched spring and found out the story. I wound it as best I could and crammed it back together. I have often thought about the poor girl who had to replace the paper roll and the holder flying apart like a rocket taking off!

  11. I love claw foot tubs..most of them are much deeper than new ones…so you can soak…now that is the life. Love all your books, new and old…keep up the good work.

  12. No bathtubs would be fine with me. It’s sitting in ones own ick. Neither of us, (nor our kids since they were babies) have used bathtubs for so many years.
    For safety I have a removable seat in my terrific shower.
    Janc family reminiscent of Cheaper by the Dozen.
    Our issue isn’t about changing the TP but replenishing the under sink supply if one takes out the last roll.

  13. I remember pictures of you with those braids, but I never thought about the time involved in getting them done – or the place you got them done!

    One bathroom is unthinkable today. I can’t imagine all the bathroom coordination with your family.

    I also grew up with one bathroom; except that only the tub was functional. We used the tub only in the summer, as the bathroom was unheated. In the winter, we took Saturday night baths in a washtub on top of the floor furnace, with a clothes rack as a screen, starting with the youngest and ending with Dad. There was only one batch of bath water, since it came from the cistern pump and was heated on the kitchen stove.

  14. I, also, had French braids for a number of years, so I know whereof you speak. And about the the clawfooted bathtubs – they are nice for soaking, but they are beastly to clean under, as the dust bunnies like to gather there. I hated having to clean under them! Thanks for the memories.

  15. I thought this was so funny. Thanks for sharing. I feel sorry for that poor husband in the mirror.

    We had five kids and one bathroom. Share and share alike.

  16. I love Fridays, I may not get to answer on Friday however I alway read it. I enjoy your stories as much as your books …
    stay safe and healthy keep walking …

  17. You reminded me of two former players,from a team I coached, throwing t paper all over a maple tree that was in front of my house. My neighbors watched the whole process and thought it was great. Did I get even? Yes. When they graduated from college, 4 years later, I gave their sister money to buy t-paper, and have a couple of their frat buddies t-paper their room..and give them a note from me.
    The t-paper they hung on my Maple tree lasted more than a year 🙁

  18. Braids! I had them also. Every morning from the time I can remember until sometime in the 3rd grade! Mr braiding throne was the white metal step stool with the red seat that was in the kitchen. My mother proudly did a French braid but I could choose “over” or “under.” We had to allow 15 minutes every morning to get it done. I don’t remember getting my hair cut while I had braids. I do remember the day I got to go to visit my Mom’s hairdresser, Madge. It was she who cut my hair and gave me a permanent. I remember feeling so grown up! Thanks for the memory! I read and enjoy your books as they come out. I am often inspired and moved by them and always entertained.

  19. Consider yourself lucky that you got braids – tight, painful ones, even. My mother decided that I should have ringlets just like Shirley Temple – and though I was blond, like Miss Temple, my hair was (is) as straight and fine as corn silk. No curl lasted longer than a few hours at best, so from the age of three on, I slept with metal rollers in my hair, to make sure that I at least started each day with the requisite perky curly tresses. You wanna talk painful? The only good thing was, I thought all little girls went to bed every night with their heads full of metal curlers and clips! At least that meant I never felt sorry for myself. Then, when I got to be a little older, my mother discovered the blessings of Aquanet hair spray, so my curls would last into the evening, should an evening event be on the schedule. My own daughter has dark curly hair – absolutely beautiful – which she works to straighten from time to time. Who could imagine straightening such hair? Go figure…..

    • I love your story. I was also raised by a mother who spent years trying to make my hair curly. I thought it was natural to spend time finding a way to lay down with a head full of curlers. The plastic ones with teeth seemed to cause even more pain. Bless the late 60’s when long straight hair became fashionable.

  20. Thanks for sharing a link to the video. And it’s nice to meet someone who has given me so much enjoyment over the years with her books. I have read all of the Joanna Brady books which are my favorite. Have a few of the Beaumont books to go before I catch up. And still have the Ali Reynolds and Walker Family books to looks forward to.

    I have been watching a lot of HGTV too. Especially like seeing older houses remodeled but don’t always agree with what they throw out. You and I are the same age but I never had a clawfoot tub!

    Just wanted to say Thank you and please keep writing.

  21. Grew up with 5 to 1 bathroom. Now I have 2 full baths for just one, me! I use to t.p. classmates yards & was t.p. right back! That was the late 1970’s. I never forget that time in my life. Love my memories.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *