Thursday, February 23, 2017

Everything needed to be happy I learned from an outhouse




Grandma Birdie was a natural redhead, a color my tomato bisque turns when I add extra cream. She laughed frequently, listened intently, and anytime she had Keebler fudge striped cookies, I went home with a handful of them.

She made sure of it.

What she didn't have was indoor plumbing. Visiting her and Grandpa on their rural Oklahoma farm meant traveling back, back, baaaaack to an era where water was pumped from a well and the bathroom was a good 100-feet or more from the house.

Trust me. You wanted it that far.

They lived on the original 160-acres my great, great grandfather claimed during the Oklahoma Land Run and raised their four children in the original settler house, which consisted of three rooms - the kitchen, a living room, and a bedroom.

Visits to my great grandparent's farm meant lots of time sitting outside under an enormous elm tree and, yes, hiking to the wooden outhouse when nature called.


Just do your business.


You didn't dawdle in Grandma and Grandpa's bathroom. You got in, got done, and got out. In between times, you tried to ignore the smell, the flies, and the wasps buzzing overhead.

This was the beginning of my love affair with plumbers.

Water was found in two metal bowls in the kitchen. One was for washing your hands. One was for drinking. Both were filled by pumping the water out of a natural spring well, which kept the water abnormally cool and super duper delicious.

Just don't confuse which bowl was which.

That's so unfair.


I don't know how that remarkable woman lived every day where simply going to the bathroom at night, in the cold, or in the rain was a miserable chore. But she did.

Every morning, Grandma headed to a local restaurant where she worked as the cook, while Grandpa farmed. Then both came home, sat in their comfy furniture, ordered Chinese take-out, and binge watched 24.

Yeah, no. They came home and worked more.

You were never around either of them and heard a word of complaint. Or even a grouchy attitude. They were lovely people. Funny and smart. Quick to laugh, quick to give out hugs, and always thinking of others, even when others had so much more.

(Is that kind of strength and graciousness hereditary? Um, some. My mother has it. But it skips a generation.)

Thank God for every flush.


Ask me what I want in life, and I could rattle it off alphabetically. Ask me what I'm grateful for and I need a minute to think.

Hey, I'm a work in progress.

Grandma Birdie was the opposite. She never focused on what she didn't have but what she did. And it served her well.

I think of her nearly every time I turn on my faucet, take a shower, run a load of laundry, get filtered water from my refrigerator, or stumble to the bathroom at night. She's the image in my head reminding me that, no matter what happens in life or what I face, I can always live with a grateful heart. And it'll serve me, well, too.

It's really too bad more didn't have the chance to know her.

Maybe then the people complaining about not having free college and free healthcare, demanding raises they didn't earn and a lifestyle they can't afford, emotionally distraught over opposing viewpoints or lost elections, could find happiness in their self-imposed misery.

Because - and I'm only guessing here - I bet they have a toilet that flushes.

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