A Hog a Day Part 4

With Billy asleep under the porch, I was bored.  I noticed the toilet sitting down  the trail from the house.  “I need to use the bathroom.”  This needed investigation.  I knew what a toilet was, but had never gotten to investigate one to my satisfaction.  Mother had always rushed me through the process on the few occasions I gotten to use one.

”You’re going to have to wait.  I can’t go with you right now.  I’m in the middle of putting this permanent in,” Mother replied.  That fit in nicely with my plans.

”I can go by myself.  I’m a big girl.  I’ll be careful and not fall in.” I asserted.

”If you do, we’re just going to leave you,” laughed Miss Bessie.  “You’ll be too nasty to save.  She ought to be okay.  My younguns went by themselves all the time.”  I admired her good opinion of me as I sauntered off, though I had to wonder if that was where the lost little girl had gotten off to.

“Okay, but don’t fall in and come right back.” Mother looked a little worried as I left them to their project.

I considered myself a bit of an authority on toilets since we had an abandoned toilet in our chicken yard put there by the previous owners.  Mother had always threatened us away from it, but I had bragged to a couple of Mother’s coffee-drinking friends once, much to her horror.  As long as I could remember, she’d been after Daddy to pull it down, but he never found the time.  Not only that, I’d been lucky enough to visit a couple of toilets when we visited some of Daddy’s backwoodsy friends.

I was completely surprised at the daintiness of Miss Bessie’s toilet.  In contrast to her rustic house, it was a showplace.  The walls were beautifully with remnants of ornate wallpaper.  Though the numerous patterns varied widely, they were all right side up, unlike the magazine pictures and newspapers tacked to the walls of her house.  My favorite print was off little fat men in rainboots and top hats holding umbrellas on the ceiling.  Clearly, Miss Bessie had had control of this operation and was a high-class lady.  Bright floral linoleum graced the floor.  Wonders of wonders, a toilet seat covered the open hole I’d expected to see.  A toilet paper holder held a full roll, instead of the Sears and Roebuck catalog I’d been forward to perusing.  I never felt brave enough to look at women’s underwear unless I was assured of privacy, a rare situation in our busy house.  This expertly decorated toilet far surpassed our poor bathroom at home, a very utilitarian one with the usual drab features.

Naturally, once I’d completed my business, I raised the toilet seat to inspect the quagmire beneath, interested to know whether Miss Bessie had managed any improvements on the usual situation.  She hadn’t. The stench was overwhelming. Fat maggots squirmed in the disgusting mess, just like every other toilet I’d ever seen.  If the little lost girl was in there, the maggots could have her.

“You took long enough,” Mother said when I got back.

“That toilet smells even worse than Miss Bessie’s hair,” I informed the two on the porch.  “I sure am glad I ain’t a maggot!”

 

 

 

 

 

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Home Perms Run Amuk

Five kidsI have enjoyed blogging so much this past year and a half.  I have met so many friends and enjoyed incredible writing.  Following Bunkarydo’s example, I am reposting my first post. Pictured above:  upper left Linda Swain Bethea holding Connie Swain Miller’s hands, Billy Swain, Phyllis Swain Barrington holding Marilyn Swain Grisham.

To curly-haired people Mother might have seemed mild-mannered enough, but beneath her calm exterior she nursed a sadistic streak, committing home permanents with malice aforethought, ignoring her helpless daughters’ protests that “I like my hair this way.” and “nobody but old ladies have THAT kind of hair.” squashing arguments with a terrifying directive, “Don’t dispute my word.” “Disputing my word” assured swift and terrible punishment, followed by a furious lecture about how great we had it and ending tearfully with, “and I would have given anything to have a permanent wave like Margaret Lucille, but I had to wear my hair chopped off straight around.” Had I met Margaret Lucille, the author of my misery, I would have gladly pulled out every permanently-waved hair on her despicable head. I hated her than Mother.

Around July 4th every summer, Mother would casually start to dangle the threat that she had to give us a permanent before school started. We’d protest vainly against her response that “She wasn’t going to look at that long, stringy hair all year.” A procrastinator, Mother didn’t get to the evil deed right away. Just before Labor Day, when the humiliation of last year’s perm had grown out enough to be approaching normalcy, Mother would stretch her budget to include a home permanent for each of us. I would have been grateful for cyanide when she dragged out those hateful pink and white “Lilt” boxes. After a long night of dreading the inevitable, Mother got us up early to clean the house so she could start the long perming process. I dragged over to borrow the pink curlers from Miss Joyce, the next door neighbor, hoping to be hit by a truck. When I got back home, defeated, I surrendered to my frizzy fate. Mother seated me on a kitchen chair and cut my hair, using her time-honored secret for a perfect hairdo. She methodically divided my luscious locks (my description, not hers)into sections, started at the bottom, and held up about fifty hairs at a time, measured them against a mark she’d made on a rat-tail comb, and cut. My mood became increasingly glum as she measured and cut, measured and cut.

After an interminable period, I was ready for the next step. Mother opened the home permanent kit and mixed the deadly chemicals, assaulting the senses with the sulfurous scent of rotten eggs and a healthy touch of essence of pee. Dividing what remained of my hair into tiny sections, wetting it with putrid permanent solution, she wrapped it in papers, and wound it as tight as possible on the hard pink plastic curlers. If my eyes weren’t popping out enough, she’d rewind. Once this misery was accomplished, she sent me on to enjoy the rest of the day, anticipating the frizzy mess I could expect tomorrow, and got to work on my sister’s hair. I tried to stay out of sight to avoid being ridiculed by the neighbor kids.

After trouble and expense of inflicting a perm on us, Mother made us leave the hard plastic curlers in overnight, fearing an early release might let the curl “fall out.” My fine hair was no match for the perm solution, and I was never fortunate enough for my curl to “fall out.” I was glad to get the curlers out the next morning, but dreaded the reveal of the “fried, frizzy, old lady hairdo.” I was never disappointed. Mother took the perm curlers out and we all looked like Brillo Pads. When we complained about how horrible it looked, Mother assured us it would be fine after we rolled it. That just postponed the disaster. When the brush rollers and hair pens came out at the end of the day, it was always even worse than I remembered from the year before. I wanted to die. Mother always tried to cheer us up by saying, “The frizz will wear off in about a week.” When we weren’t cheered by that, she offered the cold comfort, “Well, it will always grow back. Now, dry up.I’ve heard enough!”  I still don’t think she’s heard nearly enough.  There should not be a statute of limitations on those who abuse helpless children with home-perms.

She worked herself into a self-righteous frenzy of pity when we refused to be grateful for the torture she’d inflicted on us just to ensure we’d be social outcasts for another year. We always went back to school with a frizzy mess, looking we’d escaped from an insane granny cult. The fact that my sisters shared my fate did nothing to cheer me. Who wants to look like that bunch of freaks?